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Holyoke Food Coop

2014/03/13 in Activism, BYOR, Classism, Economics, Gentrification, Poverty, Socialism

There is a discussion happening in Holyoke about building membership to form a food coop. The first meeting was on March 1st and was hosted by BYOR and Gateway City Arts.  The meeting was facilitated by Cynthia Marie Espinosa Marrero (social justice advocate and Holyoke resident), David Gowler (of River Valley Coop and Holyoke resident) and David Russell (of Franklin County Community Coop).  To join in on the discussion and to keep updated please see the Holyoke Food Coop Facebook Group.  If you are not a Facebook user and would like to join the email list instead, please contact me via the “contact us” link below and I will connect you.  The next meeting will be April 6th 1pm to 3pm, location TBD, most likely at El Mercado on Main St.

The initial meeting was somewhat intimate and after the fact there was much dialog (in email and on Facebook) from folks not present at the meeting talking about coops in general, their impact on a community in terms of gentrification, questioning if a coop in Holyoke would serve the Latino community and if it does would it compete with bodegas, would it be affordable, etc, etc.  Well, for myself, knowing the key organizers here, all I can say is that I have an expectation that this will be done with social equity as the first priority and we hope that with outreach we can energize the Latino community and build a representative membership.  Primarily the conversation at the meeting was about a food desert and the needs of low income consumers.  Yes, certainly, we witnessed some commentary that came from “urban pioneer” hipster-gentrifier types with a defeating tone suggesting that it is impossible to be inexpensive AND good – or – that they would not want to be involved in a coop that was food equitable with the majority population of downtown Holyoke because it would likely not serve their upscale needs.  Well, I do hope that we can dispel those notions because a coop is its membership and anything can be made real if people want it.  Nothing is impossible. Also, Holyoke is 48% Latino and 31% below poverty.   We have a priority to serve the community that is in need first and foremost and whatever we build it should be representative of the community at large.  A coop for rich and middle class white folks will not succeed in Holyoke, nor is it desired.

All that said, a few years ago ADP (Alliance to Develop Power) came here and began a similar conversation.  ADP’s mission as I understand it was to build economic opportunity and business ownership as a catalyst for improving impoverished areas.  Their plan was to use the coop model as a way to build a business except that they’d initially finance it rather than via a membership drive.  Then once it was self sustaining they would release management and give it to the membership and the community.  It is an interesting idea.  They had done similar in other communities with housing and daycare but targeted Holyoke with a bodega-coop plan.  For those that are not aware ADP seems to no longer exist.  I understand that some sort of malfeasance by management had the non-profit collapse like a house of cards; which is really too bad as they had won national grants from Huffington Post and had a long track record of success.  Thankfully some of their work here is not lost.  Linked below are a number of documents and research for the Holyoke plan:

ADP Bodega Holyoke Impact Statement

Funding and Social Equity Across the Food System Supply Chain

Good Food and Good Jobs for All

ADP Bodega Executive Summary

LPV Oasis Report Formatted

 

 

 

The Future of Holyoke Schools

2014/02/22 in Activism, Economics, Education, Holyoke, HPS, School Committee, Youth

The Holyoke Public School District has been in the news quite a bit lately: data walls, high-stakes testing, Level 5 status, dropout rates.  A lot of questions are left unanswered however.  And the controversy over data walls seems to be just the tip of the iceberg.  Where does all of the data for the data walls come from?  Currently, students in Holyoke lose about 20 school days per year due to varying forms of data collection.

The district has contracted with the Achievement Network to administer the ANet tests in Math and English.  There are up to four tests per year for English Language Arts (ELA) and up to four tests per year for Math.  The testing takes place in grades 2 thru 8 and requires about 3 ½ hours to administer schoolwide.  While the idea of creating tests aligned to the standards that are being taught in schools is a good one, it is unclear why such tests must cut in to the instructional time that is so valuable to the staff.  Currently, the tests are given on paper, each student getting their own printed packet.  Teachers helping to organize these testing days are out of the classroom for days before, during, and after the administration of the test.  What is the cost to the district to complete all of this testing in its eight K-8 schools?  How many instructional hours are lost throughout the year?  How much does the district pay Achievement Network?  How much paper do these tests require throughout the year?  What is the cost of placing substitute teachers in classrooms to cover for teachers that are organizing these testing days?

