How America can rediscover progressive politics
11 hours ago
"Christmas is coming. It always does. And 2011 is nearly over. In some ways the quicker the better, especially when it comes to foreign affairs and fly in/fly out visits of foreign leaders like Barack Obama, treated like a hero when he’s anything but, gearing up to bomb Iran using bodgie UN and IAEA reports. Hypocrisy on steroids. The US has over 10,000 nuclear weapons – the only country to use them – and Israel has over 300, both with a long history of invading and occupying other countries. Iran has no such history. But we suck up to Obama, who treats us like mugs, using us to help contain China. A ‘special relationship’? Don’t make me laugh. More marines and more US snooping. Let’s not forget 1975 or Malcolm Fraser’s role in it.
"So eat your pud, put on a party hat and for a brief time forget the mess we’re in where big money is pulling our strings. The bigger the money, the bigger the crime, the bigger the corruption. Despite the clowns in parliament yelling abuse at each other, we’ve seen a convergence of the two party system where a new economic extremism has come into play regardless of party label. Today we’re all customers and clients in the ‘market’ and the lack of alternative policies and useless media have left us sleepwalking into economic mayhem. Few understand that Wall Street deliberately planned the housing bubble, spending billions on advertising campaigns to con people into taking second mortgages, forking out money they simply didn’t have. The bubble burst and the state galloped to the rescue. Socialism for the rich.
"The crisis spread to Europe and rules were flushed down the toilet. The EU stepped in to impose austerity measures and save the banking systems, but not the people. The Greek elite was blackmailed into total submission, bringing the country to the edge of chaos. Greece should have defaulted, quit the Euro zone, re-introduced the drachma and organised from the ground up, Tariq Ali writes. It didn’t default and Italy was next. In recent months, three other highly indebted countries - Ireland, Portugal and Spain – have either gone through or are on the verge of changing government. Germany is now in the queue. Each time, the push has come from big business. Papandreou and Berlusconi were forced from office – without any democratic legitimacy - and replaced with unelected technocrats and hedge fund shysters who get their orders from the European Central Bank and the IMF, with barely a yawn from our media. Apparently not interested that two elected governments were overthrown in what are virtual coup d’etats, ignoring that what ultimately toppled Berlusconi was not moral outrage but international finance capital.
"`To save the euro we had to destroy Europe’, said one leading US financier, which translates to ‘the reign of banks requires the end of democracy’, which is why there’s a growing feeling that major policy decisions are being made in secret by a cabal of immensely powerful people who are by-passing elected governments. Heavily involved is Goldman Sachs, referred to as Wall Street’s secret society. Former employees now head the New York Stock Exchange, the World Bank, the US Treasury and work in the White House. Mario Monti, the unelected replacement for Berlusconi is on Goldman’s board of international advisers, Lucas Papademos who replaces Papandreou is a member of the Trilateral Commission and much else and the European Central Bank’s new boss, Mario Draghi, is also former managing Director at Goldman Sachs and a lot more. At this year’s highly secretive Bilderberg meeting for global high-flyers - Hilary Clinton was there - topics included modifying the public mind to accept a world without borders, fast-tracking austerity measures and extending the influence of transnationals and banks over Western politicians. These are the creeps who will use their power to smash the lives of ordinary people. Out unions, out the welfare state and out public assets, all of which will intensify the slump, shrink government revenues, increase unemployment and foment social unrest. Peaceful protests will turn into pitched battles as working people fight to have their voices heard. A situation all too reminiscent of Germany in the 1930s that paved the way for a Nazi takeover. Opposition is growing but lacks a clear perspective. Strikes and protests are important but not enough. This life-and-death struggle requires a clear socialist perspective and programme.
"In the Middle East, Assad’s enemies are closing in for the kill and Syria’s fall will throw the entire region into turmoil, sowing the seeds of future conflicts, which seems to be the idea. No surprise that in NATO’s ‘New Libya’, terror is spreading via US, French and British SAS units, known locally as ‘disappearance squads’ where people associated with Qaddafi are being ‘disappeared’, just like the murderous years in El Salvador and Guatemala. Without a hint of irony, ‘New’ Libyan radio has reported that ‘one of the worst aspects of the Qaddafi era was his welfare state’, complaining that Libyan workers were ‘too coddled’ because they had job tenure, government subsidies of about $800 a month, petrol at about 60 cents a gallon and the highest standard of living in Africa. For NATO and its corporate mates, such prosperity for workers simply will not do. In our New World Order, workers must struggle and be dealt with by violence if they dare to fight back. And fight back we must. In big ways and small ways like helping us support Cuba. So come and join us on December 5 for our final fund-raiser for 2011! In the meantime, stay safe and enjoy time with friends and family. Viva!"
