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A Modest Proposal: Holyoke needs prime-rate housing for rich white entitled hipsters.

2013/10/20 in Absurd, Capitalism, Classism, Eschatology, H.U.S.H., Mailbag, Poverty, Racism

HUSH welcomes this guest op-ed from Holyoke resident Charles Montgomery Burns III.

Nationwide, there is a tremendous untapped market for upper class, prime-rate housing in vibrant, walkable urban areas where one might expect to find such luxuries as artisan chocolate vendors, martini bars, dog grooming salons, fashion milliners and Asian-Mexican fusion restaurants.

So far, Holyoke has been unsuccessful at turning this market to its advantage. Instead, it has watched a valuable asset stagnate into a bleak cityscape of brown-skinned poor people, in effect prioritizing social services over a more white privately-led economy for the benefit of rich white hipsters.

I suggest that we kill and eat the poor. All of them. Rub their skins with oils and savory herbs then roast them on an open fire.  And any new poor that arrive – kill them and eat them before they can reproduce. After that their housing will become available for private interests as the poor will instead occupy our collective gullet or fear entering this city else suffer the same fate. Only then can this city thrive and private interests reign over the welfare of those that do not have and do not deserve.

Release the hounds!

 

The Story of Boner Pills and Bankruptcies.

2013/09/13 in Absurd, Alex Morse, Capitalism, Elections, Federal, Lies, Mayor, Politics, Stanek

(Jim Santiago Memorial Water Park is pictured in the foreground)

The politicos that plague the City of Holyoke have been very good in the past at creating their own comedy but this Jeff Stanek guy really takes the cake.  Much like Danny Boyle and his serial campaigns promising a “business professional” with his sordid  leadership past; Stanek promises similar but with a much more impressive résumé of scandal and failures.  These are companies that he won’t even name in any of his interviews or post on his campaign website – only providing vague references like “call center”, “direct marketing” and “yacht sales”.  Yacht sales?  Is that supposed to impress us?  It is like when my kids see a limousine and then ooh and ah about how they want to ride in one and all I remember is the time I rode in one on the Vegas strip and found a syringe wrapped up in a dirty pair of underwear stuffed between the upholstery.  You gotta be one totally smarmy soulless motherfucker to be a yacht salesman.    …and what kind of real-world business experience can you achieve working with the out of touch customer base of the yacht market?  Say it three times:  Yacht sales, yacht sales, yacht sales…  there, if you thought it was to begin with, it’s not interesting anymore.

So, what of the other jobs? Well…

Talk America filed bankruptcy while he was the controller (Chapter 11 Bankruptcy Case No. 99-20765), Vital Basics (aka Talk America) had FTC charges resulting in a $1,000,000.00 fine (FTC Docket C-4107) for activities occurring while he was controller due to the sales of boner pills which were unlabeled prescription drugs claiming to be an herbal and safe alternative but which were actually counterfeit Viagra – very dangerous since they were marketed as “a safe alternative to other ED medications for those who take nitrates for chest pain.” – luckily nobody died as a result – and there were a number of other snake-oil type products (Avacor – an all-natural hair replacement, Vinarol – an herbal formula to increase sexual desire and performance, Thermal Carb – an all-natural fat burner and carbohydrate blocker and Glutotrin – a drug that supposedly cures, mitigates or treats diabetes).  And then to top it off a company he was working for, MyFreeMedicine.com, was hit with a RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act) again by the FTC (FTC DOCKET CV5-1607).  The FTC claiming “Since at least September 2003, defendants have deceptively marketed a program purporting to provide free prescription medications to eligible low-income consumers.  Defendants target a particularly vulnerable group of people: those with low income and no insurance coverage for prescription medications who spend more than $100 a month for the medications they need for their health and well-being.”  It was a case that made national news – ABC and NBC. …and yes, it was a case which was later dismissed in US District Court of Maine (Docket CV-00362).  However, MyFreeMedicine.com was ordered to cease its operations.  Stanek said in a Masslive / Republican interview that the case was dismissed and:  “No, I wouldn’t say it shaped me. It’s just, I think it’s just business. Anyone under the sun can file a lawsuit at anytime.”  He’s right, it was dismissed.  He’s also right that anyone under the sun can file a lawsuit anytime.  This is certainly true for personal injury, but let us just compare apples to apples here:  The FTC does not normally pursue unless they believe in a solid case and this case was hot on the heels of ANOTHER FTC suit where his company was fined $1,000,000.00.  Have you worked for one legit operation ever?  Or, better question…  with the exception of “yacht sales” did you only work for one operation that would change its name every time there was a lawsuit or a scandal as it does appear with those mentioned above?  Alternatively, were you actually completely naive and oblivious to these wrongdoings?  In that case you are a first class idiot.

At first glance I thought that this guy would be real competition for Morse…  but illegal boner pills; taking advantage of low income people; bankruptcies; – cough – yacht sales; and FTC lawsuits are his business pedigree?  I would not trust this guy to run a laundromat let alone a municipality.


(Holyoke is virile and needs no enhancement)

Speech from today’s anti-Walmart press conference.

2013/07/25 in Activism, Alex Morse, Capitalism, CBS3, Consume, Development, H.U.S.H., Holyoke, Jobs, Mall, Masslive, Poverty, Walmart, Ward 5, WGBY, WWLP

Stop Walmart in Holyoke

 

The coalition, Stop Walmart in Holyoke, was joined by Mayor Alex Morse today to speak out against the proposed Walmart Supercenter plan for Whiting Farms Road.  A capacity crowd was there at Donahue School.  The majority being labor union folks and abutters to the site plan… but concerned citizens from all wards, business owners and a number of political leaders were in attendance.  See Masslive, WWLP, CBS3   (will update with other sources as they report on this)

The speakers were:

Mayor Alex Morse

Terri Laramee of Holyoke First, the organization of the site’s neighbors

Jason Garand, Business Manager of Carpenters Local 108

James Bickford, Spokesperson for Stop Walmart in Holyoke

Sister Kathleen Popko, President of Sisters of Providence

Here is what I delivered:

#####

I’d like to thank Mayor Alex Morse for joining us here today.  (gesture)

I hope you all don’t mind, but I am going to imagine you all naked while I do this.  (laughter, hopefully)

I speak for the coalition, Stop Walmart in Holyoke, a group of Holyoke area residents, business owners and organizational leaders with support from Holyoke First; Nueva Esperanza; Fluxmass; Pioneer Valley Central Labor Council; Sisters of St. Joseph; Sprawl-Busters; Holyoke Chapter of the ISO; United Brotherhood of Carpenters; and Western Mass. Jobs with Justice.