Another source of data is the Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) test created by the Northwest Evaluation Association or NWEA.  These tests are administered twice a year for ELA and twice a year for Math.  These tests are administered on the computer to students in grades 3 thru 8.  The time required varies for each student, with testing lasting up to two hours for some students.  During this testing window, there may be no computer labs available for the general population to use in any of their classes and additional instructional time is lost.  What does the district pay to contract with NWEA to give these tests?  How many instructional hours are lost for this test?

But wait, we’re not done yet.  Students are also given the Benchmark Assessment System in grades K thru 8.  This is a test of reading fluency and reading ability that requires the English teacher or another educator to spend approximately half an hour with each student individually assessing their reading ability.  Some teachers may have as many as 120 students that need to “benchmark” twice a year.  How many instructional hours does that add up to if there are over 3,600 students in grades K thru 8 in the Holyoke Schools? Currently, most students are given the BAS only two or three times per year, but the Holyoke Early Literacy Initiative (HELI) is now suggesting as part of its literacy plan that students in grades K-3 be given the BAS at least once per month (see page 53)!  How much money did the district spend on the kits that are used to assess student reading ability?

Most people in the state are aware by now of the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS).  This is another set of tests given to students in grades 3 thru 8, as well as grade 10 for Math and ELA.  In addition, 5th, 8th, and 10th graders take a Science MCAS test, and students in grades 4, 7, and 10 take a Long Composition test.  Again, the big question is how many instructional hours are lost due to the testing windows, set forth by the state, for these tests?  How much money does the state spend every year on the testing materials, including the plastic rulers and Reference Sheets for the tests?  How much money is spent on grading the Open Response questions statewide?  What are the costs incurred to ship all of these “sensitive” materials to and from the schools?

Recently, Massachusetts also adopted the ACCESS test for English Language Learners (ELLs).  This test is administered only once a year, but in districts with large populations of ELL students, the testing can be very disruptive to the regular school day.  Parts of the test must be administered individually, and students are often taken out of their regular classes to take these tests.  In addition, the ELLs may not receive the instructional support from their ELL instructors that they would normally receive during the “testing window.”  If students are pulled from their regular classes, who is responsible for filling in the gaps of material they may have missed?

Lastly, every district in the state must now create District Determined Measures, or DDMs, in each subject area and grade level.  For districts receiving Race to the Top money, such as Holyoke, all DDMs that are planned to be used the following school year must be submitted to the state by this June.  DDMs can be as simple as pre and post tests for units or as complex as student portfolios.  While the DDMs should not significantly impact instructional time, they are yet one more assessment tool that students must endure.  It is not yet clear if these DDMs will eventually replace all of the other assessments (besides MCAS).

This amazing amount of data collection seems only to result in frustration on the part of students and teachers.  How much money could Holyoke use to improve its facilities, increase access to technology for students and teachers, and fill vacancies with qualified individuals if all of the money spent on data collection was saved?  How many more enriching activities could students experience, like field trips, if the money were being funneled into these so-called not-for-profit corporations?  As it stands now, more than 10% of the school year in our city is devoted to testing, testing, testing.  Don’t our students deserve better?

