Archive for August, 2007

Entry for August 31, 2007

August 31, 2007

John Warner (R-VA) has announced that he will not be running for re-election to his U.S. Senate seat. Speculation favors Mark Warner (no relation) as the Dem’s candidate and either moderate Tom Davis or Jim Gilmore (Mr. no-car-tax) as the Republican candidate.

News from Inter Press Service News:

“It’s (Really) Good to Be the Boss” by Daniel Luban on how the typical chief executive officer of a top firm earns more in a single workday than the average U.S. worker takes home
in an entire year, according to a new study on executive compensation
released Wednesday to coincide iwth Labor Day by the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) and United for a Fair Economy (UFE).

“U.S. Mortgage Woes Leave Poor Homeowners Adrift” by Abid Aslam on how the prospect of widespread dispossession is prompting scrutiny of U.S. mortgage lenders and calls for regulators to help poor borrowers, not big banks. Charles Schumer (D-NY) , on the Senate Banking Committee, wrote Wednesday to U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and Ben Bernanke, chairman of the Federal Reserve, “I urge you to use your leverage over financial institutions… to encourage them to match the federal government’s efforts to provide funding to nonprofit groups working to prevent foreclosures.”

Also by Aslam, “Rural Poverty Stagnates as Uninsured Multiply” on the increasing number of folks lacking health insurance. The U.S. Senate and House of Representatives passed bills last month to increase financing for SCHIP, but Bush has said he would veto the measures because they would lead people to drop out of private coverage in favour of children’s coverage financed with public money.

The federal poverty guidelines limit a family of four to about $20,000. One wonders about this figure, as our network of foodbanks reports that more than 25 million are forced to resort to food donations of food, with about 30 percent of recipients living above the federal poverty line.

“Low-Income Housing on the Chopping Block” by Matthew Cardinale on how, despite the calls to aid Katrina victims, government-subsidised housing has come under increasing attack by U.S. policymakers.

Linda Couch, deputy director of the National Low-Income Housing Coalition reports that sStarting in the 1990s, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) encouraged the demolition of 100,000 units. Since then, local authorities across the country have destroyed at least 78,015 public housing apartments under HOPE VI, with another 10,354 planned for demolition.

Under that program, public housing communities were torn down and replaced with “mixed-income communities”. In 2002 in New Orleans, after the St. Thomas project was demolished, only 9 percent of the units in the redevelopment were affordable to the people who used to live there, even though the community was originally promised that half the new units would be affordable, according to a report by Brod Bagert, Jr., the son of a prominent New Orleans lawyer and politician who wrote his master’s thesis for the London School of Economics on the issue.

In 1998, Congress did away with the one-to-one replacement rule, Couch said, which required rebuilding one unit for each unit torn down. In Atlanta, the housing authorities are pursuing a plan that would destroy all low-income housing in the city, including high-rise apartments for the disabled and senior citizens. While Atlanta plans to offer vouchers to the residents they would displace, many serious problems with the vouchers have arisen.

First, the vouchers have to be renewed by the U.S. Congress every year. Between 2004 and 2006, the Republican-led Congress de-funded 150,000 vouchers. Local housing authorities also terminate people’s vouchers for dozens of reasons. One whistleblower who worked for the Atlanta Housing Authority (AHA) told IPS that the agency attempts to terminate as many vouchers as possible. AHA terminates vouchers if people don’t pay their electricity bills, but does not provide the utility subsidies required by HUD, another AHA whistleblower said.
Atlanta is also disqualifying many public housing residents for vouchers even before tearing down their homes. Atlanta won’t issue vouchers to residents with poor credit histories, and is telling residents who they allowed in years ago that they can’t get a voucher because of some item on their criminal background check, two local attorneys told IPS. Landlords don’t have to accept vouchers. The vouchers only cover low-income housing, often leading to new concentrations of poverty. AHA has steered residents into site-based vouchers, which prevent residents from moving again if they want to keep their voucher. Residents also have to re-certify every year, another barrier.

Additionally, families with vouchers have been evicted because their landlords have not been paying their mortgages, even though the tenants have been paying their rent.

Section 18 requires resident leaders’ signatures on housing authorities’ applications to demolish units, but in Atlanta, it remains to be seen whether they will be able to stop the demolitions. Resident leaders Diane Wright and Shirley Hightower recently filed a civil rights complaint with HUD, alleging that Atlanta’s actions violate the Fair Housing Act by discriminating against African Americans, who are the majority of public housing tenants there.