Proponents of the Walmart Supercenter will claim that new jobs and tax revenue for Holyoke as the primary selling points for the establishing of a store here.  This is ultimately deceiving.  While it is true that the municipal will have tax revenue added to the coffers with a Walmart; what they don’t want you to know is that there will be an incredible demand on individual tax payers.  Walmart’s success in the marketplace is mostly dependent on keeping the cost of labor lower than other large retailers.  They have the least number of employees per square foot of retail, pay low wages and maintain a large number of part time employees to avoid paying benefits.  These are jobs that keep people in poverty.  We only need to look at a recent congressional report on Walmart to see the impact down stream.  Since most Walmart employees are under-employed everyone else foots the bill for their EBT, medical and retirement.  It has been shown that the average Walmart employee costs taxpayers $6,000.00 per year…  this comes out to $900k to $1.2 million per store per year.  Again, Walmart’s success is dependent on social services taking care of their employees.  Walmart creates and perpetuates poverty.

Some criticize Walmart opposition as anti-business.  No, in fact, Walmart opposition is pro-business and pro-labor.  A new Walmart does not create new consumers.  Like I said previously, Walmart keeps labor costs extremely low.  As a result it has a competition advantage and will certainly draw customers from existing business large and small.  Their loss will force them to reduce payroll and possibly end in closure.  It will also limit new small business development in the retail sector.  Studies have shown that over time each Walmart employee ends up being a net loss of 1.4 employees in area retail labor.

Globally, Walmart is responsible for an incredible amount of sweat shop labor where human beings are considered expendable commodities like we have seen recently with its garment and textile supplier in Bangladesh.

On a national level Walmart’s negative impact is incredible.  Walmart’s expansion between 2001 and 2006 accounted for 11% of the growth of the total US trade deficit with China.  In 2000, Walmart was sued 4,851 times — about once every 2 hours.  Walmart also battled 1.6 million employees in the largest class action sex discrimination law suit ever — the potential cost at the time of $11 billion.  The Supreme Court ruling is considered controversial here as it was shot down not on the merits of the case but rather the scale, leading to individual suits instead of the class action.  The statistics do not lie… women were grossly underrepresented among managers, holding just 14% of manager roles compared with the more than 80% of lower-ranking hourly supervisor jobs.  Walmart retaliates against employees that organized for better working conditions.  The egregious business and labor practices of Walmart are alarming especially since it is the largest overall employer in the entire USA, and the biggest employer in 25 states.

One would think that such a large corporation with such amassed wealth and annual profits could do so much better for its employees.  We say that we can do better for Holyoke.

Critics of the Walmart opposition will state that lacking an alternative to Walmart is reason for Walmart to proceed.  HGE has stated that the sale is in the best interest of the rate payers – will we see a decrease in rates as a result?  In pennies?  Here’s a potential alternative: With the rising energy costs, the scheduled closure of Mt Tom power plant and the recent alarming reports of Pilgrim nuclear plant – which supplies 15% of the states electricity – shutting down periodically due to rising ocean temperatures.  Why not invite local solar experts Stiebel Eltron or Citizens Energy to survey the land for a potential solar farm?  This would be something that will benefit ratepayers for decades, much more than the one time sale of the property.

False promises and lack of an immediate alternative are not valid reasons for Holyoke to sell its soul for tax revenue burdened on the shoulders of poverty wage slave jobs.  We ask that city government – the Mayor’s Office, City Council, Fire Department, Planning Board, Redevelopment Committee and the Building Commissioner – oppose this plan and that HGE seek alternate uses for this parcel of land they have put up for sale.

Thank you.

#####

Jesus Loves Deep Discounts

2012/11/23 in Absurd, Capitalism, Consume, Religion, Video

Black Friday Around the World

In Greece, with the economy collapsing, the people attempt to push through barricades where their political leaders are meeting:

In the US, with the economy collapsing, the people attempt to push through barricades at Victoria’s Secret to buy panties:

In Spain, with the economy collapsing, the people take to the streets in desperation, where clashes with police break out over austerity cuts:

In the US, with the economy collapsing, the people take to Walmart, where clashes with police break out over cut price deals on plastic cell phones:

In Italy, with the economy collapsing, the people line the streets, threatening to rise up against the elite bankers that have usurped their government:

In the US, with the economy collapsing, the people line up outside K-Mart and Best Buy, threatenting to shoot and stab each other over ipads:

Priorities?

The Hegemony Anoints its Oligarch

2012/11/07 in Axis Mundi, Capitalism, Democrats, DNC, H.U.S.H., Obama, Occupy, Republicans, Socialism, Terror

Obama is Now a 2nd Term Wall Street Puppet.

Now that it is over, leftists / Greens / socialists / progressives want to know about several issues: Austerity, Social Security Cuts, Wealth Disparity, Mountain Top Removal Mining, Off Shore Drilling, Keystone Pipeline, Fracking, Current Energy Policy in Terms of  Recent Climate Change Disasters, Civil Liberties Violations, Whistleblower Persecution, Criminalization of Dissent, Wars Upon Wars Followed by More Wars, Cyber Attacks, Drone Strike Terrorism, Drone Activity in Violation of Sovereign Airspace, Neoliberal Education Policies, School Privatization, Starvation as a Weapon, Mortgaging of Haiti to Monsanto, Monsanto Control over the USDA, Every Increasing Military Budget, Modernization of Our Nuclear Arsenal, Guantanamo Bay, Extraordinary Rendition, Dick Waving With China, CIA Drug Trade, ATF Fast and Furious, Extrajudicial Assassination of US Citizens, Indefinite Detention, Unprecedented Deportations, Records Profit for Oil Industry and Military Industrial.  Now that Democrats have 4 more years of the President they want — we need to know: Will they finally start opposing his most odious and immoral policies, or has the Democrats embraced these Horrors as party platform?