One product of all of the low test scores of our students is an overemphasis on English Language Arts and Math.  The logic stands that if students are not performing up to their expected grade level, they must need more time devoted to ELA and Math, right?  Unfortunately, we are sending a clear, albeit subconscious, message to our youth that Science, Social Studies, Art, Music, Physical Education, and play are not as important as ELA and Math.  If these other subjects were as important as ELA and Math, we would spend more time teaching those subjects and we’d certainly spend more time testing you in these subjects!  Currently, students in the K-8 schools in Holyoke receive at least 90 minutes per day of instruction in both ELA and Math.  In contrast, they receive just 45 minutes per day in both Science and Social Studies.  In some schools, students receive 90 minute blocks of Science and Social Studies every other day.  In other schools, students have Science for 90 minutes per day for half of the year and Social Studies 90 minutes per day for the other half of the year.  Not only is this not fair to the students at the K-8 grade levels, it is inconsistent with the scheduling at the high school levels.  Students in grades 9 thru 12 have classes that last about 50 minutes each.  Are we truly preparing our students for high school with such a large emphasis on ELA and Math?  Have the scores students achieve increased since the district implemented the longer ELA and Math blocks?

Where does all of this testing and overemphasis on Math and English lead us?  It seems to have earned the district Level 5 status for Dean Technical and Morgan Schools.  It also seems to have earned us a dropout rate much higher than the state average.  (2.2% statewide, 26.8% in Holyoke, according to Rep. Aaron Vega at the 2/3/14 School Committee Meeting, and statistics found HERE).  This should not be so surprising to the public; what do the students have to look forward to?  All of the creative classes have been taken away and been replaced with additional testing and test preparation.

What does the district do now?  Can we become a voice of leadership in battling the increasing pile of tests?  Can we urge our School Committee to take some of the money in the budget to provide the things that educators, parents, and students want and need to be successful?  Can we work to prevent more schools from entering state receivership?  Should we as parents join together and boycott these tests?

Why do we tolerate this when in other countries they have greater success with fewer resources and less standardized testing?  Take Finland as a perfect example.  Speaking to tolerance, why do we sit idle as the system continually gets worse when in Spain there are strikes and parents marching in the streets when cuts threaten to raise class size from an average of 21 students!

There there is Common Core – embraced by liberals, called a socialist agenda (see paragraph titled “The Real Agenda”) by conservatives and a corporate takeover of education by leftists.  It most certainly is the latter.  To quote Chris Hedges ~  ”…the federal government spends some $600 billion a year on education – and the corporations want it. That’s what’s happening.”  I find it absurd that the conservatives are blasting Obama on this claiming that it is “socialist” when clearly the push in this country by both major parties is to privatize everything – healthcare has been via ACA; social security has had several attempts made; national security is now big enough to be its own branch of government with thousands of private contractors running the show: for-profit prisons in a “free” country that locks away a greater numbers of people both in number and by per capita than any nation in history; military/defense by ending conflicts like Iraq only to replace troops with tax financed private security forces; and now a mission to destroy public school with more charter schools and these numerous testing initiatives.  The public trust continues to be chipped away for the benefit of capital.   Of course we should be upset and act on all of these attacks, but when our children are on the front lines we must fight tooth an nail – so where is the outrage?  Why is it mostly only the teachers that we hear speaking out?

Additional factoids:

In 2006, the dropout rate in Holyoke was 35%; in 2007, it was 27.7%; in 2008, it was 32.9%; in 2009, it was 34.3%; 2010: 28.4%; 2011: 26.9%; 2012: 25%; 2013: 26.8%

Since the beginning of Feb., 53 “anticipated openings” for teachers for the next school year have been posted on the district’s website.  Many of those positions need to be filled now, as teachers have retired mid-year.

 

The Party is Over

2012/11/07 in Anarchism, Brutality, Democrats, Economics, Education, Elections, Eschatology, Federal, Imperialism, Lies, Neoliberalism, Obama, POTUS

(no pun intended)

Time to Get Back to Work, Government…

B.O. is not up for reelection now that he’s in his 2nd term and the campaign cycle for the next presidential election should not start for AT LEAST another nine months so we have some time to really get some shit done here.  If the DNC and Sir Obama, the Capitulator, want to conclusively demonstrate that his second term will be REALLY different, what he needs to do TODAY, very first thing, is this (these are all things that the President can do, on his own – as charge of cabinet, our military and the agencies under his control).

