Archive for the ‘real estate’ Category

Hong Kong: A Great Trip for a Single Woman, but not as Quaint as I Expected

March 3, 2017
Hong Long is a 'high density city. I don't think you are allowed to put ip a building that is under 50 stories.

Hong Long is a ‘high density city. I don’t think you are allowed to put up a building that is under 50 stories.

I was in Hong Kong recently.  It was on my bucket list.  I didn’t have  a lot of vacation time (as I want to take another trip this year), and several people suggested that  five days in HK would be more than enough time.

I got a round trip airfare for under $600 from Chicago.  How did I do that?  If you make  one stop, it reduces the fee by a lot.  Going, my stop was Vancouver (I only had about an hour between planes). Returning, it was in Toronto.

Several websites had suggested getting an ‘Octopus’ card at the airport.  The initial fee is high (HK $50 for the card, and  a minimum of $100 for use), but not only is it good for the airport bus to wherever you want to go, it’s also good for city buses,  the MTR,and the express train back to the airport…& they refund your balance at the end!  It’s great!

Lodging was under $50 per night including tax.  I used Booking.com , Tripadvisor, and Trivago to do the research.

ChunKing Mansion is NOT a mansion. it is a large building with many small hotels.

ChunKing Mansion is NOT a mansion. it is a large building with many small hotels.

ChunKing Mansion is NOT a mansion.   I stayed at the Everest in Chunking Mansions.  This is an excellent location, right on Nathan Rd, across the street from the Peninsula, an iconic hotel. Very spartan lodgings, a towel was included, and toilet paper, but no soap! It was perfect for one, but would have been cramped for two, and the bathroom was very small.  Had I not traveled in Africa, I might have been shocked at how spartan it was, but you  aren’t planning on spending that much time in your room, are you?  It’s just to sleep, drop your stuff, and shower, right?  I probably should have checked out more places in Chunking Mansion, as it is a large building divided into several sections (and it is not a ‘mansion’, but  a complex of dorm like rooms),  but…although my room was very clean, it was not cleaned the whole time of my stay, and the building is sort of ‘earthy’.  That is,  a bunch of  Asian men from India & Pakistan (they seem to be an interesting mix of Sikhs, Hindus, and Moslems)  sublease the ‘hotels’, and on the first floor, they run  little kiosks  and  food stalls.  This would be a very interesting  study  for  an urban anthropologist, as they are  on the edge of a section of  HK where the subcontinentals live.

The whole area is considered Kowloon, but it is the Tsim Sha Tsui MTR stop.  Right outside the door.

Tsui Tsim Tsai MTR entrance...ther are about 6 for this 1 stop!

Tsui Tsim Tsai MTR entrance…ther are about 6 for this 1 stop!

Extremely convenient…if the  actual train wasn’t  about 1/2 mile away underground!  Actually, the MTR system is very clean, people are around who speak English and are very helpful, but it would probably take about a week to learn the system. Just as in the USA, where one subway stop has multiple  entrances and exits, it’s the same with the Metro Transit Railway of HK.

So, what did I  do on this trip?  I got on the Big Bus, which allows you to hop on & off, to see the main attractions.  I  heartily recommend it, because it goes to just about everywhere, or close by.  They have several routes, and if you buy a 48 hour pass,  it gets you ‘express’ into some attractions.  I took it around for a look/see first, then again to where I wanted to stop.  My first stop was the town of Stanley.

I was disappointed.  Most of what you want to see is along the water, and it’s a row of small shops selling mostly touristy types of things (although there was a dog groomer down there).  There are also several restaurants.  The thing is, where the bus lets you off is a modern mall, with a McDonald’s and an H & M, and I was picturing something more quaint and rural.  It’s picturesque, very hilly (HK is the land of escalators), but not what I expected.  Same with Aberdeen, which many guidebooks describe as a quaint fishing village,  and suggest stopping for a fish lunch—which I was looking forward to.  Maybe 20 year s ago.  It is a harbor filled with small fishing boats, and  these days, women give tourists rides in the boats…but HK come right up to the harbor.

Everyone  says you have to go to Central for the elevators on the sidewalks.  Well, that would be fine if you had something to do in this section of town.  If you don’t, it’s like being in a crowded outdoor mall.

View from Victoria Peak, Hong Kong

View from Victoria Peak, Hong Kong

My last  tourist site of the day was the tram to Victoria Peak. I was really looking forward to this:  going up to the  top and watching the lights at sunset come on in the city. I live in Chicago, and I have brought many people to the top of the Hancock Center to watch sunset over the city, and sometimes, fireworks.  So, that was the plan.  But this  actually  is what happened:  even with express passes, it took us 45 minutes to get on the tram.  It was really crowded.  Someone told me it was because of Chinese New Year, but whatever.  I know some people waited in line over an hour just for tickets, and had to wait much longer to get on.  So, it’s 3 minutes to the top, and at the top….is a mall.  I kid you not. Right when you get out, there are all these  vendors of touristy things, and they follow you around, because it looks like  one big store….but it is actually about  eight vendors!   You walk around, and it struck me there was a Swatch Watch store at the top, and two ice cream places…and a Starbuck’s.  I was expecting a park.  It was about 3:00 or so, and I saw all these people waiting in line to get back on the tram to go down.  The last Big Bus  leaves at 6:30, so if you missed that, you’d have to get on the MTR…not a far walk, but….I decided to walk down the peak.  I don’t know what I was thinking, but you spiral down, of course, about  3 miles. I wanted to catch a bus, but I got about 1/4 the way down, and  I notices there was a traffic jam going up the peak, and no traffic coming down. About 1/2 way down, I met a Chinese man (Mr. Hu) who was walking down the peak…he was going to the MTR, but  didn’t want to take a cab, and he pointed out to me that nothing was coming down (and also, there was a hospital near the top, so there might have been an accident), and so, we walked and walked.  Finally, we got close to Central, and he flagged a cab to take us to the MTR. The cabbie  tried to take us on a circuitous route (Mr. Hu thought it was because we were speaking English), but  he went with me on the MTR all the way back to  Tsim Sha Tsui, which was very kind of him.  It wasn’t really that long a MTR ride, but I got to see how vast the underground was. Very bright, very clean.