If Democrat Voters actually disapprove of these policies, can they influence those in power?  Most likely not, voters are not those who power answers to.  The ones that influence policy are the ones that benefit from the previously listed policies.

If Democrats were smart, they would play the same game.  Get rich and BUY your vote instead of casting it.  Play the Wall Street game, invest all that you own then play the market based on the whims of the oligarchs to make a fortune.  This is the American Way™.  Today’s stock tips: Exxon, Shell, DynCorp, Goldman Sachs, General Atomics (drones), Raytheon (Tomahawk Missile) and Monsanto. Gold is still a short term buy. Might as well consider corn and grain futures for long-term, regardless of the Obama win… with China demand on grain and ethanol / feed for corn the long-term is looking good as the drought will extend to the next few years since we are beyond the carbon tipping point.

For those Capitalists that want to measure Obama in terms of prosperity, wealth and that beloved “growth” you should check out these numbers – Obama certainly did perform well for corporate and investor profits (sourced from Motley Fool):

1. Stock market performance

This is the inflation-adjusted, dividend-adjusted, performance of the S&P 500:

2. Corporate profits

A word here: Corporate profits were incredibly depressed from the financial crisis in January 2009, when President Obama entered office. That low starting point makes growth through today look massive. If, instead of January 2009, you use January 2008 profit levels as a starting base, average annual corporate profit growth under President Obama is 6.8%.

3. Real GDP per capita
This measures growth of the entire economy adjusted for the size of the population:

Another note here: World War II spending was near a peak when President Roosevelt passed away in 1945, boosting the economy and annual growth. Real GDP fell 12% between 1945 and 1947 as wartime spending tapered off.

4. Inflation

5. Unemployment rate

This is the change in the unemployment rate during presidential terms (or through September for President Obama), measured in percentage points. Unemployment is measured by a yearly average before 1955; after, it is measured on a monthly basis.

 

Remember the Eleventh of September

2012/09/11 in Absurd, Capitalism, Economics, Imperialism, Neoliberalism, Socialism, Terror

It was 1973


On September 11, 1973, General Augusto Pinochet and his right-wing supporters in the Chilean military and government staged a brutal coup d’etat that overthrew the democratically elected and socialist-leaning administration of Salvador Allende. They did so with a substantial assistance from the Nixon administration and the CIA, which had been spreading anti-socialist efforts throughout Chile following the democratic election of Allende in 1970 and his efforts to nationalize some key industries including the phone company, whose majority owner was the U.S.-based International Telephone and Telegraph (ITT). Following the coup–in which tens of thousands were arrested and imprisoned in Chile’s football stadiums, untold numbers were tortured, executed, or “disappeared,” and Allende died inside the presidential palace following his farewell speech–the Chicago Boys who had been trained in Friedman’s brand of neoliberalism, previously rebuffed in the 1970 election, were now suddenly given the keys to the Chilean economy by the Pinochet regime. This came on the heels of a proposal published on the day of the coup by the Chicago Boys to restructure Chile as a kind of laboratory of neoliberalism.

(Our man, Augusto Pinochet, guilty of genocide)

 

Salvador Allende’s last speech was just before supposedly committing suicide while he was under siege. Much like our cold war asset Bin Laden, details about Allende’s death are still cloaked in secrecy.  “Chile’s military announced during the Sept. 11, 1973, coup that the socialist president had killed himself with an AK-47 given to him by Cuban leader Fidel Castro. Allende was buried in a closed casket in a secretive nighttime ceremony with only his widow present.” :

 

  (Excerpted from John Pilger’s documentary, The War On Democracy, which can be seen in full here)

The War On Democracy’ (2007) was John Pilger’s first for cinema. It explores the current and past relationship of Washington with Latin American countries such as Venezuela, Bolivia and Chile.

Using archive footage sourced by archivist Carl Deal, the film shows how serial US intervention, overt and covert, has toppled a series of legitimate governments in the Latin American region since the 1950s. The democratically elected Chilean government of Salvador Allende, Guatemala, Panama, Nicaragua, Honduras and El Salvador have all been invaded by the United States.

John Pilger interviews several ex-CIA agents who took part in secret campaigns against democratic countries in the region. He investigates the School of the Americas in the US state of Georgia, where Pinochet’s torture squads were trained along with tyrants and death squad leaders in Haiti, El Salvador, Brazil and Argentina.

The film unearths the real story behind the attempted overthrow of Venezuela’s President Hugo Chávez in 2002 and how the people of the barrios of Caracas rose up to force his return to power.

It also looks at the wider rise of populist governments across South America lead by indigenous leaders intent on loosening the shackles of Washington and a fairer redistribution of the continent’s natural wealth.

John Pilger says: “[The film] is about the struggle of people to free themselves from a modern form of slavery”. These people, he says, “describe a world not as American presidents like to see it as useful or expendable, they describe the power of courage and humanity among people with next to nothing. They reclaim noble words like democracy, freedom, liberation, justice, and in doing so they are defending the most basic human rights of all of us in a war being waged against all of us.”

(Chile liberated by USA)

Another story that embodies the brutality and the hell that our CIA created in Chile is that of Victor Jara, tortured and murdered for his art and poetry. Near death he was mocked, asked to play guitar with his broken hands and sing for his captors. Jara sang “Venceremos” (We Will Win), a song supporting the Popular Unity coalition. Then, his body, shot 44 times, was thrown in the street for his family to find. Your tax dollars at work right there.