Dear Supreme Oligarch of the Corporatocracy of the American States, I beg you, please hear my requests that I humbly submit before you:

1) RELEASE Bradley Manning - post haste - Manning’s imprisonment should be a bellwether that Shamwow’s by which your other 2nd term “accomplishments” should be measured. Nothing ELSE you could do would reveal your willingness to respect individual rights of conscience.  Manning has been tortured, humiliated and held for nearly three years without trial.  It’s time to face the facts that we as a nation committed war crimes and the airing of dirty laundry that Manning has provided is indeed the best thing for our country and the human species worldwide.  US Imperialism and our wars are a cancer on this Earth.  Admit it by giving Manning the freedom and clemency that he deserves.

2) FIRE Arne Duncan – and prove he’s not out to bust the teachers’ unions and privatize the schools.  Your administration has forever privatized health care, a large part of security in our “kinetic actions” abroad, Homeland Security, FOIA requests, domestic spying, prison industrial and a number of other things handed over to for profit interests.  I wish that we could roll all that back…  but we cannot do this to our schools.  Also, while you are at it, FIRE Treasury’s Geithner AND his alleged replacement, Erskine Bowles who both want to fuck with entitlements.

3) ANNOUNCE a cease-fire in Afghanistan and end all your murder of innocents – provide a steady withdrawal schedule instead of that 2024 that you have in negotiation (not 2014 that Biden said in debates, that is not at all true).  We have been there for 11 years.  UNESCO announced that Afghanistan is now the worst place in the world to be born.  Things were actually better before the bull-in-the-china-shop that are our kill teams and drones arrived there.  STOP IT.  While we are on the topic, world supply of heroin from Afghanistan went from 0% in 2001 to 90+% today.  I paraphrase one CIA operative that spoke about our South and Central American dealings during the Iran-Contra era.  ”Certainly the CIA launders money for black-ops…  add hard drugs to the equation and it amplifies it.  It is money laundering on steroids.”  Yes, that heroin production in our presence is indeed suspect (this happened in 2007, not under Obama’s watch, but it does prove that they are still up to the same old dirty tricks – expected as the CIA does not change its spots)

4) PUT solar technology BACK on the WhiteHouse and on ALL Federal buildings nationally.  Commit to stop Keystone XL, “clean coal“, fracking, offshore drilling, domestic drilling and eliminate all other absurd non-renewable and Big Oil Profit programs that are part of your plan.  End the tariffs on Chinese made solar panels.  You announced a tariff due to China’s subsidizing the manufacture being unfair.  WE SHOULD BE SUBSIDIZING or outright financing renewable energy technology.  Because of the tariffs the prices have gone up enough that in some areas where there a boon in installation it has slowed down completely.  This has cost jobs and has not helped reduce consumption.  2011 was the Biggest Year Ever for corporate profit in the petroleum sector due to your policies.  

5) ANNOUNCE an end to the war on journalists, whistle-blowers, environmentalists, peace seekers and animal rights activists – in other words, defend the Constitution like you took an oath to do – and put an end to the militarization of police, US Marshals, TSA, Border Patrol and Homeland Security that target these groups.  Do not have your DOJ defend the NDAA to the Supreme Court – you know it is unconstitutional – ADMIT IT.  Do not kill any more US citizens via the “disposition matrix” and its drone activated targeted kill list.  This is another unconstitutional impeachable offense that you and your admin must admit your wrongdoing.  Work with Congress to repeal the Patriot Act.  End all other nefarious and invasive plans that are in the works like the NSA’s Orwellian “Perfect Citizen” project.  

