Monthly Archives: September 2008

Newburyport Banks

I stopped by my Newburyport mutual savings bank, which I call one of our Newburyport community banks, and it was business as usual. I asked if they were giving out mortgages, and Yup, yes they most surely are.

And I am so grateful that I have my mortgage with one of the local community banks. Which is what I told them.

One of the perplexing things about this financial crisis, is that institutions that are having trouble don’t know what kind of mortgages they have.

That is because their mortgages have been sold and resold.

And one of the things that I like about our Newburyport banks, and I’ve said this before, is that they are local in the best sense. They know exactly what mortgages they have, and who they lent them to. They do NOT sell them. They keep them, and they make money off them.

They are in great shape.

Responsibility, accountability, commonsense, fiscally sound. Not to repeat myself, but to repeat myself, that’s one great example for the situation that we as a country find ourselves in.

And part of me even hesitates to blog during a financial crisis as big as the one that we are experiencing at the moment. I just could not believe it when the House of Representatives did not pass the rescue bill yesterday and the DOW dropped almost 800 points. Yikes!

And someone described the situation to me this way. It’s a credit problem (one which our Newburyport banks are not experiencing, but obviously one which a lot of others banks are). It’s as if someone turned the water on the water spout, off or down to a trickle so the vegetation could not get any water. Consequences not so good.

It would mean that small business could have problems getting credit for their payroll. Not only might the businesses not grow, they may not be able to pay employees and jobs could be lost.

It could be difficult to get credit for cars, homes, a college education. People’s retirement could be at risk.

So this rescue bill if it does NOT pass, could effect all of us.

I’ve contacted my Representative John Tierney who voted against this bill, and asked him the next time round, in no uncertain terms, to get the thing done and vote for it.

Newburyport Yankee Economics

It was once called “Voodoo Economics.” I believe it was called that by the first Mr. Bush in the Republican primary against Ronald Regan.

I always thought Mr. Bush was right. “Trickle down” economics surely seemed voodooish to me.

I keep coming back to Ronald Regan. Sorry, heresy, I never thought he was a good president. I still don’t. I thought his deregulation economic stuff was a lousy idea. With the huge Wall Street bailout in the works, I wonder what he would think now?

It always struck me as being very un-Yankee like. Newburyport, MA has often been thought of as “Yankee” territory.

We have two “Yankee” banks in town. They do not sell their mortgages, and as a result, because they are responsible for what happens, it’s always been the case, to my knowledge, that if anyone applied for a mortgage, they got checked out pretty good, and had to actually prove that they could pay that mortgage.

“Yankees” tend to save. Coming up with something like coming up with a down payment when buying a house, could be seen as a good thing. Really. It means that the person is more likely to be very committed to making it work.

Our “Yankee” community banking institutions are doing just fine. And it’s because of what some might see as their “thrifty,” commonsense way of doing things.

It used to look sort of old fashion, even frumpy. Not any more. Newburyport Yankee economics is not “voodoo economics.” It works during good times and less than good times.

And it is my very firm opinion that Americans could see a great example by looking at how our Newburyport, MA local, community banks work.

Mythic Absolution, Newburyport, Politics

In thinking about the “mythic” power of politicians, and what they represent to our collective American unconscious (see previous posts), I began to wonder about what other myths our top ticket candidates might embody.

Bill Moyers (yes, wise men and women tend to make the top of my list) back in January 2008, addressed the myth of Barack Obama taking away white guilt of racism. (Myth not being something that would be either true or false, but a story or a person that represents a world view.)

You can read the transcript of that fascinating segment here.

For whites to be absolved of a history of racism has a very powerful mythic quality about it.

And then I started thinking about what other myths does Palin personify. One of those myths could be that, even a woman with a large family, could successfully work, i.e. be a governor or a vice president. (Just as a btw, our very own former governor Jane Swift, as I recall, had trouble demonstrating that this particular myth could be a reality.)

And this is also one very powerful myth. Because if someone with 5 children, a newborn with special needs being one of them, could be a successful mother and hold such a powerful office–that could mean, that a family with 1 or 2 children, with both parents who have to work, because of economic realities, and who may on some level feel very, very guilty when they leave their child with a caregiver– if that person could successfully accomplish that feat, that resolves an awful lot of guilt, for an awful lot of people.