Fast Forward to 2012

For most Americans “9-11″ now lives in infamy as the most penetrating and destructive attack on the US – for many it is remembered as the most terrifying event in recent history despite the fact that it pales in comparison to the many atrocities carried out by US Imperialism; since WWII we have killed more people than had died in the Holocaust.  9-11 is also an event that opened up a Pandora’s Box of new jingoism and destructive domestic policies that have sent this country on a new path that is as absurd and paranoid as was the Red Scare and its Cold War.  Easily, beyond our human rights violations abroad in the name of “freedom”, the most disturbing trend since 9-11 is the collective cognitive dissonance here in the USA of our heavy-handed response to the attack that took place on September 11th.  We have now willingly surrendered rights that we have held dear in trade for a false hope of “Homeland Security”; meanwhile, we use our military, drones, our special forces and foreign “aid” (weapon sales) in order to terrorize, torture and kill innocents worldwide.  We have lived in a color-coded fear for more than a decade – more likely to die or suffer injury due to a malfunction in an automobile or a piece of furniture – we have willingly given our government full license to conduct the longest war in US history – second most (adjusted) expensive conflict after WWII  – and there is no end in sight.  We have turned a blind eye to the loss of life of innocent civilians and those of our troops that we send off as fodder in this absurd war to defeat a boogeyman that we created.  We have also assembled a massive security state made up of private contractors and government law enforcement that exists as a newly fledged branch of government with numerous private contracts and with a scope so vast that agencies, police departments and contractors are stepping on each others’ toes and duplicating work in their domestic spying.

In the end it is all for not*.  An honest analysis of events that led up to and the motives for 9-11 would expose it as a perfect example of blowback for our Cold War dealings in the Middle East.  We are simply dealing with a mess that we created and there are numerous stories like we see with Chile where we sidestepped the sovereign democratically elected governments of foreign nations only to install our own puppet dictator.  History will again repeat itself.  The true cost of the “War on Terror” will be felt years from now…  or, sooner.

*But, Hey!  Business is great!!!  2011 was the record profit year for both the oil industry and US arms dealers!

…and remember, if you See Something, Say Something:

 (Do you believe that the Homeland Security partnership with Wal-Mart is a tad insane?)

Oh…, and back to Chile – After decades of living in terror and hot on the heels of the inspiration that is the Arab Spring Chile has now seen mass protests, strikes and riots as youth and activists challenge the oppressive regime in order to restore social justice to their homeland.

 

Organizing Works in Holyoke

2012/09/05 in Action, Activism, Alex Morse, Capitalism, Community, Economics, Elections, Gentrification, H.U.S.H., Holyoke, Lyman Terrace, pronoblem, Socialism, Ward 1

Recent Article Appears in Socialist Worker About the Fight for the Rights of the Tenants at Lyman Terrace:

 

Organizing works in Holyoke

 

 

Mayor Morse Revised Lyman Terrace Opinion

2012/08/29 in Activism, Alex Morse, Capitalism, Economics, Gentrification, H.U.S.H., HHA, Lyman Terrace, Mayor, Politics, Poverty, Press Release, Ward 1

Keeping Our Community:

An Update from Mayor Morse on the Lyman Terrace debate

 

Throughout my first months as mayor, a major priority of my administration has been the redevelopment and revitalization of Holyoke’s downtown. One issue in this effort has galvanized public attention and stirred emotions like no other: the redevelopment of Lyman Terrace. Most everyone concedes that the current state of the Lyman Terrace buildings is unacceptable; its structural flaws and health risks are many and varied. Given the common ground and goals we share, the debate over how we improve these conditions has become polarized beyond what it should be.

In a previous letter, I articulated my vision for a diverse, densely populated, vibrant, and prosperous downtown, with quality housing for all who seek it. Such are the principles that guide my decision-making. I understand that those principles could have been made clearer from the outset, and for that, I take full responsibility. I would like to take this opportunity to change that, and to update Holyokers on the steps my administration is taking to move forward.

It is important to note that the Holyoke Housing Authority (HHA) owns the property at Lyman Terrace; the City of Holyoke does not. And several months ago, in an effort to expedite the improvements to Lyman Terrace, the HHA informed me that they would be seeking improvement proposals from private developers. Furthermore, they informed me that they were seeking permission from the Department of Housing and Urban Development to demolish all or part of the housing complex were such a need to arise. As part of an administrative process that would enable the HHA to access federal funds for demolition, I signed their request for an environmental assessment.

Per the request of the HHA, I have since evaluated the proposals for the property’s improvement by a few developers. As yet, I have not been satisfied by those received. The ones I have reviewed would reduce the population of the neighborhood, take significant time to even begin the improvements, and have been generally misaligned with my guiding principles for the downtown. Upon further exploration, I also became dissatisfied with the HHA’s tenant relocation plan; Lyman’s tenants need to have better protections at the local level if we wish to keep as many residents as possible in Holyoke.

The shortcomings of this process have awoken genuine concern, fear, and resentment among many in the community. Considering the longstanding neglect of Lyman Terrace at the local level, such reactions are perfectly understandable. Furthermore, equating urban renewal with urban removal has been a widely practiced strategy across our country; and, as such, skepticism of our own project is warranted. We are now tasked with avoiding these only too common pitfalls, and how we do so collectively will say a great deal about who we are as a community.

As mayor, my responsibility is first and foremost to the people of Holyoke – and I cannot allow this process to be executed carelessly. I am thus announcing the following steps to realign the renovation of Lyman Terrace with the principles I have outlined above.

As of today, I have asked the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to suspend the HHA’s request for a demolition review. I cannot in good conscience support any demolition of Lyman Terrace – total or partial – until our citizens have ample opportunity to have their voices heard regarding the community needs there. I will not seek approval for any action until a comprehensive plan, crafted with community input, is in place. This policy will affect lives in tangible ways, and people should have every right to reclaim the stake they have in our city’s future.