Problems are also rife in New Orleans. After Hurricane Katrina in August 2005, residents have complained that housing authority officials used the calamity as an excuse to destroy public housing in the city. “Following Katrina, although this brought untold suffering, the majority of the elite saw this as an opportunity, the silver lining to cleanse New Orleans of the poor, change racial and class demographics, privatise everything,” said Dr. Jay Arena, a community activist in New Orleans.

“Most of the public housing was closed. Iberville was reopened because of the agitation we had done before the hurricane and after. Four major developments remain closed: St. Bernard, the Lafitte — which barely got any water — the BW Cooper, only a few of those are open, and CJ Peete,” Arena said.

In June, advocates from public housing communities across the country met at the U.S. Social Forum in Atlanta to begin coordinating a national movement.

“In America, it’s urban and economic cleansing. [HUD Secretary] Alphonso Jackson should be tried for crimes against humanity. Is it not a crime to destroy the only tool to deal with homelessness?” asked J.R. Flemming of the Chicago-based Coalition to Protect Public Housing.

“What’s going to happen to these other cities? They’re gonna fall as we fall? Right now we think we have a better chance fighting together than fighting as individuals,” Flemming said.

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Entry for August 30, 2007

August 30, 2007

Eric Alterman wrote today that we know of Donald Vance because of the August 2007 “Asociated Press story that uncovered Vance’s ordeal.”

Actually, Chicago Indy Media covered Vance’s suit against Rumsfeld on December 17, 2006, the NYT covered the story on December 18, 2006, Dogspot updated the trial news in February and Vance received a Ridenhour prize on April 4. Actually, the AP story re-covered Vance’s ordeal.

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News from the Sierra Club: August 21, U.S. District Judge Saundra Armstrong ruled in a lawsuit that the Bush administration violated the Global Research Act of 1990 by failing to release required reports on climate change. The Act mandates a research plan that directs all climate research every three years and an assessment of global warming impacts on human health, the U.S. economy and the environment for use by the Congress and federal agencies every four years. Judge Armstrong ordered the administration to release the research plan and scientific assessment on climate change no later than March 1 and May 31 of next year, respectively.

Plaintiffs in the lawsuit initiated last November include Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, and Center for Biological Diversity.

The Sierra Club is calling on folks to write Congress in Support of Bernie Sanders and Barbara Boxer’s legislation to cut carbon emissions 80% below 1990 levels by 2050.

Entry for August 29, 2007

August 29, 2007

Visiting Mom today in Springfield. Heard from Tim outlining the article he wants for New River Voice by September 13. Also received the link Mike had promised to send regarding actions to stop coal fired plants from the National Day of Climate Action.

Entry for August 28, 2007

August 29, 2007

Travelled to the Eastern Shore of Maryland today en route to NOVA. This is from yesterday’s Borowitz Report:

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales resigned today, effective immediately, telling reporters that he wanted to spend more time eavesdropping on his family.

Mr. Gonzales, a champion of domestic surveillance and warrantless wiretaps while in office, said he was “totally stoked” about turning his prying eyes on his own family.

“Domestic surveillance begins at home,” Mr. Gonzales said at a White House press conference. “That means nobody in my family is above suspicion, not even the little ones,” an apparent reference to Mr. Gonzales’ children.

Standing by Mr. Gonzales’ side, President George W. Bush praised his former Attorney General, singling out his “courage” for ramping up his domestic spying program on his own family.

“If every head of every household was as willing to eavesdrop on his own family as my man Alberto is, we wouldn’t need a Homeland Security Department,” Mr. Bush chuckled.

Mr. Gonzales was noncommittal when a reporter asked him a question about the role that waterboarding and other forms of torture might play in his interrogation of family members.

“Nothing is off the table,” he said.

Asked about his tenure as Attorney General, Mr. Gonzales was candid about his stormy time in office: “Frankly, I can’t believe it took this long for them to shitcan me.”

Entry for August 27, 2007

August 27, 2007

Got the tour of theReconstructionist Rabbinical College, where Vivie teaches today. Hear back from publisher of the New River Voice, a new publication in Radford which wants me to write an article on MTR for its second issue in September. Willie called to let me know EF is planning a protest as part of a national day of action against MTR investments by Bank of America. That bank was the one targeted in the action at the SE Climate Convergence.

Here’s the announcement I had him send on to Susan:

On August 31st, approximately twenty protests against Bank of America will occur throughout the United States applying pressure on the bank for its investments in the coal industry.

