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What’s worse than Sheriff Joe Arpaio? 2 Arpaios…or 10…or more… July 17, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Immigration.
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Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now

What’s worse than Joe Arpaio, the barbaric sheriff of Maricopa County? Recruiting more people just like him.

And that’s exactly what the Department of Homeland Security intends to do.

DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano announced recently that the department is expanding what’s called the “287(g) program.” Basically, the 287(g) program enlists local law enforcement agencies to hunt down illegal immigrants and gives them a great deal of freedom in their choice of methods. It’s the same program that allows Sheriff Arpaio to act as an immigration official, and it’s the legal justification he claims every time he commits racial profiling, home raids, public shaming, and all of the abusive methods he and his deputies continue to undertake.

Tell Secretary Napolitano that we don’t need more local law enforcement taking immigration into their own hands. Program 287(g) should be abolished, not expanded.

Program 287(g) doesn’t tell local law enforcement officials to racially abuse and harass members of our community, but we’ve seen that those methods are exactly where it leads. In fact, many law enforcement entities have declined to participate and don’t support the program, saying they’re not equipped to handle the immigration duties. And when that task overwhelms them, the officers make choices that violate our rights — and our humanity — if we happen to look like we might “not be from around here.”

Click here to tell Secretary Napolitano to stop the expansion of the 287(g) program, and then to abolish the program altogether.

The impact that 287(g) program has is life-or-death serious for many communities. When we know that the color of our skin makes us criminally suspect in the eyes of local law enforcement, then where do we go if we are in danger? How can we call the police to stop domestic abuse, if we know that the police may be just as abusive? When racial profiling is part of law enforcement, then minorities have no one to protect them.

Program 287(g) must end soon — and we can’t sit by while the Department of Homeland Security expands it. Tell Secretary Napolitano that expanding 287(g) is the wrong choice, and 287(g) will never be a part of successful immigration enforcement.

In solidarity and strength,
Alicia Russell
Chair, Arizona ACORN
P.S. Please sign the petition so we can stop a program that is ripping families apart — leaving children and parents on different sides of the border.
ACORN Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now
© 2009 ACORN and ACORN logo are Registered Trademarks of the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, Inc.

ACORN is the nation’s largest community organization of low- and moderate-income families, with over 400,000 member families organized into neighborhood chapters in 100 cities across the country. Since 1970 ACORN has taken action and won victories on issues of concern to our members. Our priorities include: better housing for first time homebuyers and tenants, living wages for low-wage workers, more investment in our communities from banks and governments, and better public schools. ACORN is an acronym, and each letter should be capitalized. ACORN stands for the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now.

If you no longer wish to receive updates from ACORN, click here to be removed from the list.


No One’s Falling for Big Health’s Bogus Promise to “Reform” May 13, 2009

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By Joshua Holland, AlterNet. Posted May 13, 2009.

Corporate Dems are fawning over the industry’s “promise” to hold down costs. A broad progressive coalition is pushing for a real solution.This week, the health care lobby scored a cunning propaganda victory by feigning interest in fixing the perennial rip-off we call a health care system.

With much fanfare, Big Health trotted out a six-month old “promise” — a toothless, non-binding pledge lacking any specifics — to make various nips and tucks that would slow the rate at which health costs grow to “only” 4.7 percent annually. It was hailed by the Obama administration and many observers as a breakthrough in the battle for reform.

Until recently, the health care industry has been dead-set on preserving a disastrous but profitable status quo (The U.S. spends close to twice as much per person on care than other wealthy countries, and gets consistently poorer results; among residents of 30 rich countries polled by Gallup, Americans came in 18th in terms of satisfaction with their care). But now the “disease care” industry is portraying itself as an agent of change. Fearful of a growing movement towards real, substantive reform, it’s trying to co-opt the process under the guise of “getting a seat at the table.” That they’ve given up, for now, their oppositional stance is what has so many tongues wagging about the significance of the proposal.

But it’s nothing new — “voluntary” codes  of conduct, self-regulation and industry-driven initiatives for the private sector to address complex policy issues have long been a standard tactic for heading off real regulation and deeper systemic reforms. The Brookings’ Institution’s Henry Aaron, a former official in the Carter administration told the New York Times that when he heard of the proposal, “I had a Rip van Winkle moment, as if I had fallen asleep in 1977 and woke up again this morning.” According to the Times, Carter’s pledge to do something about out-of-control health care costs “prompted the industry to undertake a short-lived ‘voluntary effort.’” The growth of health care costs also slowed briefly after Bill Clinton’s failed attempt to fix the system.

But while the industry’s proposal is light on substance, it is a game-changer to some degree. Instead of simply opposing reform, which is a more dangerous proposition today — with 47 million uninsured and health care eating up 17 percent of the country’s economic output — than it was when Clinton mounted his fight, Big Health is trying to kill the most important and progressive elements of Obama’s promised reforms from the inside — from its “seat at the table.”