I have reached out to housing experts outside of the city for their support in assisting the HHA. As a result, I can proudly announce a partnership between the Massachusetts Development Finance Agency, the Massachusetts Housing Partnership, and the Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development. To the HHA’s credit, they have demonstrated good faith in following my lead moving forward; they have agreed to work closely with these organizations. Through rigorous community involvement – especially of Lyman Terrace’s residents – these organizations will assist our city and the HHA to develop a comprehensive plan for the area bordered by the first level canal, Lyman Street, Dwight Street, and High Street.

And finally, I am calling on the HHA to be more responsive to the immediate needs of Lyman Terrace’s tenants. Planning for Lyman’s future does not mean ignoring its present, and there is no reason that the basic upkeep of the property should be neglected.

It is important that we get this right. And in order to so, we must take advantage of these new partners and the resources they will provide. Coming up with a plan for this part of Center City will be a community effort. We will use our new resources to guarantee our citizens a seat at the planning table – by holding public hearings, providing interpreters, and whatever else is necessary to ensure their voices are heard.

I do not know what a renovated Lyman Terrace will look like when this process is completed; that will depend greatly on the input of residents, businesses, and property owners. What I do know is that the plan must be consistent with a long-term vision for our downtown as a diverse, densely populated, vibrant, and prosperous place. The rehabilitated complex should properly connect to its surrounding amenities. Furthermore, it should include key components that the current property lacks: more green spaces, sufficient parking, and a community center.

The revitalization of our downtown depends on the energy of the people who live there and love our city, not merely the buildings that line the streets. Holyoke was built to accommodate 60,000 people. Growing our population must entail keeping people in Holyoke, not forcing them out. It is true that some tenant relocation is inevitable as we improve Lyman Terrace; but in the event of such relocation, the HHA needs to have a plan that gives as many residents as possible the option to relocate in our city. And when the improvements are completed, those residents that wish to return to the redeveloped Lyman Terrace should have priority placement to do so. These folks are the ones who have worked for years to maintain and beautify their homes, and they deserve a fair chance to reclaim the improved neighborhood.

I know our city is up to this task. We understand the stakes. Indeed, our resolution of this issue will say a great deal about who we are as a community. Working together, we can ensure not only an improved downtown, but also a more just and decent community for us all to share, and to which we all may contribute.

Wake Up!

2012/06/28 in Capitalism, Film, Law, Lies, Obama, POTUS, SCOTUS, Socialism

On SCOTUS and the Mandate Decision (or not).

(From They Live – the greatest B-movie ever)

I am sure that many people on the internet will now elevate themselves to the status of constitutional lawyer and make fast claims as to the merits of this landmark case. However, I will not. I am not a lawyer nor do I pretend to be one. I do try to be up on my civics and I admit that it does seem unprecedented to have the courts agree with the government that all citizens must fork over to corporations but I have not read case-law or precedent for this decision - I have not even read the decision itself.  I am only assuming that it is the changing of times rather than a decision based on the intent of our Founding Fathers and their codified constitution (which probably should be scrapped by now)… it is all up to interpretation after all, and this is the post-Citizen’s United / post-TARP era, so who am I to question corporate welfare?  I mean, already the majority of tax receipts go to build weapons via private and publicly traded corporations – also, we are on our way to privatizing schools and prisons. I can hardly wait for the fallout from all that craziness. We might was well put the two in the same building, germinate prepubescent drug war participants with prescriptions stimulants to treat non-diagnoses – that way we can sink tax dollars into private health care, charter schools and the prison–industrial complex all at the same time – even better, add a police / military recruiting center so those that actually graduate can come back into the system as law enforcement, drone operators or cracked-out soldiers for cannon fodder in future Imperial Wars. (see the films Girl From Monday and Stingray Sam if you have not, both satirize our prison-state similarly). That said I am not surprised that our government and courts would force citizens to be consumers rather than provide to them what should be a benefit. I am rambling… sorry.  What I am trying to say is that I could not care less about the issue of constitutionality or how this decision landed; it is the very fact that the decision had to be made to begin with that is my concern.

I find it funny is that this “Health Care Reform” is a partisan issue as it is a massive corporate welfare scheme that both parties seem to embrace in their own terms. It is also curious that people have such short memories: It was Bob Dole with Liz Fowler (she’s the former WellPoint CEO and Health Insurance Industry leader that wrote the current bill) that were together working on the same plan back in 1992 – and eerily very similar to Romneycare in Massachusetts.  It only happened now because the insurance companies were looking for the hat-trick of House, Senate and Executive to grease it through. Democrats happened to have two good years to work on this and it happened. AS THE INDUSTRY WANTED. In a shark-like feeding frenzy DNC members jump in to get a few years of campaign financing and promos from the insurance industry PACs and lobbyist and the Republicans lose out.  It could have easily been the other way around if the GOP was in charge – except with the Republican plan would try to privatize Medicare along with this welfare to the insurance industry all while the Democrats opposing and pretending to attempt to tack on a public option to the RNC plan. After all, it was Obama, in Greenwich, CT addressing some of the wealthiest people in the country who actually laughed and mocked a person that asked him about his promise of a public option. If you look through Obama’s campaign trail speeches while he was in a race against Hillary the words “public option” came from his mouth more than 1,000 times. It was this that was partly responsible for is being mislabeled a “socialist” by the teabaggers. Of course, Democrats were not listening to his promises because they were talking about his style, or the fact that he was black, or the fact that he was not a Republican, or the fact that he was not a Clinton. (FYI: I originally had remorse not voting for Obama because of the history making possibility of a black president but I could not let myself vote for a Republocrat).

Of course, EVERYONE should have access to the healthcare that they need… and there are indeed small victories in HCR, but in the end REFORM should be a single payer plan that competes with private insurance.  For three decades every accounting office (GAO, CBO) from either RNC/DNC administration that did a study showed that a full socialized plan would save everyone money. Cutting profit out and the huge pool of a public plan would soon put private insurance out of business. The last result that I saw published was a potential savings of $60 billion for health care consumers (No surprise that it would not float. With a total of 1200 different insurance plans in the country $60 billion would be around the annual salary of all board members of all insurance providers). But no, a national – socialized – single payer plan is not a possibility and now we can only anticipate cost going up and employers skimping on their employee benefits with high deductible or health savings account plans. Also, what could be more “pro-business” than lifting the health care responsibility from the employer?

