Thursday, May 19, 2011

Why I'm leaving CREDO

I find it ironic and unacceptable that my wireless provider, CREDO Mobile, which uses non-union carrier Sprint, is waging a public pressure campaign against the merger of ATT and T-Mobile. CREDO claims to be the voice of progressives, uses a share of its profits and a share of its revenues to support progressive causes and sponsors internet-based pressure campaigns around progressive issues.

A look at the causes to which CREDO donates its subscribers' money does not show much that involves the rights of working people as such. Last year, CREDO members helped raise $2,780,439 for "groups working to change the world." While much of this money went to causes I applaud, only a small proportion of the 49 groups funded last year were openly pro-union and none had supporting labor or working people as central to their purposes.

While I detest the anti-labor political contributions of AT&T, recent events have forced me to face the fact that "progressives" who don't support labor won't be with us in the crunch. And I have had to ask the question: what kind of a progressive outfit is it that doesn't support union rights and chooses to buy non-union?

I've been struggling with this - but my path is clear now. It's not about choosing union rights over women's rights or defense of the constitution or peace or fair elections or any of the other causes CREDO supports. This is not a salad bar where we get to pick some of this and some of that and weigh one against the other. This is not a trade-off between this good and that one. It is a fundamental choice of whose side we're on.

I'm giving up my CREDO phone and signing up with AT&T. A bit of my money will end up with the CWA and I trust them more than CREDO to use it well.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Comment on Clive's Column on Foreclosure

The woman in question is a neighbor of mine, a hard-working professional and a mother, who has been struggling to keep her home and renegotiate the terms of her mortgage for over a year. Like more than half the people who have bought homes in Worcester during the past ten years, she is "underwater", owing more than the current market value of her house, which severely limited her options.

The notice that was posted on her door and then mailed to her came just days after the auction. It was illegal, untrue - and terrifying. It is part of a pattern in this city of emptying buildings very rapidly after a foreclosure. Just weeks after an auction most of the owners and most of the tenants are gone. By law the banks are required to keep the tenants in foreclosed buildings on as tenants of the bank, but they scare or drive them away anyway.

And then ... the banks seal up the building and leave it standing empty to rot. Don't ask me why they do it, it doesn't make sense from any normal business perspective, but that's what they do!

This is not the world of Jimmy Stewart, although we still have wonderful local credit unions and banks that play fair and deserve our support. The mega-banks helped set up this crisis and the housing bubble that underlies it, made a fortune lending and on the side betting against the loans they were making, and are trying to stick us with the bill. In the process they triggered a world financial collapse that is starting to look more and more like a depression. And then they collected nearly a trillion dollars of our money to bail themselves out - which they paid back by borrowing many trillions at near zero interest to buy Fed notes at over 4%. Now they are trying to stick millions of their victims, like my neighbor, with the bill.

So what is the sense of trying to blame her for this? Some folk, it seems, just like kicking people when they're down.

But guess what? She's not staying down, she's fighting back now!

Friday, May 6, 2011

Worcester Anti-Foreclosure Team visits local realtor who is illegally scaring people out of their homes

by Grace Ross and Chris Horton, published in InCity Times under my name:

Twenty-four members and supporters of the Worcester Anti-Foreclosure Team (WAFT) gathered on Friday, April 29th in front of the office from which ReMax realtor Tony Economou works at 179 Shrewsbury St. Economou, a candidate for City Council, posted and mailed an illegal notice to a homeowner, just days after the auction in which the bank that she had been trying to negotiate with for a year purchased her house.

We demanded he immediately stop these actions and give us the list of all addresses where he sent or posted these illegal and threatening notices, so we can notify them that they do not have to move and that the leaflet violated their rights. “In Massachusetts, where our neighbors do not have the right to a day in court before their homes are foreclosed, it is even more important that their rights to not be evicted except by the courts be honored,” said WAFT member Matthew Griffin.

“I know how devastating losing your home is, and like all the research shows, how hard it is on a family to be homeless,” said Christeen Friend, “But I joined the Worcester Anti-Foreclosure Team and found out my rights. When the wrong bank tried to evict me post-foreclosure, I fought them. In my case, they did not even know which bank owned the mortgage or the house post-foreclosure. So I fought and my child got to finish out the school year and we got a settlement.” She added: “Due to them illegally foreclosing I am still fighting to get my home back.”

“We are here today because we have had it with illegal behavior by the banks and their agents,” said Grace Ross, a WAFT member. “And we are here because we cannot afford – as residents, neighbors and as the City as a whole – to have any more of our houses emptied. This realtor is engaged in an intentional disinformation campaign to scare people out of their homes. It must stop.”

“I got this notice pinned to my door four days after the foreclosure and then mailed to me giving me ten days to move out or all my things would be declared abandoned and removed,” said Charity who brought this notice to our attention, who asked that her last name be withheld. “Thank God, the Worcester Anti-Foreclosure Team came to my door. My heart was pounding. I had gotten boxes, terrified that at any moment the realtor would arrive to move my stuff out.”

The demonstrators presented Economou’s office manager with the demand that he stop posting illegal notices threatening victims of foreclosure, that he provide WAFT with the addresses where he has posted them so we could contact the occupants and set the record straight, and that he make public the letter from the foreclosing bank authorizing the illegal notices so we can take the fight to its source.

Mr. Economou has responded by email but has taken no steps to satisfy our demands, and we are considering what other actions can be taken.

We need to make this perfectly clear. If you are a tenant or former owner in a foreclosed property, and if you received a notice telling you that you must move right after foreclosure, it’s not true! You cannot be harassed or coerced out of your home. No one has the right to threaten your possessions, cut off your utilities, padlock your doors or touch your belongings until an eviction date set by a judge.