And this goes straight to the heart of our difficult economic times. People are having to work harder to pay for gas, utilities, food and hold onto their homes. This could often mean even less time spent with their families–creating even more guilt on the part of struggling families.

And for families with this particular scenario, which is an awful lot of families in America, Palin resolves a lot of guilt in very difficult economic circumstances.

So, when I think about it, and this applies to families in Newburyport, MA as well, my question would be, are the many dilemmas that we as a nation face that Palin could represent (see earlier posts as well), are they stronger than the mythic quality of Barack Obama’s absolving the white world of racism? (Again check out Bill Moyers’ exploration of this concept here.)

Newburyport, Power of Myth

Bill Moyers again did not disappoint.

In this weeks Bill Moyers Journal, Bill Moyers had this to say:

“The novelist Russell Banks, in his first book of non-fiction, just published, explains the Sarah Palin phenomenon even before it happened. In “Dreaming Up America,” he writes that we choose our presidents not on the basis of their experience or even their political views, but on how well they tap into our basic beliefs, our deepest communal desires, including our religious or spiritual beliefs. Our presidents, he writes, represent in some very personal way the imagination and the mythology of the people who elect them…”

“No wonder reality-based journalists are having a hard time with this story. Mythology is not their beat. But in the imagination of her tribe, Sarah Palin achieved an almost immaculate conception. Her lack of experience matters not to them. Nor do they care that her past is filled with contradictions, and nothing the press reports, no matter how grounded in fact, can shake their faith…”

The whole transcript can be read here.

And a comment on an opinion piece in the New York times has this to say:

“Sarah Palin appeals to the conservative base. But she also appeals to Americans who are longing for a glorious past. A past in which a hard working man could support a family, even if he did not have higher education (Todd Palin). A past in which a mother of young children could rely on relatives and friends to help her with her daily tasks. And, on a more archaic level, a past where you could go out and hunt and fish to bring food home to your family.

I have had enough of liberals making fun of the Palins. I do not agree with Sarah Palin’s political views, but I see how her life can be attractive in a society that is losing all these very basic securities.”

You can read that comment here.

And in a world where families are splintered, fragmented and globalized, I think the commentator is right when she says, “But she also appeals to Americans who are longing for a glorious past… A past in which a mother of young children could rely on relatives and friends to help her with her daily tasks.”

And it is also one of the reasons that people are so attracted to Newburyport, MA, because it holds out a myth, a myth of community, a community which people are an extended family, and support one another–that is so embodied by our beautiful, quaint, historic (and Federally funded) downtown, and the historic neighborhoods that surround it.

Myth, Politics, Newburyport

Either you love Sarah Palin or you don’t, and what 2 weeks since her arrival on the national political scene, people’s feelings on the matter seem to be already pretty much entrenched. And I am fascinated by this phenomenon.

My observation in local politics here in Newburyport, MA, is that people often vote viscerally on personality, not necessarily who would be best on the issues that face our small New England seaport city.

And I’m imagining that some part of this political reality would apply to how we would vote as citizens on a national ticket.

I came across a fascinating article by Joe Klein, September 10, 2008 at

“Palin’s embrace of small-town values is where her hold on the national imagination begins. She embodies the most basic American myth — Jefferson’s yeoman farmer, the fantasia of rural righteousness — updated in a crucial way: now Mom works too. Palin’s story stands with one foot squarely in the nostalgia for small-town America and the other in the new middle-class reality. She brings home the bacon, raises the kids — with a significant assist from Mr. Mom — hunts moose and looks great in the process. I can’t imagine a more powerful, or current, American Dream.”

Joe Klein goes on to talk about Ronald Regan:

“The blinding whiteness and fervent religiosity of the party he (Ronald Regan) created are an enduring testament to the power of the myth of an America that existed before we had all these problems. The power of Sarah Palin is that she is the latest, freshest iteration of that myth.

Joe Klein continues on:

“The Republican Party’s subliminal message seems stronger than ever this year because of the nature of the Democratic nominee for President. Barack Obama could not exist in the small-town America that Reagan fantasized. He’s the product of what used to be called miscegenation, a scenario that may still be more terrifying than a teen daughter’s pregnancy in many American households.”