If anything has driven health care costs up in the past it is insurance… In my own experience working in a clinical laboratory for four years and a NICU for three, it was often said that insurance companies were practicing medicine by deciding what they would cover and how much they would reimburse on claims. For example, symptoms could indicate two different diagnoses, doctor orders tests – one test rules out one diagnosis, and one test proves another. Patient is then assigned an ICD-9 code to indicate a specific diagnosis. Insurance only funds claims for the tests that are related to that result, we keep billing them, we bill the patient, we bill the insurance, we bill the patient, and then we have a pileup of unpaid receipts so we then hire more staff with the sole job description of chasing insurance payments. And what happened after insurance companies paid only 80% of claims plus the costs of addition staff? Prices went up for everyone. Non-insured and their non-payment resulting in free care also drove costs up, but that would be cured by a Medicare for all. Anecdotal, for sure, but that really was the way it worked at three different places in my experience.

There are, of course, consequences to labor.  If you were a business that employed non-skilled workers and in this job market where the unemployed are taking jobs where there attraction of benefits are secondary to a regular income and you had the option of paying a $2000 fine per employee, or $10,000 in health insurance premiums for each employee what would you do? You might dump workers guilt free into government subsidized insurance exchanges.   These once employer-covered people then would be forced to buy from an exchange that is less comprehensive and more costly than what the employer ran away from.  Companies that don’t follow suit will be at a competitive disadvantage.  …and even since before the Health Care Reform employers were continually hiring more part-time staff or scrimping on health care by paying an absolute minimum towards the employee plans and then going with the cheapest possible high-deductible or health savings account type coverage.  Increasingly over the past few decades there has also been more and more outsourcing and layoffs.  This will still continue; only now they will blame it on health care costs the same way they cite the minimum wage, Social Security, the abolition of slavery etc. etc. for the need to be “competitive”.

Lastly, the biggest fear that opponents have to socialized healthcare (and to welfare, Medicare, EBT, WIC, etc) is that it would be rife with corruption… Absurd because I cannot think of anything more potentially corrupt than the thought of politicians making sweet deals with corporations like we see here with Health Care Reform (Fowlercare).

It is a scam, ya’all.

For some reason I tied in three films above… so here is another one, this time unrelated to Democrats and Republicans (well, there is a bunch of sheep in it). The Colour of Pomegranates is one Netflix streaming.  You should check it out:

Beyond Obama – Robert Mangabeira Unger

2012/06/20 in Capitalism, Democrats, Economics, Elections, Eschatology, H.U.S.H., Lies

In the Beyond series, philosopher and politician Roberto Mangabeira Unger imagines beyond the current paradigms. Find out more about Unger at his Harvard Law School faculty page, at his Wikipedia page or watch more of his Beyond series of videos.

I disagree with Robert Mangabeira Unger and believe that the false dichotomy of choice that the two party hegemony provides cannot be fixed.  Unger suggests that we need vote Obama out of office in order to facilitate a reorientation of the Democratic party as a vehicle for progressive alternatives.  I once believed the DNC was a choice – maybe back in 1988 when I voted for the first time – but time and time again we are robbed and duped by leaders from both parties who only serve private interests, established power, Imperial notions, the Military Industrial and most recently the Security State .  The two party system must be dismantled in order for there to be hope, change or a move forward from our most certain decline.  To waste the energy in reforming the DNC is almost as absurd in believing in the DNC to begin with.  However, Unger does provide a great argument as to what is wrong with the current state.

Holyoke Housing Authority Meeting Rally

2012/04/30 in Action, Activism, Capitalism, Gentrification, HHA, Holyoke, Lyman Terrace, Occupy, Press, Ward 1

Thursday May 3rd 5pm

Facebook Event Page

Lyman Terrace In The News

2012/03/07 in Activism, At-large, Capitalism, Economics, Gentrification, Holyoke, Lisi, Lyman Terrace, Poverty, Press, Ward 1

How You Can Help

How You Can Help Lyman Terrace

2012/03/03 in Activism, Capitalism, Development, Economics, Gentrification, Holyoke, Lies, Lyman Terrace, Occupy, Poverty, Ward 1

PUBLIC COMMENT PERIOD HAS BEEN EXTENDED

ANOTHER TWELVE DAYS UNTIL 4pm 3/23/2012.

A vital community.

As some of you may have heard, the Holyoke Housing Authority is planning to demolish Lyman Terrace through a HUD program called Demolition Disposition.

There are many reasons we should be organizing in opposition to this:

1. The land will be sold to private developers, NOT used to rehouse those displaced (privatization of public land).

2. Lyman Terrace is historical, it is the fifth oldest housing project in the US, the oldest one still in use. It has fall out shelters. Factory workers at the mills used to live here. It is a piece of Proletariat history that shouldn’t be undervalued.  For some historical background see here.

3. The relocation plan found in City Hall was woefully inadequate and said there would be no additional section 8 vouchers to help relocate “displacees”.

4. Tenants have been inadequately informed about this plan. Many have been told that they would be guaranteed section 8 vouchers.  There is no guarantee.

5. There does not exist a realistic study as to the cost-benefit of demolishing, disposing of property and relocating tenants versus maintaining Lyman Terrace. The plan appears to have one and only one purpose: To rid Holyoke of near 200 families and shift the burden from Holyoke Housing Authority to the state.

6. The Holyoke Housing Authority is planning on using the manipulative “cash for keys” (one time $5250.00) method to motivate and strip tenants of their legal rights to fight eviction in court by having them sign them away for cash.

7. The lack of section 8 vouchers, lack of secion 8 vacancies and the status of the displaced tenants (housing discrimination based on race, employment, disability, credit viability) will land a large number of the folks in hotel shelters or worse, homeless.