Ocean Park

Ocean Park

The next day, I took the Big Bus and got off at Ocean Park.  Ocean Park is sort of like Sea World and an amusement park. They do some research there,  and  promote environmental education and recycling, and there are a few rides.  I was going to go to Disneyland, but all the  guide sites  said Ocean Park was iconic & not to be missed.  I had to wait in line  about 45 minutes for a ticket to get in. The park is divided into  two sections because of geography  You can take a skyway ride to the section of the park you are not in. There are several other rides, including a roller coaster, which is described as a ‘mine train’ but isn’t.  There is a small  zoo, with both  red pandas and a giant panda, and a  display about how goldfish breeding has evolved.  I can see how a family could spend the day there.  I spend about  three hours.  Of course, there is a huge gift shop, but it sells the usual souvenir stuff:  T-shirts, water globes,  key chains,and stuffed animals.  They really missed the boat:  no dog squeaky toys or chopsticks,

Water between 'Central' and 'Kowloon"

Water between ‘Central’ and ‘Kowloon”

Day  three, in the morning, I wanted to go to the HK Art Museum, but it was closed for renovation.  The cultural center  didn’t have anything going on. Both of these are along the promenade.  So, I decided on a  tour of Kowloon, and took the Big Bus first to the Jade Market, and later, to the  Ladies market.

I felt both were disappointing.  The Jade market is under a big tent, and there  has to be  over 100 vendors.  Many have  small antiques and other jewelry.  If you don’t really know jade, you don’t know if you are looking at plastic or glass.  Bargaining is suggested, but so many young  people come from the rest of southeast Asia, and are willing to over pay, so I didn’t buy anything.

Same with the Ladies market.  Most guidebooks  describe  the ladies’ market as selling toys, clothing, sportswear….but  the irony is…you can get most of the stuff more cheaply in the USA….especially if you live in a ‘major market ‘ (or a community with a large Chinatown).  In fact, the Fodor’s guidebook suggested a  store called ‘Me and George’ for vintage clothing.  I actually found the store, but  it was mostly men’s stuff just crammed in, with  one rack of women’s blouses that were way out of style, and a rack of skirts.  It was a big disappointment.  I probably spent about  two hours at the Ladies Market, and I bought 2 sets of chopsticks.

In the evening, I was interested in taking a dinner cruise during the light show, but the people at the tourist office told me I would have to take a cab to another pier, and the  fee for a dinner cruise was in the $80 range.    Not worth it.  Several online sites suggested a place called Mak’s  for noodles, and there was  a Mak’s in the Ocean Pier Mall.

I have to say  a bit about this mall. First of all, I  missed seeing Mak’s several times, even though it was on the main floor, because they have  one small sign and they are behind  the ‘Greyhound Cafe’ (not sure why it is named that).  People come to HK to shop, and the whole first floor of this mall, aside from a few upscale restaurants, was boutiques offering baby clothes:  Baby Dior, Baby Channel. Stuff, you know, like Beyonce and the Khardasians would buy…not normal people.

Second floor was adult designer stuff…including Stella MacCartney.   & more jewelry. Really really expensive stuff.  Third floor was all electronics.  It just boggled my mind.

In any case, I had dinner at Mak’s, which was just noodles with a wonton…for $13.  Not bad, but really, not worth going our of your way for.

Day four, I took a day cruise,where you can see all the tall buildings along the harbor.  That was nice.  In the afternoon, I shopped  a little west of where I was staying.  The prices were a bit lower, but I saw nothing I had to have.  The guide books suggested  the bird market and the Goldfish markets, but I would have had to do more walking, and seeing animals just to see them isn’t my thing.  I wanted to go to the tea museum, but several people told me it was very small, and  due to construction  in the area, could have been difficult to get to.  So, in the evening, I went to the Promenade along the  harbor, where  some awful musicians played until the official music and ‘light show’ started.

The light show….I was expecting fireworks after all, this is China), but what is was was a few green lasers.  What was really interesting is that all the buildings in Central facing the promenade are all lit up.  That was sort of cool.

Clan housing in a more rural part of Hong Kong

Clan housing in a more rural part of Hong Kong

On Day five, I took a totally different tour  to the area known as ‘new territories’, with a guide and several other people. Apparently, when the British came to HK, they needed some land designated for  agriculture, and  made a deal with the clans in this very rural area  to allow them to keep their land, but not sell it for development.  So, they are allowed to build three story buildings.  They had to live in the buildings, and, traditionally, their children would live in that upper two floors….but real estate  appreciated so much in value that, although  one family member still has to live in the building, most are rented out, and it is the only low density housing (if you can call it that) in the region.  Indeed, I don’t think I saw a building under 50 stories, and most were over 100.  Also, the guide told us that most of it was public housing, and most apartments are about 400 square meters.  Very small. But also,  most  people don’t have children…it’s too expensive.

Other impressions of Hong Kong?  Yes, people come to shop, and I was shocked by the number of designer watch stores.   Tag Heur, Phillipe Pateke, Swatch, Rolex…Rolex stores across from each other!  People still seem to think a wrist watch is status.  I can’t believe that  so many people buy watches that it pays to have so many.   And…jewelry  stores.  In the windows, many (there is a chain that is on every block, and I am not exaggerating), they have  solid gold ‘character’ tchotchkes. Ugly, but  people collect these things…and remember, gold is portable.  Also, in HK, there  is Watson’s, sort of a drugstore with a wider variety of non-prescription drugs than our American stores (I went in for Nyquil, got Melatonin), and several stores specializing in cosmetics.  I also  stopped at several groceries, some offering good deals.

It was very crowded where I was. A zillion tourists, mostly from South Korea, Japan, the Mainland,  Malaysia,  New Zealand and Australia.  Every young person was either glued to a cell phone,presumably following a tour, or taking a selfie with a selfie stick. I have never seen so many.  Nobody watches where they are going.

I am glad I went, but now that I’ve seen it, on to another adventure.

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The Big Short and Understanding Finance

December 25, 2015
My 2 flat in Rogers Park, Chicago's 49th ward.

My 2 flat in Rogers Park, Chicago’s 49th ward.

It’s Christmas Eve, 2015, and I went  to see “The Big Short.”  Although the movie was not well reviewed (Michael Phillips of the Chicago Tribune said that  financial markets were too complicated for the average person to understand. Hence, this movie was boring), I found it well scripted, edited, and acted.

Perhaps  it is because I, also, could see how over heated the real estate market was…and I will tell you  how.