“To the Boston Redevelopment Authority, the Governor and the Mayor
“This is a request that you not be guilty of promoting a segregated housing program here at Copley Place . The Copley Expansion Project that is under consideration under your leadership should not be allowed to go forward. There are many reasons that have been raised by way of serious objections from the local community to the plans for The Copley Expansion. For me, the most crucial one, the one I believe causes the most harm, is the acceptance of a proposal that will; A) Allow segregated housing on public land and B) Create conditions that will further exacerbate the housing problems and the ability to exist in this neighborhood by folks of color and persons of lower income. The economic and social diversity of our community is threatened.
“I have spent a large part of my life dealing with segregation. What is the most egregious and one of the most serious aspects of this proposal, is how many people turn a blind eye to the kind of impact that projects based on segregation like this will have on individuals. I have heard the voices of the youth who clearly see that they are being pushed out of the South End. They understand far too clearly that the policies and practice are geared to the study by the Metropolitan Area Planning Council that says that in the next 20 years over thirty percent of the people who are living in Boston whose incomes are low will be living at least 25 miles from the center of the city. So when you understand that and you attend meetings where there is an indifference to these issues, it reminds me of the signs that I saw when I went South to college. So it is not a question for me of whether there will be 25 percent of the housing as affordable or not. I start with the fact that this is a project or process that one cannot trust.
“One of the things that we hear about The Copley Expansion Project is that they will create some jobs and therefore the scars that it places on people of color do not matter. This is part of the reason why it took so long to end the segregated systems both here and in the South. Yes, there were some people who stood because they understand injustice. The fact of the matter is that if the people themselves who were affected had not stood up and marched and did not face the cattle prods and the fire hoses and sometimes death; things to whatever extent would have not changed. I feel, and see, a similar thing that is necessary here. It is interesting that in the shadow of the Expansion Project there are folks who are involved in Occupations as a way to confront and expose the same kind of behavior which put profits before people’s humanity and dignity.
“You, as elected officials, and as members of the Boston Redevelopment Authority have a moral of responsibility and we do not want you to get sucked in with a policy that is geared to dehumanize. You have a chance to establish a policy of inclusion where all the tribes are welcome and all the gifts are shared. It’s time for you to step up and provide leadership based on justice. The issue of jobs and money is what allowed slavery to exist. Do not become advocates for a system that uses the public land to put greed before a person’s dignity, a community’s dignity and spiritual and mental health. Make it known that projects like this are not welcome.
"Gov. Michael Dukakis and the Massachustts Turnpike Authority yesterday signed a long-term lease agreement with a Chicago development firm which plans to build a $250 million residential-hotel-shopping center-office-garage complex in Copley square.
"The lease signing with Urban and Investment Development Co. (UIDC) of Chicago came after more than a year of negotiations by the Chicago firm, the state and representatives of surrounding neighborhoods and organizations.
"Gov. Dukakis, before the signing ceremony, termed the project, Copley Place, `a national model for successful citizens participation in the planning and design of large scale urban projects.'
"The project plans, which now will be going through reviews and negotiations with the city of Boston, would be built over the Massachusetts Turnpike ramp network, a 9.5 acre open site bounded by Dartmouth and Harcourt streets, the Southwest Corridor abutting the South End, and Huntington avenue.
"The commitment calls for an 868-room Western International convention-oriented hotel; two and possibly three major department stores on a five level plan; some 400,000 square feet of smaller-retail shops on a three-level shopping mall; a 1400 to 1800-car garage; a 150-unit low and moderate income housing development and a 600,000 square foot office building.
"Frank Keefe, director of state planning who coordinated the year-and-a-half planning effort, said the lease signing represented a lot of `firsts.'
"He said they included provisions in the lease that commits the development firm to assure the employment of a minimum of 20 percent minority construction workers with `good faith' effor to exceed that figure.
"Kenneth Himmel, project director and vice president for UIDC--a subsidiary of Aetna Life Insurance and Casualty Co.--estimated the project would provide 1300 to 1400 construction jobs during a three-year period.
"The lease also will require that 50 percent of the permanent jobs will go to Boston residents--50 percent of them women; 30 percent minorities and 17.2 percent residents of the immediate impacted area (including Chinatown, South End, Fenway, South Cove, and Back Bay). Himmel said that 6000 to 6500 permanent jobs would be available, depending if two or three department stores are built.
"Also, the state will commit state rent subsidies for 50 existing houses and families in the South End who might be impacted by rising rents as a result of the new project nearby.
"Keefe, mindful of dissent over the project plans from some organizations and neighborhood groups, despite the citizens' involvement, said every effort has been made to come up with a good plan.