But he WON’T do any of this things, of course, because he no longer needs ANYBODY’s approval except the cult of the Democrats that have come to accept these horrors as good policy.  He is all set. Next stop, to be enshrined in the US political pantheon as a great leader right to all the other jackasses that have promoted US Imperialism, War and Crony Capitalism.  Maybe he’ll get another Nobel Peace Prize?  …or maybe a future president will bestow upon him a Medal of Freedom, like Obama provided our favorite mass-murderer named Madeleine Albright?

Holyoke Voters Guide from HUSH.

2012/11/05 in Council, Democrats, Economics, Elections, Federal, Green Party, H.U.S.H., Hobert, Holyoke, Imperialism, Politics, Purcell, Vacon, Vega, War

Tomorrow, November 6th is Election Day

…and HUSH has provided this handy-dandy election guide:

FOR UNITED STATES PRESIDENT:

DR. JILL STEIN/ CHERI HONKALA

Dr. Jill Stein’s 2012 presidential campaign is what inspired me to finally join the Green-Rainbow Party. Here is a caring, compassionate and sincere candidate whose knowledge of the various issues and their consequences is unimpeachable and whose presence in debates past and present has shifted the parameters of political discourse in the Commonwealth during her 2002 gubernatorial run and have hopefully helped us make greater strides towards shifting the parameters of political discourse throughout the United States. This is a contest about clean, environmentally responsible, and community responsive politics and the fundamental system-wide change desperately needed to bring us there. Vote your values, not your fears. Vote for universal healthcare, not universal warfare. President Obama has engaged us in more military combat operations than any prior US President in history; supported off shore drilling, fracking, and mountain top removal mining; and has beyond doubt the most draconian and Orwellian civil rights record of any US President since I dare say World War II – while former Governor W. Mitt Romney has surrounded himself with the most frighteningly neo-conservative band of foreign policy advisors since President George W. Bush, while enunciating positions regarding the social safety net that I quite frankly find abominable.

https://www.facebook.com/drjillstein

http://www.jillstein.org/

FOR UNITED STATES SENATOR:

WRITE-IN: MARISA DIFRANCO

The so-called “centrist” stance of the would be Modern Whig Party holds very little appeal to me. The movement has adopted stances regarding the national debt that I believe would invite economic contraction, a “Constitutionalist” attitude regarding federalism and separation of powers that I believe to be dangerous and ill advised, national defense fetishism. a stance regarding affirmative action that I believe backward and ignorant of how problems of institutional racism still affect us, and a cavalier disregard for the health care rights of women. Therefore, despite rather progressive positions that Bill Cimbrelo has otherwise adopted regarding immigration and universal health care, his write-in candidacy holds little appeal for me. The campaigns of both Scott Brown and Elizabeth Warren, meanwhile, have revealed foreign policy platforms still embracing a United States imperial mission and saber rattling against Iran each on the basis of misinformation; and neo-liberal education and economic policies I can in no way support.

Marisa DiFranco was the one truly progressive candidate this year seeking the US Senate seat, and yet the Democratic Party state convention in its infinite wisdom declined the voting public opportunity to debate and hear her stance on issues out of fears that she might reveal how truly far to the right the politics of Elizabeth Warren in fact are. We therefore had a Senate campaign highly detailed in terms of how the major candidates each could hurl mud at the other, but far less so dealing in the truly substantive issues that each campaign either lied about or neglected. If the Democratic Party has hopes to finally gain this Senate seat back again, they will have to nominate a genuine progressive like Marisa DiFranco to have the slightest bit of assistance from me.

FOR REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS, FIRST DISTRICT:

WRITE IN: BILL SHEIN

Bill Shein, of Alford, is the candidate whose steadfast embrace of progressive politics has impressed me the most during the Democratic Party primary contest – and although he has not apparently carried over his campaign as an independent challenger like I had hoped, I shall certainly make it a point to write him in. He refuses to find himself beholden to monied interests in Washington, opposes corporate personhood, and embraces a genuine environmentalist platform. Here’s a candidate who would have opposed vociferously the neo-liberal policy prescriptions that the Massachusetts Democratic Party leadership sadly has embraced wholeheartedly. Why vote for Richard Neal, who now runs unopposed? Please consider writing in the name of Bill Shein.