If you are a tenant the bank is pretty much required to let you stay, pay it rent and maintain the property until it is re-sold, and even former owners may be able to negotiate this right. But in far too many cases they are scaring former owners and tenants into panicking and abandoning their homes.

So if you are facing eviction post-foreclosure, please be in touch with the Anti-Foreclosure Team. We meet 1st and 3rd Wednesdays at the Pleasant St. Neighborhood Network Center, 301 Pleasant St. Come to a meeting if you have ANY questions.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

The Osama bin Laden show - Final Episode

The comments these past few days have been full of digs at the nuts who doubt the story of the killing of Bin Laden - like it's some kind of a creed that you have to recite if you want to belong. What's that all about?

The best way to understand this final episode of the Osama Bin Laden Show is in terms of Orwell's 1984 - well worth re-reading if you haven't looked at it since high school! It's National Triumph Week. Next will come the naming or elevating a new face of the Enemy, a new bogyeman, a new National Hate Week.

Bin Laden was one of Reagan's "Freedom Fighters", welcome guests in the White House, who took billions of US dollars and the latest anti-aircraft technology to drive the Russians out of Afghanistan. His followers then set up the Taliban government - but apparently deeply offended their sponsors by abolishing the Opium trade. Osama was an islamic fundamentalist, a fanatical mass murderer whose followers waged war by burning down schools and clinics and killing doctors, teachers, nurses and women wearing "un-feminine" garb, but he was our monster then. Anyone remember that?

Is one a conspiracy theorist because they still don't buy the story that some rich Saudi fanatics with box cutters could fly two airplanes into two skyscrapers and cause *three* of them to collapse like a house of cards? And where is the proof that Bin Laden was responsible, as they claimed within hours after it happened? Have you noticed that ten years later we still haven't seen it?

Bin Laden was reported to be very sick in late 2001, reported as having renal failure, and we saw photos of a Bin Laden with grey hair and a ravaged face, looking like an old man. And then there was a report, supposedly from Al Qaida, that he had died. Remember that anyone?

Then we had a series of videos and statements with photos featuring a healthier younger-looking Bin Laden with black hair and a different nose. If you're over 30 you must remember that.

Now we have reports of Bin Laden killed in a firefight, no wait, he was unarmed, with his wife killed, no it was his other wife, no his mistress, shot behind the ear, no shot in the head and chest, and his body dumped in the ocean out of respect for Moslem tradition - no wait, it was to prevent his grave becoming a shrine, but we'll show you the photo, no wait, we can't show you the photo yet it will make them angry, no wait it's too grizzly we can't ever show it... And did you notice no one in the media is even asking the question: If Osama was unarmed, why didn't our forces do whatever was necessary to get him out alive for questioning about what really happened on 9/11?

And anyone who says none of this makes sense is ... a conspiracy nut?

I'm sorry folks, but malarky is malarky, even if everyone who is anyone agrees it must be true. Even if it is accepted without question in Radioland, Tellyworld and the pages of our dear old T&G.

One example among many: An AP story in Tuesday’s T&G quoted Brad Sagarin, a psychology professor at Northern Illinois University, as saying the burial at sea “would certainly be a rich sort of kernel for somebody to grasp onto if they were motivated to disbelieve this.”

“Rich kernel to grab onto?” Give me a break! Was Pinocchio’s nose a “rich kernel to grab onto?”

The people planning this operation certainly knew that the burial at sea would raise red flags all over the world - and the only ones that would buy it were - us, their gullible captive Americans. And maybe the Brits. What possible reason could they have had for ditching the body that would trump the need for certainty, unless they were hiding something?

At the very least they could have cleaned up the body and put bandaids over the entry holes and taken some show-able photos!

Tell me the truth: What was your first reaction when you heard Obama had been killed and immediately "buried at sea"? Bet it was the same as mine: "Yeah, right! They must think we're stupid!"

I've been asking regular people that question. Every single one over the age of 30 had that as their first reaction. Some are coming around under the constant pressure from the media and constant digs at the doubters as "conspiracy nuts", "deathers" or "soft-minded liberals", but we all still remember that first reaction.

Even the NPR audience didn't buy it at first. As it chanced, when I first heard the news I Googled it and the NPR site came up. In the comments that followed it, not one commentator believed the story, and every single one cited the burial at sea for that! Yet listening to NPR a few days later they were still nattering on and on about this staged news event with nary a hint that anyone could possibly doubt it really happened!

So if this story, like the rest of the Osama Bin Laden show, is phoney baloney, then the real question is: why did they decide to kill off the show's villain now? Do you think maybe it has something to do with Libya? Or Syria, or Yemen or Iran? Do they need a new bogeyman? Someone more contemporary, like Qadhafi perhaps? Are they trying to establish the rightness of waging war by death squad before they kill him? Or perhaps they just need to pull back from Afghanistan because they're overextended and they need the troops for other adventures?

We need to hold onto our first reaction to this story, the little voice that said “Yeah, right!” That little voice speaks from all of our experiences of government and media from the last 50 years, all the accumulated hurts from being tricked and betrayed by their lies and manipulations. The little voice that warns us not to take what they say at face value, not to get swept up by their great noise machine. We need that part of our mind. We need to cultivate it, listen to it and guard it as a sacred space, the place from which we watch what’s going on and think about it.

The place from which that "Yeah, right!" spoke needs to be our mental citadel, from within which we resist being swept up in the manufactured outrage, insanity and war fever now being unleashed on us.