In the mid 1980s, seeing that I would never get rich by grooming dogs, no matter how well I  managed my budget, I decided to learn about the mortgage market and selling commercial paper.  That’s right.  I learned that not just banks, but private investors bought mortgages and you really didn’t need years of college education to sell mortgages.  You just had to know the concepts of present value of future cash flow, loan to value—and the formula to  figure out what a cash flow was worth.  That was it.  Simple as that.  Yes, you need a special calculator to  figure this stuff out, but you can easily learn the formula in a few minutes.

I  learned, via audio tapes, that  brokers sliced up payment streams, and sold portions of mortgages.  You didn’t have to buy 240 payments (a 20 year mortgage), but could by payment 12, 18, 32…whatever.  How would you manage to get paid if the mortgage was sold or the mortgagee defaulted?  Ah, there was the rub.

I wondered how this could be legal.  Well, it was legal because it was not ILLEGAL, and frankly, most people who buy bundles don’t look that closely at what they are buying.  I mean, they don’t look at the value of the property the mortgage is on, trusting appraisers.  They don’t look at the credit histories of the borrowers.  The assumption was that someone was  checking out this stuff…but in reality, nobody was. It just seemed to risky for me.  The only way you could  make money was if you were  a lawyer, and even then, it was an iffy investment.

My niece learned the  mortgage business (and was a lawyer), and I called her about a mortgage because I wanted to lower my payments.  She got me a ‘no document’ mortgage, meaning I didn’t have to prove income.  At the time, I was earning under $30,000 a year, but my credit was good, and my  ‘loan to value’ on the house was very good, so it wasn’t a problem.  After a few years, I thought I could do better, and wanted to retire a line of credit which was never very transparent, and I could never get a statement  on how much principle I owed, so I , again, refinanced with a broker who got me  a mortgage based on the LIBOR (London Interbank Offered Rate—a rather bogus index used in the USA), which was  at 3%, but adjustable. The broker told me  the rate was very stable, and rarely fluctuated more than .25, but that turned out  not to be so, and within  six months the rate climbed from 3% to 5%, and I again refinanced.

I just love HGTV, and I loved the shows about house flipping and people house hunting.  What I was seeing, on those shows, was people were being approved for  mortgages with no or hardly any (2%?) money down, based on their incomes, not expenses, and clearly people were buying much more  home than they could afford.  But it was legal.

I was seeing this with some friends as well. I thought that this could not possibly go on.  People were trusting banks, were carrying too much debt on credit cards, and all that needed to happen was for energy prices to go up or people losing jobs for whatever reason, or becoming over extended (a good one was  investors buying a bunch of property, not keeping the property up, getting rent payments but not paying the mortgages on time because  that’s how  some people manage their finances).

This movie shows that—all of that—really well…and virtually all the practices that led up to this are still legal.   Our Chicago area schools are not really teaching finance, or compound interest, or budgeting…especially not in low-income areas…and we still have people thinking this is  just not an interesting subject.  These are the same people who don’t bother to  check out the political candidates positions online (easy enough to do, but they go for the bloviators), and don’t vote, anyways.  Then, they complain.

I had read excerpts of Michael Lewis’ book, and learned about Michael Burry (excellently portrayed by  Christian Bale).  This movie should be shown  to every highs school student.

Lies Dog Breeders Tell

November 27, 2015

I’ve worked in the  pet industry over 40 years, and the reason I am a hobbyist/fancier is that  for the most part, there is integrity in the sport of people showing dogs. The fact is that many breeders are proud that their dogs can do what they were originally bred to do, as well as being physically beautiful.  They are proud that their dogs don’t carry genetic structural defects…or if they do,  want you to know what they are doing to eliminate them, and will ask you to participate.

However, not everyone breeding dogs is honest or ethical.  Unfortunately, ‘due to the economy’,more and more  breeders are breeding to sell a product, not to improve their line or for the betterment of the breed.  Actually,  dog breeders, as I’ve described them, are becoming pretty rare.

The reason is…in the USA, our economy is pretty much based on speculation on land.  We like to  convince ourselves that  it’s high wages that make everything expensive, but no, it’s the cost we pay to live where we live.  I know some people who live in less urban areas don’t believe this, but people who live in high rise condos pay $100–400 extra a month for a parking space.

This is a Maltese I groomed in a puppy trim. They do not grow like this .naturally. they need haircuts.

This is a Maltese I groomed in a puppy trim. They do not grow like this .naturally. they need haircuts.

When I was growing up, in the 1950s and ’60s, land was not yet wildly speculated on, and a good portion of the population (black and Latino people, as well as women) were bared from certain educational opportunities, jobs, and  even owning a home in  many locations.    A certain per centage of people could keep  five or six breeding bitches (and possibly a male) and afford to go to dog shows and pay for veterinary care, and have a litter every so often.

Real estate started to heat up in the early 1970s.  In fact, I convinced my then husband that we should marry (easier for ME to get a mortgage that way) so we wouldn’t be forced out of th neighborhood we lived in.  This was at the end of the Nixon era, when inflation was starting to get out of control…and then OPEC  decided the price of energy for us.  Also, many white people might not remember this, but anti-discrimination laws were passed.  Still, we had a vibrant middle class, and anyone not  paying off student loans or medical bills was ok…but we were all starting to slide if we didn’t have rich parents.

When it comes to purebred dogs, the American Kennel Club sure hasn’t helped by talking out of both sides of its collective mouth. The old white male field trial guys who control th AKC want everyone to know that AKC  guarantees ‘purebred’…though they  whisper to buy from a breeder as though all breeders are the same.  On the AKC registration  certificate you get, it says that  a ‘third party transfer’ (that would be a pet shop or broker selling you a dog someone else bred) is illegal, but that is never enforced, and the AKC delegates—the inspectors that make sure dogs shows are fair, who also inspect puppy mills, tell us that the AKC doesn’t  do business with anyone purposely mixing breeds, but we know the same people breeding English Bulldogs are breeding LabraDoodles and Cavashons

So…now we have a  group of people—‘backyard breeders’— who may or may not know each other, taking advantage of this confusion. They are breeding dogs, and claiming they are not breeders. They own the mommy dogs, and whelp the litters, but they will try to convince you they are not breeders.  It might be because  the humane activists will try to convince you that all breeders are evil and adding to pet  over population, and by these people declaring they are not breeders, they are not responsible for pet over population.   Following me?  Because it is these very people who  are the exact people  adding to the problem.  They do not take any responsibility for the dogs they breed.  Once the sale is made…you are on your own.