Between 2005 and 2007, the bank facilitated nearly $1 billion in loans to Massey Energy and Arch Coal, two of the largest companies responsible for the destructive practice of mountaintop removal coal mining. This form of mining literally blasts the tops off of mountains to get at thins seems of coal that lay beneath. Mountaintop removal has permanently destroyed over 500 square miles of mountains and buried over 1,200 miles of streams in West Virginia. The bank is also implicated in the financing of Peabody Coal’s mining operations on native lands in the Southwest.

In Blacksburg folks will be converging on South Main Street in front of the bank at 4:20 pm and standing out front holding signs informing passing traffic about BoA’s investments in coal until right around 5:00. In addition to holding a protest out front, some individuals with accounts there are planning to cancel them in the course of the day. For folks who want to arrive there together via bike, meet at Bollo’s downtown at 4:00 and ride down together. (Folks are also encouraged to meet back up after the protest at the War Memorial at Virginia Tech for Critical Mass.)

The coordinated day of action was called for by Mountain Justice Summer and the local protest is being organized by Blue Ridge Earth First!

Entry for August 26, 2007

August 27, 2007

Greatings from Elkins Park. Got up this morning and drove the rest of the way–on Route 202 via New Hope, PA through all the back country with its small villages full of stone houses.

Arrived at 8 a.m. and after brunch we went swimming and then home for dinner and listening to a CD that her former congregation sponsored of Vivie singing some of her original compositions.

Entry for August 25, 2007

August 25, 2007

I’m writing from the Rutland, Vt. Free library where I stopped for a break en route to Cousin Vivie’s in Elkins Park, PA, a burb of Philly.

Entry for August 24, 2007

August 25, 2007

Suzuki violin buskers on the market included Marc’s grandson, Abe. Tonight Bread and Puppet and a new show on Guantanamo. Pictures upcoming.

Entry for August 23, 2007

August 23, 2007

Bad news: Bush administration has capped its six-year crusade to promote Mountaintop Removal with a new rule from theThe Office of Surface Mining. Although the irule is subject to a 60-day comment period and could be revised, officials told the New York Times “that it was not likely to be changed substantially.”
Ain’t democracy wonderful?

See: John M. Broder, “Rule to Expand Mountaintop Coal Mining,” New York Times, August 23, 2007

Entry for August 22, 2007

August 23, 2007

Made a pizza for dinner and we watched Est-Ouest (see poster above) after attending the vigil.

Since there was little coverage, you may have missed news that the federal court awarded $80,000 to a couple who had been arrested July 4, 2004 in Charleston for wearing anti-Bush t-shirts or that the suit led to disclosure of a manual squelching or displacing protests at presidential appearances. See this link.

White House spokesman Blair Jones had to spin the decision: “We are pleased that this matter has been concluded. The parties understand that this settlement is a compromise of disputed claims to avoid the expenses and risks of litigation and is not an admission of fault, liability, or wrongful conduct.”

Yeah, right. During a July 4, 2004 Indpendence Day celebration in Charleston featuring an appearance by the president, police, acting on instructions from the Secret Service, removed Nicole and Jeff Rank in handcuffs. Their supposed crime: revealing T-shirts with President Bush’s name crossed out on the front and Niclole’s “Love America, Hate Bush” and Jeff’s “Regime change starts at home” on the back.

Nicole, is a registered Democrat who temporarily lost her position with FEMA. Jeff, a Republican, explained their action: “When you see the president speak on TV he is usually shown surrounded by fervent supporters only. While we wanted to hear him out and while we wanted to see him in person, we did not want to be added to the tally of Bush supporters that day.”

Of course those wearing pro-Bush t-shirts got to stay.

A municipal judge had dimissed the charges, ruling that city trespassing ordinances do not apply to Statehouse grounds. Charleston’s mayor, a Republican apologized, as did city council. The secret service denied it had prompted the arrests.

The American Civil Liberties Union suit filed in federal court named Gregory Jenkins, deputy assistant to the president and director of the White House Office of Presidential Advance, and W. Ralph Basham, director of the U.S. Secret Service, as defendants.

Now, according to the Washington Post, the suit has uncovered a manual outlining how protest is squelched or displaced away from Bush events. See today’s Post’s for its details on the manual.

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Marc and I dropped the car off at the Swedish Pit, in hopes that they’d repair anything that would prevent me from getting home. Started reading his Golem Song.