FOR SENATOR IN THE GENERAL COURT, SECOND HAMPDEN AND HAMPSHIRE

WRITE IN: RICHARD PURCELL

Richard Purcell is among the most energetic, gifted, determined and extraordinary social and economic justice activists and advocates I have ever met, and he’s the former Green Party candidate for Lt. Governor. Within this state Senate district, the Republican incumbent Michael Knapik is running unopposed, without even token Democratic and independent opposition. We can, and we must, do better. Rick Purcell would unquestionably do better. Write him in.

REPRESENTATIVE IN GENERAL COURT, FIFTH HAMPDEN DISTRICT

AARON VEGA

While I may have disagreed with Aaron Vega on a number of issues and have been critical of his lack of voice in the council on some other issues where I expected him to be a leading voice of forward thinking progressive ideas and he was not; he is the best choice on the ballot to be our representative in this election.  I also believe that with what was political pressure here that might have had him more concerned with image and political capital that he’d would best serve us away from all that in Boston rather than city council.  I do believe that he’ll work for Holyoke’s best interests in this role.  On top of that his competition is absolutely absurd.  Linda Vacon is a paranoid Tea-Party / Glenn Beck 9-12 patriot that is not fit to lead in any capacity – and not because of her politics; but because she is a legitimate simpleton.  Yes, you can have an MS in Nursing (or anything) and be a complete fool.  The other candidate, Jerome Hobert, began his career in a blatant fraud.  You can find his name on the Green Party line but he is by no way a representative of Green Party values nor is he endorsed by the Green Party – in fact, the party has filed a complaint with the State Election Commision against Mr. Hobert.  More details here.

FOR COUNCILLOR, EIGHTH DISTRICT

WRITE IN: PETER VICKERY

Peter Vickery, who was by far the most very progressive Councillor the body has yet seen, has continued to champion a long laundry list of social justice issues and progressive causes – and it is my fondest heart’s desire to see him seek office again. Michael Albano, beyond doubt, is a social liberal of the sort we should certainly hope to continue holding this seat. However, his political history within Springfield as Boss of one of the most thoroughly corrupt political machines in recent memory shall never sit well with me. Michael Franco, meanwhile, has an unfortunately quite homophobic and misogynist advocacy track record marking him as by far one of the most frighteningly far right candidates ever to seek office throughout the whole of Western Massachusetts.

BALLOT QUESTION #1: “RIGHT TO REPAIR”

MY VOTE IS NO

My belief is that “Right to Repair” remains a trojan horse for chain auto parts stores to duck regulations and unfairly compete with mechanics.  I had read much on both sides of this issue and was not certain where to stand until I spoke to the folks at my favorite shop, Garvulinski Service Station here in Holyoke which was postering for the “NO” stance.  In this case, however, the ballot measure remains in many ways moot as the State Legislature has already passed into law similar such legislation.

https://www.facebook.com/saynotoSB2204

BALLOT QUESTION #2: “PHYSICIAN ASSISTED SUICIDE”

MY VOTE IS NO

For what I believe to be very powerful and well reasoned arguments against the measure as written, I refer the reader to the following:

https://www.facebook.com/SecondThoughtsMA

http://www.second-thoughts.org/

BALLOT QUESTION #3: “MEDICINAL MARIJUANA”

MY VOTE IS YES

For what I believe to be very powerful and well reasoned arguments in support of the measure, I refer the reader to the following:

https://www.facebook.com/CommitteeForCompassionateMedicine

http://www.compassionforpatients.com/

NON BINDING: FUND OUR COMMUNITIES NOT WAR QUESTION:

MY VOTE IS YES

Full text of the question: “Shall the state representative from this district be instructed to vote in favor of a resolution calling upon Congress and the President to: (1) prevent cuts to Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and Veterans benefits, or to housing, food and unemployment assistance; (2) create and protect jobs by investing in manufacturing, schools, housing, renewable energy, transportation and other public services; (3) provide new revenues for these purposes and to reduce the long-term federal deficit by closing corporate tax loopholes, ending offshore tax havens, and raising taxes on incomes over $250,000; and (4) redirect military spending to these domestic needs by reducing the military budget, ending the war in Afghanistan and bringing U.S. troops home safely now?”