What else do they say?  If you  ask about genetic defects, they will tell you the parent dogs are healthy, and even give you a health certificate that  states the health of the pup is guaranteed for  30 days.  This begs the question, because  many blind, deaf, and/or crippled dogs are otherwise ‘healthy’, and these types of handicaps often don’t show up until the dog is at least a year old.

Another one:  These dogs come from champion bloodlines.  Unless you  know pedigrees, and  all the dogs for at least  three generations on that pedigree have the same word in their names, there is no bloodline.   Also, we now know that many people who established a bloodline in their breed had their hearts broken when  the type of testing for genetic defects became available, and they found that many of their breeding dogs were afflicted.  But more—you can’t have it both ways and say you ‘just want a pet’ but be  impressed by champion bloodlines.  My first Afghan Hound had the most impressive pedigree anyone would want to see, but I don’t think his parents were show quality, and he certainly wasn’t.  Even show dogs   produce dogs that  won’t become champions due to structural issues.  When it comes to designer dogs—dogs that don’t breed true, all the champion bs means NOTHING.  You want to see OFA (hips, knees, elbows), CERF (eyes), and BAER tests for  both parent dogs.

Another one:  You can’t see either parent dog….often, the sire of the litter is off being shown. The dam (the mommy) is probably  a wreck, but be very cautious .  Often times, mommy is not friendly with strangers…which also means the pups may not be.

So, here’s the deal.  If the person  who offers puppies doesn’t start asking you a bunch of questions about how you were referred to her, where you live, if you own  or rent, who all you live with, if you’ve had any experience with her breed, and how you plan to take car of and train this pup if you work outside your home all day…this means they are breeding and/or selling pets like livestock. They  can’t be trusted to say anything remotely truthful.  And, yeah, it’s harder and harder to find an ethical hobby breeder of any breed, but you can ask groomers and trainers for referrals, contact a (breed) club of America, and be a little skeptical using the internet.  You want a companion who will be with you for 12 years or more.  Don’t fall for the marketing.  use some sense.

 

Innocents; Refugees are desperate.

November 20, 2015

I was going to write about something totally different, but due to the tragedies in Beirut & Paris, and the hysteria about accepting  Syrian refugees into the  USA, I have to  address this.

My fathers parents  were from Russia and Germany.  They were immigrants.  They weren’t refugees because they weren’t force to leave their countries. It was an economic decision.  My mother’s parents were  from England and Ukraine.  Similar circumstances.  I know part of the reason, aside from economics that they chose to come to the US was antisemitism.  I also have friends whose parents were refugees from Germany during WWII.  There’s a fine line between being an immigrant and being  a refugee, but nobody left their homeland and struggled to learn English and make a life for themselves because things were going so well in the old country.

Due to the bombings, and ISIS and militant Islamists in the news, out pointy-headed politicians have decided to not let any Syrians in until they can be screened better—to make sure they are not terrorists.

Here’s the problem—-it’s not logical, and here’s why:

  1.  It’s a known fact that many of the terrorists carry dual nationalities—with a home country (maybe Pakistan, maybe Iran…) and a European country.  If you pay enough, you can do this.  Even Americans can do this;
  2. Many have been traveling on tourists visas—or even  work visas.  They don’t have to be refugees.  They have plenty of money.  Many are highly educated, or have wealthy benefactors;
  3.   They are not bringing wives and children, and don’t have to bother with the slow refugee resettlement process;
  4. They are charming, they are smart, and they see our celebrities , like Miley Cyrus, or Rhianna, prancing around in their underwear, and they don’t  want that to happen to their countries;
  5.   Finally, as Santayana said, “…those who do not remember history are condemned to repeat it.”  This all goes back to Sykes-Pickot at the end of WWI, which  the British and Allies would not have won were it not for T.E. Lawrence organizing the Arabs, with the promise that if they helped to defeat the Ottoman Empire, the British would help them set up  modern governments.  Instead, the British  did Sykes-Pickot and gave Syria to the French—who wanted the  land, but did not fight for it.  Britain than proceeded to construct Iran, Iraq, and foment more problems in India before partition.  Our own CIA ousted  ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mohammad_Mosaddegh) from Iran, a democratically elected leader  not on Standard Oil’s payroll, in favor of Shah Reza Pahlavi, a dictator, who, although he  was said to  have ‘modernized’ Iran (Persia), credit should have been given to Mosaddegh.  and the Shah was corrupt and benefited from the oil deal…the country did not;
  6.  We proceeded via  mass media—owned and controlled by old white men who had stock in  war benefiting companies–to convince ourselves we were fighting  communism in Viet Nam (we  actually allied ourselves with  Catholic elites who were opposed to land reform requested by the Buddhist majority), we had Salvador Allende killed in Chile for the benefit of another  dictator and business interests, and in the 1980s, the CIA got inner city youth addicted to crack cocaine to benefit businessmen in Central America.

We never learn. We’re always on the wrong side of history.  There is the cry that  we have to take  care of our own people first. Well, we are doing a piss poor job of it.  Refugee resettlement is a huge industry, particularly in Chicago.  They do a great job of lobbying.  Unfortunately, our homeless veterans don’t do such a great job of lobbying, nor do kids who age out of foster care. Also, because we allow the religious right  to oppose teaching  family planning in schools, we still have a lot of uneducated young mothers  who believe the rumor that they can get  public aid forever—or at least until they get their lives together. Heck—we don’t even teach them enough math or economics before they get pregnant to realize they can’t afford to rent a studio apartment on minimum wage—let alone have kids.

So, we can make the refugees a scapegoat, or we can be rational and start asking  our politicians, who are all over paid and have too many sycophants on their payrolls—what’s up with this?

Didn’t I Already pay This Bill?

May 22, 2015

We’ve got a problem here in Illinois.  It’s unfunded pension funds.  In a nutshell, what happened was that tax money collected that was supposed to be earmarked for the pension funds was diverted to  the minutiae  that politicians often finagle for:  plug budget holes left by corporate tax breaks, funding of special pork projects, ‘expenses’ for legislators for whatever…and this has been going on about 20 years.  In addition to diverting funds collected,  the powers that be–apparently innumerate,  made  deals with hedge funds &  bond sales men, being promised a level of  return that not only didn’t stay flat, got to be negative due to fees…and now, we—again—have to pay.

Why do we have to pay again?  Because  public employees were promised pensions.  I don’t have a pension.  I’ve been self-employed most of my life, and I knew I’d have to take care of ME (again—why I  never had children), so I saved and invested.
But  these public employees were promised a pension…and…because they never paid into Social Security— they have no back-up.