8. There is a lot of smoke and mirrors concerning the state of these structures.  In a recent city council public commentary a developer and private housing manager weighed in with stories of much older and larger buildings in Holyoke that have been restored after decades of neglect and vacancy as a testament to the viability of Lyman Terrace – especially since there have been some recent improvements, repairs, new roofs.  Visual inspection of a number of units show well functioning homes.  What has not been repaired falls on the Holyoke Housing Authority’s neglect since their plan has been for some time to get rid of their ”problem”.  With over $1.5 million budgeted to demolish (probably not near enough to do so) why not initiate a plan to restore these units one by one while seeking other grants to continue over time?  Or, a myriad of other options rather than demolish and leave an empty lot?  Holyoke has plenty of empty lots.

————– HOW YOU CAN HELP LYMAN TERRACE ————–

3/23/2012 3/7/2012 is the last date to submit public comment to the Office of Community Development.

PLEASE SUBMIT A PUBLIC COMMENT!

Public comments must pertain to 3 topics:

1. Historical significance of the buildings.
2. Failures in the Displacement-relocation plan.
3. Did the Holyoke Housing Authority publicize the plan Adequately?

Mail or hand deliver the Office of Community Development:

City of Holyoke
Office for Community Development
City Hall Annex Room 400
Holyoke, MA 01040

fax to: 413-322-5611
or email to: zoellera@ci.holyoke.ma.us

More general comments can also be sent directly to HUD (same deadline):

Bob Cwieka
Office of Public Housing Dep. of HUD
Thomas P. O’Neil Jr. Federal Building
10 Causeway St 3rd floor
Boston MA 0222-1092

or email at: robert_p._cwieka@hud.gov

It is most important that you contact the Office of Community Development and HUD but it does not need to stop there.  You can also cc: or send your comments to the mayor:

Mayor Alex Morse: morsea@ci.holyoke.ma.us or 413-322-5510

You can also cc: or send your comments to your city councilor, find yours here on the Holyoke City website.

The Shock Doctrine in Holyoke

2012/02/20 in Activism, Alex Morse, Capitalism, Development, Economics, Gentrification, H.U.S.H., History, Holyoke, Lies, Lyman Terrace, Poverty, Ward 1

The Razing of Lyman Terrace

Dignity, an excellent concept.

Only a crisis – actual or perceived – produces real change. When that crisis occurs, the actions that are taken depend on the ideas that are lying around. — Milton Friedman (Nobel Laureate Economist and minion of Satan)

Access.

In her 2007 book The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism Naomi Klein coined the term “disaster capitalism” – a concept that had existed for quite some time yet to be named. The idea being that a population can be unwittingly subdued via trauma – real or perceived – and as a result enslaved, robbed or otherwise manipulated to the profit of some external entity that is the architect of said doctrine. We’ve seen it in Southeast Asia when residents of a fishing village are relocated by the government after a tsunami and upon returning to homes that their families had lived for generations instead find a Western-owned resort hotel, their land appropriated and new “opportunities” working in laundry rooms servicing the new tourist trade. Also in 1970′s Chile where our CIA financed a police state which finally bent the will of the people to accept our brand of corporate capitalism (Obama is now doing similar in Honduras under auspices of the War on Drugs). Or in New Orleans post-Katrina when what was once public housing – undamaged by the storm – privatized and sold to the highest bidder. We can also see it in our Global-Imperial Neoliberal campaigns of “liberation” where we prop up and finance despotic regimes like the Taliban or Saddam for a couple decades then wage war on the people in order to give hand outs to the military industrial and then the contractors to rebuild what we destroyed – highest bidder in these cases are decided by campaign contributions to whichever party is in power at that time . It is mostly effective… and quite pervasive in the Post-9-11 world. The “War on Terror” being the trump suit on a myriad of distasteful policies that have robbed us of civil rights.

We are here to help you.

Well, today I witnessed it firsthand right here in Holyoke. Here’s how it works: Some years ago the Holyoke Housing Authority decides that an entire neighborhood of public housing is a “problem”.  As a result of that decision the plan is to demolish the existing project of 167 occupied units to build new ones – convincing the tenants that they have funds to do this and that while the reconstruction happens tenants will be relocated temporarily. Time goes by… Since the plan is to demolish the buildings there is no reason for upkeep. Neglect becomes routine and situations worsen – the DPW is even avoiding trash pickup. Housing Authority people come by and take some ugly pictures of what they created to send to HUD with no real structural evaluation, analysis or comprehensive cost-benefit analysis of renovation/rehabilitation in comparission to demolition. On top of that they claim that there is “No Significant Impact on the Human Environment”. The solution – raze all existing structures, sell the acreage to the highest bidder and give the tenants Section 8 vouchers with “you are free to go now, good luck and goodbye”. Is it possible to add that many people to the rental market all at once? Is there not human impact to destroying a neighborhood? What about elderly and disabled that have established routines downtown with where they shop, visit their doctor and public transportation at Veteran’s park? What if these elderly and disabled people are forced into isolated areas?  In the end it all reeks of racism, gentrification and another example of privatization that which was public.  They are poor and dark skinned – there is no significant human impact if you don’t treat the people like humans to begin with.

Human Environment.

I was there today collecting signatures for a petition. I talked to near one hundred people. There was a handful of folks that claimed that they did not care, that they thought that the place should be demolished… but overwhelmingly the opinion was that they liked living there and had community with others in this neighborhood. Many stated that they wanted to stay even though things were not kept up – taking it upon themselves to renovate spaces. I entered a number of units and saw homes with families… well cared for and functioning households that were maintained by the tenants.  Regardless of the opinion on the Housing Authority decision, the overwhelming feeling from these people was that they were being left out of the process.  As far as the claim that these spaces were “obsolete as to their physical condition”, this is a complete smoke and mirrors.  Go and see for yourself and talk to some of the tenants.

A number of tenants said that they were coming to the city council chambers tomorrow night, 7pm.  Be there.