There is no reason not to get behind these proposals.  Of the top developed / industrialized nations the USA ranks bottom in almost every indicator concerning health, welfare and happiness.  We also rank #1 for disparity in wealth.  2011 was the largest profit year in history for oil companies and the military industrial contractors and manufacturers.  This is largely do to our efforts in Imperialism & nation building and our piss poor energy policies.  We need to work towards a renewable and post scarcity energy policy.  We need to get on a new path and take the $1 trillion (and growing) annually that we spend in our war efforts and put it better use.  Send a message to our leadership that we demand that elusive “change” .

==================================

I’d like to thank Mr. Broadhurst for the lion’s share of the above text.  I’d also like to remind voters that when you go to the polls vote for that person that most represents you.  If you choose “lesser of evils” and select the candidate that you might disagree with on foreign policy issues like the murder of innocent people in the name of “security”; that despite your dislike of such policy your vote for that candidate is indeed approval for that policy to continue.  The duopoly and the illusion of choice that the RNC/DNC provides is indeed intentional.  The only people that benefit from their leadership in the executive and in congress is those that are their masters – and it is not the voting public…  it is those CEOs and shareholders that profit the most from US Imperialism and War.  The only way we can mend this nation (and, I believe, work towards survival of our species) is to end the two-party strangle-hold.  No matter who wins of the two mainstream it is a continual shift towards an imperial fascist-coroptocracy police surveillance state.  We need to take the power away via electoral politics before we see what is happening in Greece and Spain make it to our shores.  We are indeed headed in that direction and if that becomes the catalyst for change then so be it.  I just wish that the voting public would wake up before it comes to that.  We should look to Iceland for inspiration.

Chris Hedges vs CrimethInc

2012/09/16 in Activism, Anarchism, Economics, Film, Occupy, Politics, Vimeo

A Debate between Chris Hedges and the CrimethInc. Ex-Workers Collective on Tactics & Strategy, Reform & Revolution.

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.

Gimmie Shelter

2012/07/01 in Activism, Alex Morse, Audio, Economics, HHA, Lyman Terrace, Occupy, Poverty

Max Rameau speaks on the Housing Crisis :

 

 

MP3

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.

Getting Up to Supercomputing Speed in Holyoke

2012/06/17 in Development, Economics, Green, Holyoke, Mailbag, MGHPCC, Press

A Report on the Holyoke Supercomputing Center

See attached  PDF:

GETTING UP TO SUPERCOMPUTING SPEED IN HOLYOKE:
A CASE STUDY OF THE SOCIOECONOMIC AND ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACTS OF THE
MASSACHUSETTS GREEN HIGH-PERFORMANCE COMPUTING CENTER AND AN
INQUIRY INTO THE LEVEL OF CIVIC ENGAGEMENT IT COULD FOSTER

Dear Wisconsin

2012/06/07 in Action, Activism, Anarchism, Economics, Elections, Occupy, Socialism

Dear Wisconsin:

Democrats do not support labor. Union officials make back room deals with the democrats and undermine labor’s power by providing us with shitty electoral politics. We need a real labor movement that brings together the entire working class, unionized or not, which is separate from the two main political parties, whose tactics are primarily to divide and conquer sections of the people with their rhetoric.