Don’t get me wrong;  I do not feel ‘sorry’ for them that they made life choices to indulge themselves and not save  for the future. We don’t really know that.  They were told that if they worked at least a certain #  of years (is it 20?) they’d get a pension from the state.

I pity the employees who  just couldn’t take it anymore, or were otherwise dicked around, and  left those jobs.  Hopefully, they found other jobs  where the employers took out  Social Security.  But whatever. Our beef shouldn’t be with these employees (even if we do feel they are  over paid, underworked, and don’t deliver real service).  Our beef is with the politicians…but also the newspapers which endorsed them for election and re-election.

That’s right. The Chicago Tribune ran an editorial in the Sunday paper telling us citizens to look in the mirror if  we wanted someone to blame. Moi?  Why?  Did YOU—Chicago  Tribune—- and just about every other media outlet  not only  tell us we were irresponsible if we didn’t vote—and then ENDORSE these very politicians who voted to give themselves pay raises and divert the  tax money  from the pension funds?  We expected a free press  to be honest and give us information—not take the wrong side!

So  now our taxes—both income and property—will have to go up to make up for the shortfall…yet you all (politicians, the media…) still support  sports teams and artists (movie producers, festivals) with tax breaks, citing an amorphous economic multiplier!  chutzpah!

My only choice is to sell my home and move to a state that is better managed. but then, there is the issue of potable water.  We’ve known this was coming for over 50 years—yet our legislators have voted to allow fracking rather than give more tax incentives to renewable energy sources!

We citizens are a bunch of chumps.

‘Higher’ Education…What a racket!

April 10, 2015

I didn’t go to college until I was in my 30’s.;  It was a trip to Africa that changed my life. I stared out as a do-gooder who wanted to  help the Africans. As i got my education, I  was embarrassed at my American arrogance and changed my mindset, but my goal was still to give back.  My counterparts in peace Corps  often discussed with me the   merits of a particular action regarding lad=nd use planning.  Of course, they asked my opinion. they felt I had more experience and access to more information,  I often told them it was a judgement call.  It was their country, and they had to decide.

So, I was a mature adult when I decided to follow through on college. Thankfully, the College Level Examination Program saved me a lot of time and money. I got 2 years of college credit for free, and didn’t have to pay for a bunch of prerequisites.  I knew I wanted to major in anthropology, and I had dual minors:  environmental studies and international studies.  My instructors were very good, for the most part.  I  did learn a lot.  However, by 1989, a bachelor’s degree meant nothing, and I knew I’d need an advanced degree to have any sort of impact.  Long story short, a friend who was a professor at the University of Illinois at
Chicago, got me an interview at the UIC Center for Urban Economic Development, and I got an assistantship which paid for my master’s degree…which was virtually useless.

While I was  in the program, I sort of realized this degree was a way to weed out people less committed to planning, but  my  schooling—even statistics—was no more rigorous than an associate degree.  I was not studying anything really technical (I graduated a year before software allowed  land use planning on a computer): most of my studies were  a history of planning, or  entry-level management courses.  I also took a concentration in educational policy planning.  Keep in mind—I paid for nothing and got a small ($500 a month) stipend.

The reason(s) the degree was really worthless  were several: 1.  I  had an undergraduate degree in anthropology—not in finance, accounting,  geography, political science, or law.  Unless I knew someone, there were hundreds with  backgrounds just like mine; 2. I was not bilingual Spanish; 3.  I had never taught in an elementary school classroom, so without a Ph.D, it—my graduate education— was just an exercise in self-indulgence.

I had a roommate who had  an undergraduate degree in English Literature. she got interested in Urban Planning, and  could type 60 wpm.; she got a job right away as an administrative assistant at a land use planning firm. she was totally disorganized, and a ditz, but she could type and was really charming.  I got interviewed for several jobs where I was told—at the interview—the  organization was looking for a visible minority (that means person of color).  so Peace Corps was the right decision at the time.

While I was in high school, I  took savings and decided to go to dog grooming school. It was the New York School of Dog Grooming in Chicago, and it was run by Don Doessel for Mario and Margaret Migliorini.  These  people were pioneers in the teaching of grooming  for those of us who wanted to work with dogs and whose parents  probably did not show dogs.  Don sold Louis & Seme Auslander their  foundation  bitch, Dansel Dutch Treat.  Don was a fantastic teacher, I don’t think I ever saw him actually groom a dog, but he could teach, and he was patient.  The advantage of the school at the time was that every dog was a Poodle. And, as Malcolm Gladwell pointed out in his essay, 10,000 hours, we learned to  do Poodles by grooming so many Poodles.

Those days are gone. In 12 weeks of grooming school (which I believe I paid under $5000 for), I got enough of a foundation in grooming, and how to manage my time, that I was able to apprentice to  some very good groomers and home my craft.  I got  proficient, and I was able to work part time as a groomer and pay cash for those  3 years of  college that were my undergraduate degree.  The industry has changed. More and p more people who have never groomed nor trained a dog are opening dog daycare businesses or kennels, and hiring groomers, and they seem to believe the groomers either out of grooming school or trained by a ‘big box’ pet store can actually groom, They can’t groom. they can shave dogs, but they don’t know anything about dog physiology, dog psychology, or  the artistry of grooming. Now, owners of purebred dogs  go back to the breeders for grooming, because the pet groomers groom so poorly.

This is all relevant because with some capital, and a lawyer, you can open a dog grooming school and be licensed in the State if Illinois to teach grooming.  Some students pay for their own education, but many get financial aid from the state—our tax dollars, and  even after  6 months, most can’t groom.  There’s a  combination of reasons they can’t groom:  poorly trained teachers, not enough  dogs with coat they can practice on, not having any talent to begin with…but no matter.

We are learning more and more of other schools just like the  dog grooming schools:  private, for-profit, training  paralegals, CNAs (nurses assistants) massage therapists…the list of things they teach goes on and on, and these  graduates of these schools can’t find jobs.

So, you see, from my experience in getting my master’s degree, actually choosing a bona fide  program is the luck of the draw.

Now, certainly, if you graduate from an Ivy League School in philosophy or English Lit, you will get a job based on the connections you made.  Also, chances ate, with any B.A. degree from any college, you can  get a management job in  a retail store, or sell insurance (you will have to study for licenses), but face it: a liberal arts degree is now a ticket to nowhere.