"The project was endorsed by the Back Bay Federation for Community Development comprising representatives from the residential and institutional life of the Back Bay, and the Back Bay Assn. The endorsement was coupled with concerns for further refinement in areas of pedestrian access, environmental issues, scale and size, hotel tower location and continuation of the citizens review process. The latter also was made a part of the lease commitment.
"The Back Bay Neighborhood Assn. issued a separate statement, saying the organization supported a development over the turnpike but `does not support the proposed Copley Place project.'
"The organization objects to the size (3.8 million square feet, compared to 2.8 million square feet for the Park Plaza project in Park Square), traffic impact and air pollution.
"Himmel, asked about the unresolved neighborhood concerns, said: `During the first 9 days (1979) we plan to try to resolve our differences. There are some questions on our own minds and I think the direction we go in would be satisfactory.'
"He said there is a possibility of diminishing the size. He anticipated an agreement would be signed in February or March for the hotel with basic site work beginning during the summer.
"In September, work could start on the hotel, retail, office and housing elements, he said.
"Robert Ryan, head of the BRA, which will now inherit the planning process from the state, said he hopes that problems could be resolved in early 1979.
"Under terms of the Turnpike Authority lease, to run 40 years with renewal to 99 years, the Turnpike Authority would receive annual rent ranging from $140,000 in year one, to $920,000 in the 10th through 15th years, with increases after that determined by a formula based on the inflation rate. From the 30th to the 40th years, the rent would be about $2.7 million and after that year the rent schedule would be renegotiated.
"Mayor Kevin H. White's office issued a statement lauding the state's accomplishment. He said his administration is sure that the several remaining steps will be resolved. The jobs the development would bring are crucial to the city, he said. The city is negotiating with UIDC on a tax agreement covering the various buildings to be constructed.
"Also endorsing the program was Greater Boston Convention and Tourist Bureau, Inc., as `the most significant addition to Boston's convention facilities since the construction of the Prudential Center complex.'"
"...There were two separate violations of the Sixth Amendment during Clark's trial: 1) the court should not have granted leave for Clark to represent herself; and 2) in any event, her pro se status should have been terminated when it became clear that no one would be in the courtroom to represent her interests during the presentation of the prosecution's case. Both problems constitute structural defects in Clark's trial...
"...The core of the constitutional defect is found in one snapshot from Clark's trial. During the prosecutor's opening statement and during the government's entire direct case against defendants, which spanned at least seven trial days, no one was present in the courtroom to represent Clark's interests. Clark was without assistance of counsel for her defense, in clear abrogation of her Sixth Amendment right to counsel...The proceedings at issue, with no one sitting at the defense table during the prosecution's entire case would have appeared unfair to many people with knowledge of the constitutional right to counsel or a respect for our adversarial system of justice...
"The trial judge was obligated to procure standby counsel for Clark when her inability to proceed according to court rules and protocol led to the absence of any representation at all during vital portions of her trial...
"For the reasons set forth above, Clark's petition is hereby granted and her conviction is reversed. The State must conduct a new trial within ninety days of this Order or release Clark from confinement...SO ORDERED S.D.NY 2006"
“The 1978 EIR did not include an economic impact analysis for Copley Place …In the final months of the year, UIDC [Urban Investment & Development Co.], the Turnpike Authority and the Office of State Planning worked to incorporate many community recommendations into a final air rights lease which would permit development on the site. The 40-year Lease Agreement, renewable to 99 years, was signed in the end of December, and included these additional community benefits:
“…2. Provision for a minimum of 100 units of housing with at least 25% for low income households…
“…UIDC entered into a 99-year agreement with the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority in December, 1978, amended January 1980…”
"Again, the complainant fails to acknowledge the significant benefits to low-and moderate-income persons and minorities which were negotiated through the CRC process as well as those incorporated by the City into the UDAG application. These are mentioned in at least three separate locations in the application .
“In addition to the permanent and construction jobs agreements cited in Part V, the Copley Place project has provisions for a minimum of 100 units of housing with 25% reserved for low-income households, and provisions for 15,000 to 20,000SF of community retail space with 50% reserved for Community Development Corporations and Minority Business Enterprises at below market rents...."
“In April of 1980 the City of Boston submitted to HUD a UDAG [Urban Development Action Grant] application for Copley Place , and HUD announced preliminary approval of the funding on October 9, 1980…The City of Boston and HUD signed a formal UDAG contract in the early months of 1981.”