The silver lining to the whole Walker / Wisconsin nonsense? That labor and the left might soon realize that they do not have an ally in the Democrats. I do want to see a fight and I don’t think it will happen within the system we created. It needs to work outside of and in opposition to that system. The RNC and the DNC really are two sides of the same coin, both are the status quo and both serve the same masters.  Choice, difference… it is all an illusion.

What we see happening in the Middle East, Northern Africa and now in Spain, Greece and Canada is soon coming our way.  Wisconsin might very well be our first battleground in the American Spring.

Another world is possible.

 

 

…oh, and…  what pisses me off to no end is that when people hear the name “Scott Walker” most will only think of the douche-bag politician instead of THE Scott Walker:

Testimony From Lyman Terrace

2012/03/09 in Activism, Development, Economics, H.U.S.H., Lyman Terrace, Mailbag, Politics, Poverty, Ward 1

Sylvia Robello writes to HUSH:

Sylvia Robello speaks to City Council about Lyman Terrace

I’m sick of people putting down others without knowing anything about them or where they are coming from. Not everyone that lives in Lyman Terrace is uneducated or on welfare. Many of the residents there are working individuals who pay market rate rents much as they would do in any other apartment in Holyoke or elsewhere. Despite the exsisiting deplorable conditions they choose to remain living there because they like it, the area, its proximity to many conveniences that might otherwise be unavailable to them, including transportation, health care, downtown shopping etc.

I was the 1st President of the Tenants Association at Lyman Terrace and I became a teacher. I now have a BA in education, an MA in Linguistics, a teachers state certification and a myriad of other credentials that others who did not live in a housing project and were raised in a home of their own may not have. I lived there for many years and my children were all raised there. My daughter is a probation officer in Spfld, who graduated from Mount Holyoke with a BA, Springfield College with her MA and is a home owner Holyoke. One of my sons is an licensed electrician, has his DCL trucking license, is a 5 star chef and owns his own home in 16 acres. I have another son who lives in Florida who owns 2 businesses of his own. I have another son who is a Barber. These children are all products of the projects and we are all of Hispanic ethnicity. So as you can see not all people that live in projects, especially Hispanics, are on welfare and uneducated.

The Plight of the Hispanic PR in the US is not an easy or pretty. Those who migrate here from PR come here to find better job opportunities, living conditions and further their education by giving their children the opportunities they never had just like most people who come here from other countries do. Many come here giving up everything the have, own and are familiar with thinking it would be an improvement to their lives. Instead what they find is a hostile environment that does not accept them because of the color of their skin or don’t speak the language. They can’t find jobs because of these same reasons. Puerto Rico is a commonwealth of the US. It has been so since 1898. They are Americans by birth. Yet they have never known what it is to be free and independent. They have always had to depend on another country or nation for support so they have an identity crisis. Many feel like they don’t know who they are or where they belong so they become transients moving constantly from place to place and never really establishing or settling down in any one place. Many keep moving back and forth from PR here, NY, Florida hoping to find a place where they are finally accepted and welcomed. Others yearn to go back to where they came from because although they did not have much especially a secure job, they did have acceptance. Ironically those of us who were born or raised here are not even accepted in PR. The consider us Americans or Newyoricans. So where do we belong.? It seems like nowhere.

Yes this is just the tip of the Iceberg. So unless you have walked in our shoes please don’t make assumptions about who or what we are. We are lot more than a lot of others who have had it all and still haven’t gotten anywhere. We have nothing and still we continue to strive to be better, to find a better way so that our children don’t have to go through all the struggles we had had to encounter. When I still had not finished my education I still managed to move forward and help all those I could in the community, helping to establish housing corporations, educating the low income sector regardless of their ethnicity, black, white or Hispanic, helping the homeless, registering people to vote, and improving my community in every way I could. So again, I implore you don’t make assumptions or take about people when you in fact have not been there and don’t know where they are coming from, where they have been or where they are going. Especially when you yourself have done nothing to help your fellow man. I’m tired of it.

Valencia Miller 25 West Ct

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.