I looked up “miscegenation,” I had never heard the word before. It means, “Cohabitation, sexual relations, or marriage involving persons of different races.”

Joe Klein concludes that the “mythic” nature of Obama’s story, is actually much more reflective of America today, but is a “vision is not sellable right now to a critical mass of Americans.”

You can read the entire article by Joe Klein here.

Newburyport, Losing Funding for Education

As many of the readers of the Newburyport Blog know, I am a big fan of Bill Moyers.

On September 5, 2008 Bill Moyers had this to say at the beginning of the segment on the Bill Moyers Journal:

“Fifty million American children went back to school this week. But as reporter Sam Dillon writes in the “New York Times”, more of them than ever are homeless and poor enough to need free meals. Mortgage foreclosures are throwing hundreds of families out of their homes each month. With fuel and food costs rising, with tax revenues falling, school budgets are in retreat. Detroit, for example, has laid off 700 teachers. We’re not talking about just a few isolated places. This is nationwide…

The Bush Administration was announcing an increase in American aid to Georgia by more than 1500 percent… From 64 million dollars this year to one billion dollars next year. A billion dollars. You can only wonder how many American kids a billion dollars could put back on the buses, back in class, and back in the cafeteria line.”

You can read the whole transcript here.

And this is one of the things that concerns me. We as a country have the Bush administration (I trust Bill Moyers) allocating one billion dollars next year to Georgia (the country not the state). One billion dollars that could have gone to the education of the children in the United States of America. Money that we in Newburyport, MA would not see go towards funding for our much under-funded public schools.

Come January, I want a president who would be wise and prudent in spending our tax dollars, who would make sure that, yes, the war on terror is vital, but so is the education of our children. I want a president who understands that. I do not want another four years of a Bush-Cheney administration.

Newburyport, Education and the Election

I’ve been consumed by the national election for president. Nothing on the local level (at least as of today) seems to be as intriguing as what is happening on the presidential campaign front.

And, for me, there is so much that would effect us locally in Newburyport, MA, depending on the outcome of the presidential election.

At the moment, mayor John Moak is asking the citizens of Newburyport, MA to consider voting on a tax increase to help with, among other things, education in Newburyport, MA.

This is at a time when people are loosing their jobs, not getting pay increases, dealing with the high cost of gasoline, increased cost of groceries and other staples, getting ready for more expensive heating and electric bills for the winter. This would be a tough sell for our mayor at any time, and it is a particularly tough sell at this point in tough economic times.

And we need a lot more money to help educate our children.

And one of the things that we as a community in Newburyport, MA, have discovered during the ordeal of the Override for funding for our schools last year, is that there is little help from the State of Massachusetts, one of the reasons being, the Federal government is not helping the states, or at least our state, with money to adequately fund education.

So I want someone in the White House next January who is going to pay attention and help local education, as well as help the financial plight of small cities and towns all across America. And during the last eight years we certainly have not seen the local support that we in Newburyport, MA need so badly, from the current administration. And I doubt we would see an improvement in support for our small cities and towns from 4 more years of a Republican administration.

It is one of the many reasons that I would like to see a Democrat in the White House.

And to compare the candidates’ voting records and educational priorities, I found a helpful site here and here.

“Judgmental and Intolerant”

When the Republicans were attempting to impeach President Clinton, basically for attempting to cover up an embarrassing blowjob, and not doing such a great job of it, Barney Frank said something to the effect (and I can’t find the exact quote),”When your opponent is shooting themselves in the foot, just stand back and let them do it.”

I always thought this was wise political advice, and ever since then, Barney Frank, Massachusetts US Representative, has always been one of my favorites.

And in Sunday’s Boston Globe, September 7, 2008 he has this to say about Sarah Palin, “The relevant political point about the existence of these incidents in Palin’s family is not that they reflect badly on her or her relatives, but that they further reveal the central flaw of the harshly judgmental and intolerant philosophy she exemplifies..”

The, “harshly judgmental and intolerant philosophy she exemplifies,” wonderfully articulates my “dilemma” with Sarah Palin and with the Republican party of the last eight years.

Barney Frank also has this to say in the same opinion piece, “..the questions of divorce and teen pregnancy are relevant in discussions of the McCain/Palin ticket. The individuals involved in these cases deserve to be treated with compassion, but so do millions of other Americans who find themselves in similar situations.”