Unfortunately,  so many people take out loans to  go into these  programs, to they can get a job to pay back their loans, and it’s all based on  1 big lie.  The lending institutions get you into debt, you can’t get a job, and  by the time you see what’s happened, you’ve wasted anywhere from a year to 5, and you’ve  got a mess.  But it’s legal.  You’d think some sort of school counselor would say to these people: “don’t  get student loans to pay for an undergrad degree in
English Lit, Liberal Arts,  Music History, History, etc, etc.  If you are not majoring in STEM—science, technology,engineering, math….you are digging yourself into a financial hole.”  but nobody does.

My niece did it right.  When she graduated high school she went to a community college and got an associate degree in accounting. she also worked at a bank, and learned the mortgage brokerage business from a customer of the bank.  she went on to get her B.A, in political science, and went immediately to law school, where she concentrated  in real estate law. She does house closings, and she and her husband fix up homes, and either rent them out or sell them.  Yes, she had student debt, but she had a way to pay it off.

I would advise anyone to talk to at least a dozen people  who work in the profession you are  thinking of training for. Ask how they think prospects are.  Ask where they thnk the berst training program is.  The one thing you shouldn’t do is borrow money.

Cutting the Budget to Make up for the Failure to Fund the Pension Plans

March 27, 2015

 

Bangkok topiary.  Not sure if their city workers have pension plans.  We do have street art in Chicago...and our pension plans are in crisis due to  inept politicians.

Bangkok topiary. Not sure if their city workers have pension plans. We do have street art in Chicago…and our pension plans are in crisis due to inept politicians.

Illinois—my state—is a perfect example of  voters not paying attention to what our legislators are doing.  It’s not that we don’t have ‘watchdog groups’, it’s that we have  major  newspapers  which are  edited  and published by  people who seem to be in collusion with  corrupt and inept politicians, and an uneducated populace that  ranks legislation right up ther with insurance: boring.

These same  newspapers—which endorse our politicians, have real chutzpah when, several months later, they  browbeat us citizens for voting for them.  Why they endorse these hooligans is anyone’s guess…or are they being paid off?

What got me going on this is that we are having a mayoral election  in about  two weeks (early voting has started).  It is a run-off between Rahm Emanuel—the incumbent, and Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, a county commissioner. Chuy  has a degree in urban planning, and has a lot of experience as an elected official.  He’s known as a neighborhood guy. He’s had some missteps (all of us have applied for  tax breaks we end up not being entitled too), but for the most part, he  doesn’t have wealthy friends in high places:   the 1% who want to do  business in the city and  make  deals behind closed doors.

Rahm speaks with authority.  Even though he has screwed us over:  he  promised to be transparent about the Tax Increment Financing money…and he immediately cut a deal with DePaul University —a private, CATHOLIC, endowed  entity…so they could build a stadium—& Rahm took  residential property OFF THE TAX ROLLS TO DO IT…even though he  promised is 1000 more police on the street, there are not, and even  though he closed  50 neighborhood elementary schools & diverted tax dollars to private charter schools…and in 4 years time has done NOTHING to address  the under funded pension funds for city workers (and we have a crisis at the state level as well).  He still seems to have more credibility than Chuy—because he  speaks with confidence—and because the local media present him as being a better choice. They ar not neutral, and the newspapers bury the  stories of shady dealings in the business section.

He’s turned the argument into the fact that Chuy has not come out with a plan, and he knows people fear that property taxes will go up. Yet,he’s put forth no plan of his own  and that’s ok with  major media.  It’s frightening.  It’s all marketing.  Rahm has the money to twist and obfuscate.

Knowing people who  work on the Garcia campaign, I’ve suggested that he  ask every alderman (there are 50) to give up 1 staff person. That  the  neighborhood  ‘development corporations’ (what  in some areas are  chambers of commerce) actually be put into aldermen’s offices—without a separate overlay of staff and expenses.  Raise fees, fines, and rates.  Hell,  there  are so many  businesses—particularly pet  industry businesses—that are not in compliance with current laws, and  they are being ignored.

Chicago Animal Care & Control  could easily double their adoption fees and nobody would complain.  We have way too many street fairs which really don’t  market  actual businesses that  pay property taxes (via rent) all that well, and  we provide free police  for those fairs and to all the sports teams when they have games in town.  Discretionary infrastructure money  could easily be cut by at least 30%.  In our ward, we have  voted on projects that have been nice—but would I rather have my taxes go up 30% to cover them?  Well, it looks like that will be the reality no matter who the mayor is.

A candidate  for mayor who withdrew due to health reasons, Karen Lewis, suggested taxing trades 1% at the board of trade.   Bunch of whiners—speculator/gamblers   talked of moving out of the city, Really? To where? Skokie?  I don’t think so.  I know from working  in a service business that most of the 1% hardly pay attention to what  frivolities cost.

Finally:  legalize  and tax marijuana…and release all those serving time for non-violent drug crimes.  It’s one thing to involve a weapon, and  another  to be in jail for being an entrepreneur.  We just can’t afford this  morality craziness.  It hasn’t worked and costs too much…and we can look at the examples of Washington  and Colorado.

Matt Taibbi has an excellent article in Rolling Stone  several years ago: http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/looting-the-pension-funds-20130926

I urge  everyone to read it.  it’s not a mystery how this all happened.  We let them.

 

Where did she go?

September 19, 2014

I am getting to the age where more of my friends are dying…and it is not a huge shock.  Some have had chronic illnesses for years, some are just old….and some have had pets.

If you live with someone, or have kids, this won’t be a huge issue to you.  However, if you are a groomer, or live in a community with a lot of either senior citizens or disabled people  who get subsidized housing or are otherwise renters—and  you yourself are an animal lover, I want you to think about what I am saying.

My neighbor, Phyllis, was one of many seniors who live in her building. The building was  developed with tax credits over 25 years ago, and it was specifically so seniors  would have an affordable place to live.
The tax credits expired and the building, which had been in receivership (due to the developer, a nonprofit, going bankrupt), got sold to a business. The business owns many buildings.  Believe me, the profit per unit is not much, but because  there are at least 30 units in the building, the building  can break even and be somewhat profitable, and combined with hundreds of buildings, they do ok. Still, I imagine this is a challenge for the business owner.

I am not going to address renters as hoarders, drug dealers, or drug addicts….the issue is pets.