Humans, some newer.

Self portrait with decay.

 Links to the HHA Letter of Intent:

http://hush.fluxmass.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/HHA-Notice-of-Intent-for-Lyman-Terrace.pdf

In Spanish:

http://hush.fluxmass.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/HHA-Notice-of-Intent-for-Lyman-Terrace_esp.pdf

Ward 1 City Councilor: Gladys Lebron-Martinez, 224 Elm St. 413-535-8507

City of Holyoke Office for Community Development, City Hall Annex Room 400, Holyoke, MA 01040 by first class mail, by fax to 413-322-5611 or email to zoellera@ci.holyoke.ma.us

Mayor Alex Morse: morsea@ci.holyoke.ma.us or 413-322-5510

Please also submit a copy of your comments to the Holyoke Historic Commission and to HUD:

http://www.holyoke.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=115&Itemid=205

http://www.hud.gov/local/index.cfm?state=ma&topic=offices

Some history of this practice in Holyoke:

http://hush.fluxmass.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/RamosConsentDecree.pdf

Draft City Council Resolution:

Holyoke City Council

February 21, 2012 Meeting

“Supporting Responsible Downtown Economic and Community Development at Lyman Terrace”

WHEREAS, The Holyoke Housing Authority seeks demolition and disposition of Lyman Terrace, one of the earliest public housing projects in the country; and

WHEREAS, Lyman Terrace, built in 1938-1939, comprises 167 units in eighteen buildings with exteriors of brick and copper on tree-lined streets in the heart of downtown. It also features a community center, a community garden, and a Boys and Girls Club; and

WHEREAS, Holyoke’s overall population remained stable over the last decade, Ward 1 (where Lyman Terrace is located) has continued to experience significant losses; the city should now be working towards population retention and growth, not further loss; and

WHEREAS, the demolition of Lyman Terrace would be a destruction of downtown Holyoke’s architectural heritage, visual sense of place, working class history and affordable housing at a time when Holyoke’s revitalization depends on preserving, rehabilitating, and capitalizing on our historic architecture and infrastructure; and

WHEREAS, the demolition of any city buildings should be premised on a structural evaluation, review and forensic analysis for commercial, industrial and residential structures as well as a full and comprehensive cost-benefit analysis of renovation/rehabilitation in comparission to demolition; and

WHEREAS, the City Council has not seen or been made aware of any such analyses for the Lyman Terrace project; and

WHEREAS, the reported presence of social problems such as crime, drugs, violence, or prostitution in the area of Lyman Terrace are artifacts of concentrated poverty that is completely independent of the buildings’ architectural design and condition and do not merit reasons for demolition; and

WHEREAS, if improving the living conditions of the current residents of Lyman Terrace is the purpose for requesting Urban Renewal funds from the United States Office for Housing and Urban Development (HUD), then a comprehensive relocation plan that is based on a thorough understanding of the current residents’ needs and demands should be included in the funding request; and

WHEREAS, such a relocation plan is blatantly absent from the current environmental review (study) that purports to have looked at the project’s “effects on people and community and determined that the project will have no significant impact.”

NOW, BE IT RESOLVED, that the City Council formally go on record in opposition to the demolition of Lyman Terrace; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the City Council submit a written letter to the Office for Community Development in opposition to the claim that the project will have “no significant impact on the human environment;” and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that in an effort to increase transparency,the City Council invite the Mayor, Holyoke Housing Authority, Office of Community Development, Holyoke Historic Commission, and Holyoke Redevelopment Authority to discuss the matter further with the council.

“No Significant Impact on the Human Environment”

2012/02/18 in Activism, Capitalism, Development, H.U.S.H., Holyoke, Lies, Lyman Terrace, Poverty, Ward 1

 
 
 

There’s “no significant impact on the human environment” when 5.5 developed and inhabited urban acres are leveled? When architectural heritage, a community’s visual sense of place and working class people’s history gets erased? When 167 low income housing units in the heart of downtown are razed? When families leave our downtown? Really, Holyoke?!!! If there’s “no impact,” then I’d prefer to keep it, thanks.

 

What happened to preserving and capitalizing on our incredible downtown brick structures to promote revitalization? What happened to fostering a sense of community and working towards inclusive redevelopment? I reject the idea that we must accept a false choice between safe, decent housing and historic preservation. These are lovely buildings with potential for thoughtful rehabilitation, and their destruction will be a loss that can never truly be replaced.

 

 I learned about the planned demolition and disposition in a Holyoke Redevelopment Authority meeting (which I’d spent about 40 minutes finding because it had been relocated, and I was sent on wild goose chases to get there). The city’s planning department asked the HRA to put Lyman Terrace back in the Urban Renewal Plan as a lot for private redevelopment. By sheer coincidence, Greg Saulmon was just then writing a beautiful piece about Lyman Terrace, which can be read here: http://birdsdowntown.wordpress.com/2012/02/17/hawks-housing-and-the-fate-of-holyokes-lyman-terrace/

 

From the Holyoke Housing Authority Notice of Finding of No Significant Impact and Notice of Intent to Request Approval of Property Demolition and Disposition for Lyman Terrace Housing Complex (dated February 17, 2012): “The City of Holyoke has determined that the project [the demolition and disposition of Lyman Terrace] will have no significant impact on the human environment….Any individual, group, or agency may submit written comments…to the City of Holyoke Office for Community Development, City Hall Annex Room 400, Holyoke, MA 01040 by first class mail, by fax to 413-322-5611 or email to zoellera@ci.holyoke.ma.us. All comments received by March 7, 2012 will be considered by the Holyoke Housing Authority and the City of Holyoke prior to submission of a request for release of funds. Comments should specify which Notice they are addressing. All commenters should verify receipt of their comments.”

 

 Please also submit a copy of your comments to the Holyoke Historic Commission and to HUD:

http://www.holyoke.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=115&Itemid=205

http://www.hud.gov/local/index.cfm?state=ma&topic=offices

 

 It ain’t over til it’s over…