And in the Sarah Palin family saga, I find this weird double standard, harsh and judgmental toward others, but not harsh and judgmental towards Sarah Palin, perplexing.

And as a single mother I got to experience first hand the subtle and not so subtle harsh and judgmental attitude of a lot of people. And I have a visceral dislike of politicians, no matter how charming and disarming, who embrace this particular point of view.

Newburyport and a Palin World View

Would Sarah Palin’s world view matter to the folks of Newburyport, MA?

Yup, I think it would matter a lot.

Sarah Palin is absolutely upfront, unapologetic and proud of her world view. This would appear to be the same world view as George W. Bush, possibly even more extreme. (However, it would not appear to be the same world view as her running mate, John McCain.)

That world view put us in what is now understood as the hugely unpopular war in Iraq. Something that this community is very much affected by.

From an AP report (Gene Johnson, September 3, 2008), a quote by Sarah Palin: “Our national leaders are sending them (our troops) out on a task (Iraq) that is from God..”

Sarah Palin candidacy also, very possibly, reignites the receding culture wars that have been so divisive and destructive to our country, that neither John McCain or Barack Obama have seemed interested in revisiting or reviving.

I’ve said it in an earlier post, this enormously talented and effective young woman, who gave a very impressive speech last night in front of the National Republican Convention, could be more popular, more powerful and even more successful than Ronald Regan or George W. Bush, in getting the Christian Right’s social agenda enacted.

In eight years (2 terms), John McCain would be 80 years old. And whether he might fill one term or two terms, Sarah Palin, at the moment, would appear to be the next in line.

PS. Tony Auth has a great political cartoon on Sarah Palin here.

Palin Politics

I think faith is a good and wonderful thing, but I don’t think most Americans understand faithwise where Sarah Palin, the new Republican pick for VP, is coming from.

Ronald Regan paid lip service to a lot of the political conservative issues, but Sarah Palin is “saved.” Not that being “saved” is a bad thing, the passion and convictions that such faith could have, may be pretty amazing. However, it could be a puzzle and has been a puzzle for many “mainstream” Americans. (My friend Frank Schaeffer has a whole lot to say about this one.)

There is a post on the Huffington Post with a video of Sarah Palin speaking in the church where she found her faith, that would delight many a Conservative Christian, but my guess would be that it could probably be a head scratcher for a lot of folks.

You can see the video here.

A sort of Ok definition of “Conservative Christianity” is here.

And in helping to understand what is meant by Alaska being a refuge in the “last days,” a link to this definition could be helpful here.

North East View, Sarah Palin

My first impression when I saw the first appearance by John McCain and Sarah Palin, was that Sarah Palin made John McCain looked really, really old, and that John McCain looked, not like he was hugging his daughter, he looked like he was hugging his mistress, he made Sarah Palin look slutty.

This is exactly the sort of thing that the Obama campaign does not want anyone to mention.

Tough luck, it’s true.

How many years did we as a country obsess about Hillary Clinton’s hair. Aren’t we allowed to do the same with the new Republican VP pick without being accused of being sexist?

First introduction, too much hair and way too much make-up. My prediction, the hair is coming down (which it has), it will also get a lot flatter, no more possible hair pieces in the back. (I really don’t care if it sounds catty, it’s true). The hair high-lights are going to be toned way down, and a “trim” and a whole lot less hairspray and hair product. Honey, this ain’t Alaska anymore.

Honey, they want you to look “professional” bordering on frumpy. No “hot” or “sexy.” And let’s face it, the first impression was that she was a “babe.” My prediction is that the babe-alicious stuff is going to played way, way down. We could see this “gorgeous” woman, go to the frump-o-meter side of the scale.

Yes, untested Sarah Palin could bomb. Dems would be delighted. But, yes, she could also do really, really well. She’s already been a quick study, witness the hair coming down thing.

And if she does really, really well, look out America, this woman could be not the most conservative, formidable politician since Ronald Regan. From what I can tell she is way, way more conservative than Ronald Regan. Ronald Regan paid lip service to some of the stuff that flows happily and proudly through Sarah Palin’s vanes. This goes way beyond “more of the same,” this woman’s views are so rightwing that it’s just downright spooky.