I met Phyllis on the street, walking Pumpkin, her Shih Tzu.  What struck me was that the dog was in ‘Specials coat’.  That is—a coat you could show her in.  Also, when I actually groomed her, I found her to be a show quality dog.  Yes, some  hobby breeders are just thisside of being puppy mills. Phyllis found the breeder on the internet, & I know she paid well over $1000 (possibly $2000) for this dog.  Pumpkin has a great front and rear, and great patellas. She is very sound.  Phyllis lives on Social Security and food stamps.  She skrimped and saved to buy Pumpkin.  Spare no expense for Pumpkin, she had the best of care.

I offered to groom  Pumpkin once a month for a reduced fee.  Then, Phyllis told me she had to have both knees replaced.  Phyllis was going into the hospital and rehab for several months, and she was frantic about Pumpkin.  I  was lucky that my sister  agreed to take her.  I have 2 Whippets, and I was afraid they would hurt her, even by accident.  My sister took Pumpkin for Phyllis and ended up having her for  over 4 months.  We also took Pumpkin to visit Phyllis several times when she was in the nursing home doing rehab.

This was about a year ago, and I continued to groom Pumpkin once a month….then, a few weeks ago, while I was out, my  roommate said that a neighbor stopped over and she had Pumpkin, and to call.

The gist is….Phyllis was taken ill.  Somehow, the police were called.  As I am not next of kin, it is actually not a legal requirement that anyone tell me what happened to Phyllis, but the police told a neighbor that if she didn’t take Pumpkin, they were going to take her to Chicago Animal Care & Control—the dog pound.  Since the neighbor knew I groomed Pumpkin, she asked me if I would take  her.

Of course, and my sister has her now….and we have to presume that Phyllis died.

This is a lesson to us all.  I have a roommate.  Most people I know live with someone or have someone (like a job) who expects to see them every day….and would investigate if we didn’t show up.

I have a friend who went on vacation with her husband, and left an elderly friend in charge of her dogs.  My friend called her friend every day—and when she couldn’t get in touch with her, called the police….who had to break into her house and  found the friend  on the floor. She had been there for over 12 hours—she had fallen and broken her hip!  That my friends had to quickly return from vacation wasn’t the half of it. They now also have that friend’s dogs—as SHE is now in a nursing home.

Please, put something in your wallet about your pets—-especially if you travel.  If you live alone—put something on your refrigerator door.

We are going to work on  an ordinance that asks  landlords who rent to single people with pets to address this:  if you   don’t have someone to contact in case of emergency….if something happens to you, what do you want done with your pets?

 

1/2 Million Ain’t What it Used to be

July 10, 2014
Balloons over Cappadocia

Balloons over Cappadocia

 

 

My parents set a really good example for me…but that was the culture they came from.  They  decided to NOT have kids until they were financially secure…meaning they    owned a house & weren’t subject  to a landlord’s whims, and if something happened to my father—the bread winner,  he had life insurance to take care of us kids.  It was middle class values.

I am afraid that, due to the news media and journalists looking for a sob story, the conventional wisdom is now that the rest of the community has to make up for  a  parent’s bad decisions.

I understand the average American citizen carries a balance on their credit card.  I also understand that the average American who  graduated college has college debt—but that only about 25% of adults have  college degrees.  I also understand that  since 2008, when the economy imploded, a lot of people were living to close to the edge of financial calamity and have not recovered.

I am clearly not rich.  I still  shop for clothes at thrift stores, and do all sorts of stuff to economize.  I didn’t think of myself as having assets, but  as I’ve been planning for retirement, I have been proved wrong.

If I retire at 65, will I have enough money to last me if I live to be 100?  Most people don’t  live to be 100, but I’ve had relatives live into their 90’s.  My father turns 88 in a few weeks and is still going strong.

In trying to protect capital from market losses, I started thinking about what *I would do to manage this.  Also,  as I was drafting this, a friend sent me a Zillow link that  showed the estimated valuation of my house.

It wasn’t luck that allowed me to accumulate:  it was pragmatic choices, and learning from my parents.  Sure, I made some choices I really regret (buying a business based on optimism, when I was set to retire at a very young age), but mostly I did ok:

1.  I did not incur college debt.  None. Zero.   I paid cash. In fact, I got an assistantship to grad school:  they PAID me to go.  I have written about this before, but my niece  got her associate’s degree from a community college, and finished her B.A. at a state school.  Her debt was for law school, but she crafted a career and is doing phenomenally well—BECAUSE SHE PLANNED.  Unless you  go to an Ivy League School, or a school kn0wn for a particular program (Johns Hopkins for public health, or Georgetown for International Development), your network or alumni association will be marginal in helping you get a job.  It’s stupid to incur over $20,000 in debt if you aren’t absolutely sure there is a shortage of employees in your field. Majoring in education, or business, or  liberal arts is plain stupid these days.

2. I didn’t have kids.  When you don’t take birth control as seriously as I did, you are gambling with being poor—and the odds are not in your favor.  You are expecting your community to  help you out, and the  politicians generally pay themselves too much money to be bothered with the likes of you—& why should they—or anyone—have to support YOUR PERSONAL CHOICE?  If you do some research about how people live, you will find a few enclaves in the world (Singapore, and even Kuala Lumpur come to mind) where even the poor live  more of a middle class lifestyle.  That is because of cultural sensibilities and the  people in power.  But most of the world’s poor live without running water.   Yet YOU want to have cable TV, a smart phone, and designer clothes?&  cigarettes and beer …& kids?

3.  That’s another thing.  When you CHOOSE to smoke cigarettes and drink alcohol…you are  saying you have more than enough money to  waste.  You do not look mature or sophisticated. You look stupid. that’s a fact.  This is not the 1950’s.  We  know these addictions cause health problems, It’s not loke the information is a secret.

4.  I bought my first house in what would be considered a slum area.  Funny thing, there was no ‘minority’ population, but the housing stock was old.  It cost me $24,000, with $2000 down.  I started building equity.  There was a lot wrong with that house—but the rent did not go up.  I ultimately sold that house, and my current home is worth considerably more.

With the market correction of  2008, this can be done again. Would you forego fast food, cable TV,  cigarettes, going out drinking— to  be stable and start building wealth? You can watch HGTV and learn a lot about looking at a neighborhood, and  ‘feeling out’ a property.  You are not  going to make an old, broken  down house livable on $20,000, but you might  with $50,000–especially if the plumbing and electrical infrastructure are ok.

4.  I chose to live with roommates. Yes, finding people you are compatible with is a serious issues.  I have lived with drunks and other who could not get their lives together.  I  contracted with a school that catered to foreigners  wishing to learn English in the USA.  I took several people from that school, and ultimately  got my current  roommate (12 years and counting) this way—to save money.