“…The development site will be landscaped open space dedicated to public pedestrian circulation…These areas include…the plaza near the corner of Dartmouth and Stuart Streets…At the Dartmouth/Stuart entrance to the retail center the public mall and plaza entrance will be constructed over the Turnpike deck. This entrance is designed to provide a park-like extension of Copley Square and a gateway to Copley Place …
“At the Dartmouth/Stuart Street entrance to the proposed retail development, the Turnpike will be decked and a public plaza and mall entrance will be constructed. This entrance will provide a spatial extension of Copley Square and act as a major focal point. The public plaza and mall entrance will cover approximately 21,800 square feet…
“…The project would not reach a fair level of return without such a UDAG investment…
“The Boston Redevelopment Authority will be the recipient of the UDAG funds from the City. The BRA will administer the grant and loan portions of the UDAG…UDAG funds are in fact necessary to the construction of Copley Place …”
“Simon Property Group, Inc (SPG) is a mall REIT that owns and manages retail mall properties…Fundamentally, the stock looks way overvalued….There is a high chance the USA will enter another recession and this will cause people to stop spending at high price retailers (Saks (SKS), Nordstrom (JWN), etc.) in the malls that Simon owns. This can reduce their revenues as part of their revenues are based on the sales of the retailers in the malls….Look at 2009, these high price retailer sales plummeted as did their stocks, 2011 2nd half and 2012 will look very similar to 2008 and 2009, in my humble opinion, based on massive fundamental facts regarding world debt, deficits and economies.
“Reviewing cash flow at Simon Property Group, Inc. (SPG) and using it to support an approximate $34 billion valuation does not add up. Cash flow ending in 2010 shows a negative cash flow of $3.1 billion. First half of 2011 shows negative cash flow negative of about $7 million.
“Massive debt and liabilities at SPG total $19.648 billion dollars. This creates a high degree of risk for a company relying on high priced retailers in mall locations to maintain profitability. Another risk would be higher interest rates and this could rapidly destroy their earnings.
“The risk of world and USA economies heading into a double dip recession is a high probability. If this occurs, look at the 2008 and 2009 performance of SPG during the prior recession, it dropped from over $100 per share to under $30 per share in less than one year! A potential loss of 70%! … A quick review indicates numerous insiders (executives and directors) sold over $60 million worth of stock from Dec 2009 to August 30, 2011. In fact there was not one insider purchase during this time frame as indicated by Yahoo finance reports. Massive insider selling by numerous officers and executives as in the case of Simon Property Group is a major red flag….”
"Thirty-five years ago I dedicated my life to the cause of justice for the American workers. In the course of those years I have published fifty-nine books and plays. Some have been successes, some failures. When I made money, I have spent it to finance new books, or to circulate the old ones. Nineteen times, by actual count, I have been forced to deal with a new publisher, because my new book was considered too dangerous by the old publisher. On as many occasions I have had to publish the new book myself, because it was too dangerous for any publisher I could find.
"The last experinece was with a novel called No Pasaran! (They Shall Not Pass): A Story of the Battle of Madrid. This was an effort to help the new Spanish democracy, and I sold most of them below cost. The significant fact is that not one of the literary organs of this country, not one of the big newspapers of New York, so much as mentioned the book. Yet it was judged worth publication as a serial by a leading newspaper of Paris, and was advertised on billboards all over that city; in six months it has been published serially in a score of different languages, and has been published or is being prepared in book form in a score of countries. It has been published by the government in Spain, and is being made into a motion picture in Barcelona.
"The books of Upton Sinclair have been issued in more than seven hundred editions in foreign countries, including more than forty different languages, practically all those spoken by civilized peoples. The foreign sales have amounted to more than ten millions. But the job of getting these books to the people in my own country has been a hard one, because books are sold for high prices in America, and the people for whom I write books have little money. Now a new labor movement with enlightened leadership has been born; and this brings me great satisfaction, because I have been calling all my public life for mass unions of the workers. I am glad to have my books read by the men and women who are going to build the happy society in which our children will live, and I am content to get along without the honors and applause which a writer wins by catering to the leisure class booktrade."
“…The number of long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks or more) was little changed at 5.6 million and accounted for 42.5 percent of the unemployed...
“About 2.5 million persons were marginally attached to the labor force in December, little different from a year earlier…These individuals were not in the labor force, wanted and were available for work, and had looked for a job sometime in the prior 12 months. They were not counted as unemployed because they had not searched for work in the 4 weeks preceding the survey…Among the marginally attached, there were 945,000 discouraged workers in December…Discouraged workers are persons not currently looking for work because they believe no jobs are available for them…
“…Employment in sporting goods, hobby, book, and music stores fell by 10,000…Construction employment changed little in December…Employment in professional and business services changed little in December for the second month in a row…Government employment changed little in December but was down by 280,000 over the year. Job losses in 2011 occurred in local government; state government, excluding education; and the U.S. Postal Service…”