5.  I made a point to budget and save money. …and invest money.  Of course, I learned this from my mother.  She didn’t know investing however.  I was lucky one of my friends wanted to start an investment club.  They can be found.  You will learn together.  These days, you can get Money  or Kiplinger’s magazine, do really good research on Google finance, and open a Scottrade account (there are lots of discount brokers).  I also ’round up’ when I  deduct a check (or debit) from my checking account. I always have a cushion  of money I don’t even count on as there.

6.  In times of no employment or slow business, I find other ways to earn money.  I did over night pet sitting for years for a very reputable company.  I collect cans  on the street when I am out walking the dogs, I  find books, furniture, and clothing to resell. Some of my friends do baby sitting, tutoring, proof reading.

7.  I delay gratification. I have a list of ‘wants’, but  I only buy when I find something that’s a good value, and if I’ve met my savings goals.

I think these are all common sense ideas.  But if all your friends are idiots with no goals, who ridicule your  ideas, plans, and way of life, you will be  brought down.  Think about it.  Nobody is going to save your ass but you.  & what is $500,000?  Over  35 years….or 420 months…that’s $1190 per month (or roughly $297 per week).  Can YOU live on that?

 

Affordable Housing…What the 99% Folks Don’t Want to Understand

June 20, 2014
Upscale Housing in,DaNang, Socialist Republic of Viet Nam

Upscale Housing in,DaNang, Socialist Republic of Viet Nam

Do you know the difference between  socialism and democracy/capitalism?  Are you sure?

I was in my  twenties before I realized that someone planned infrastructure. Roads and plumbing were not just there.  Due to a comedy of errors, I ended up getting a master’s in urban planning, and  a concentration in land use & zoning.  It’s amazing to me that there was a time in America that we could afford to lay  water and sewer pipes.  It’s also amazing to me that  the politicians thought it would be a  great idea to allow private companies to handle energy  and other infrastructure services.  Not  everything will make a profit.  Some things—like infrastructure, you have to provide to support economic development. This is why we need governments. For no other reason, really.

The companies that have a monopoly on  infrastructure  now  realize that nobody will rein them in. They can do whatever they want and charge whatever they want.  That is capitalism.

In many places in the world, they (meaning politicians) don’t allow the private ownership of land in urban areas with infrastructure.  You get a 99 year lease, and then  the lease is renegotiated.  This is  to prevent land speculation and inflation blamed on land rents.  However,  often the lease holders  sublet the space, and this causes inflation.  I saw this when I served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Blantyre, Malawi.  Improved land had been sliced and diced so many times, that, per square foot, improved land was as expensive as it is in Chicago.  It was shocking, and this was why many people were starving.  They could not go back to their  ‘home’land/tribal area, as all the arable land was  spoken for. They could not be farmers.  They didn’t have enough education  to get a job, nor enough connections for access to capital. This is also why crime is rising in the urban areas  of developing countries. People are desperate.  This is also why we need public schools. There is  currently  an uproar about ‘core competency’.  Do we really not agree that  our populace has to know basic business math, science concepts, and how to write a proposal?  More serious, still:  do we not understand that we  graduate  people as  teachers who don’t know how to teach this kind of stuff?

Forget the bs that there is enough food that nobody should go hungry, and that nobody should be homeless. Those are not the real issues. The  issue, bottom line, is still that  men are still choosing (for women) to have  more children than the economy can support.  It’s a global problem, now, and it’s a problem that most  politicians will NOT address.  Too controversial.  But the bottom line is that  jobs will never be created fast enough for  all the people who need employment.  That’s capitalism.

On my most recent trip to Viet Nam, it appeared that most urban people were very sophisticated about family planning.  It was surprising  how small an area  in Hanoi that  the entrepreneurs had  carved out for themselves.  The  government  could never create enough jobs, so entrepreneurship is encouraged.   It’s that, or crime. These people might be poor, but they all have cell phones and TVs, and they don’t have to punch a clock. Their time is their own.  That’s how it is in  many places in the world.  Just not so Europe or the USA.  If more Americans could do this,  they might possibly demand that their schools teach getter mathematics and science.  How teachers are taught in the US would be funny were it not tragic!

I got to thinking about this again, because a young woman, Amara Enyia , child of Nigerian immigrants, is running for mayor of Chicago.  She came to a very small community meeting, and someone asked her what she would do about creating more affordable housing.

She  thought very carefully before answering, because she’s smart.  That train has left the station.  There is no longer any  affordable housing that is decent because our land rents—-property taxes are too high. They are not the same all over the city, but  in my neighborhood, Rogers Park,  which is right along the lakefront, and has several rapid transit stops, and a private university (Loyola), we now average over $100  per week per unit in property takes.  Even if you live in a studio apartment, under 500 square feet, your landlord is paying at least $200 a month in property taxes.  And then there are  the heating bill, water,  maintenance. Also, our politicians pay themselves an outrageously high salary—over $100,000 a year, and they have their patronage workers, too. If you are poor, and didn’t luck into a Section 8 voucher (which, apparently, is good for the life of the holder), or subsidized housing (also good for life), you are s…o…l.

I’ve always thought that  a rent subsidy should only be good for a limited time:  five to 10 years at most.  When you have a subsidy, you have no incentive to improve your skills or try for a better job, or to make any money.  Neither do your kids.  It becomes a chosen lifestyle—that of being poor and scamming the system.  Nobody has dared to do a study of this, but there is plenty of anecdotal evidence:  people are proud to say they live in this or that housing project, as did their grandparents.  No joke.

Now, you could say I’m lucky, and  I have white privilege.  However, I made a choice to not have children I could not support, to buy my first home in what was considered a slum area, and move up.  I know a lot of women like me.

What Ms. Enyia said in response, in so many words, was that you have to work with others in your community and get control of the land. They are called housing trusts. That means working together with other poor people, forming an organization, and raising money.  Still private, but you  vote on how the money is spent—like a cooperative.

It’s been done, but the people whining the most want others to do it for them.  I want I want…I want to live in Manhattan, or San Francisco, or LA. I want a Cadillac.  I want someone to clean up my house.  I want to go on vacation to Hawaii  three or four times a year.

Our schools don’t teach kids to  think, but to comply.  Couple that with people being in denial that they can’t still live in the community they grew up in, and I see much more strife coming down the pike.