But while health lobbyists are trying to maintain the industry’s grip on trillions of dollars of business, Health Care for America Now, a broad coalition of groups including ACORN, the AFL-CIO, Campaign for America’s Future and MoveOn.org, is fighting for the inclusion of a public-insurance option that would add to the current mix of employer-based insurance and government programs for the needy — one of the centerpieces of Obama’s health care proposals during the campaign. According to The Hill, “Organizers believe their efforts will pressure centrist Democrats and Republicans to line up behind Obama’s health care proposal, which calls for all Americans to have the choice of a public insurance plan.”  This week, the group launched a series of ads targeting wishy-washy Dems by name.

The Public Option 

The creation of a public health insurance option is what the insurance industry fears most. The idea is to allow businesses and individuals to continue purchasing coverage from private insurance companies if they desire, while also establishing a public insurance program modeled on Medicare as an alternative. The government would subsidize the premiums paid by low-income families, but anyone could buy in. “Choice” is the key word.

With a very large pool of insured, a greater emphasis on prevention and a reduction in paperwork and administrative costs, advocates contend that the public option would prove more attractive for most employers and families, and its membership would grow, leading in turn to greater cost reductions. Eventually, gradually, most people would switch from private health insurance, and we would end up with a national insurance plan. 

The idea of creating a choice of a public-insurance plan is a bit of political jujitsu intended to get the U.S. to something approaching a single-payer system incrementally and without taking on the powerful insurance lobby head-on (Over the past 10 years, the insurance industry has ranked second in dollars spent lobbying Congress and the White House. The top spot is held by the pharmaceutical-and-health-products industry. Big insurance is one of the most influential lobbies in Washington, and it has trillions of dollars at stake in the health care battle.)

Although the proposals put forth during the primaries by presidential candidates Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton differed in the specifics, both had a public-insurance option at their hearts; it was one of the promises that helped get Democrats elected. And this is where the fight will be — a coalition of “free-market” advocates led by the Heritage Foundation put a public insurance option at the top of its list of six health care “deal-killers.” And all of the health care lobbyists behind this week’s “proposal” have signalled their intention to fight against the inclusion of a public health option. Again, from the inside.

On the outside, we can look forward to the corporate-right’s network of media outlets, think tanks and PR firms calling any substantive reform “socialism.” The New York Times reported that Rick Scott, a veteran of the Bill Clinton-era health care fight whom the Times describes as a “conservative investor willing to spend freely on a political cause,” started a group called “Conservatives for Patients Rights,” which has already launched a multimillion-dollar campaign attacking the Obama administration on health care before the White House even endorsed any specific legislation.

Scott is a controversial figure; the former CEO of Columbia/HCA, then the world’s largest health care company, was “ousted by his own board of directors in 1997 amid the nation’s biggest health care fraud scandal.” According to the Times, Scott’s new group hired the right-wing PR firm behind the “Swift Boat” attacks on Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., in 2004 to scare the public about the “perils of socialized medicine.” 

The ideological stakes in the fight are high and go far beyond the bottom line of the insurance industry.

In an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and Peter Wehner, a former deputy in the George W. Bush administration, argued that a public option would make the conservatives’ one-size-fits-all economic policy — tax cuts — more difficult to enact.

“Once a large number of citizens get their health care from the state, it dramatically alters their attachment to government,” they wrote. “Every time a tax cut is proposed, the guardians of the new medical-welfare state will argue that tax cuts would come at the expense of health care — an argument that would resonate with middle-class families entirely dependent on the government for access to doctors and hospitals.”

Wavering Dems

The Obama administration insists that it is still intent on including a public option in thelegislation expected to make its way through Congress this year. But in recent weeks, key Senate Democrats, including Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus of Montana,  “Blue Dog” Ben Nelson of Nebraska and party newcomer Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania have signaled they would likely oppose the inclusion of a public-insurance option as part of a sweeping overhaul of our health care system. 

That’s why the importance of a broad grassroots movement pushing Democrats to stand up to the insurance industry can’t be overstated. The momentum is there. According to research cited by Democratic pollster Celinda Lake (PDF), 70 percent of Americans — including almost 2 out of 3 Republicans — want major reforms, with the choice of a public insurance plan open to everyone added to the current mix of Medicare, Medicaid and  private insurers.

But while the public overwhelmingly favors the public option now, history suggests that the insurance industry’s ability to shape the debate can’t be underestimated. The Christian Science Monitor noted, “when President Clinton first outlined his Health Security Plan, more than two-thirds of Americans initially supported the idea. Then the health insurance industry launched a massive advertising campaign opposing the plan. Within a year, support had plummeted, along with any chance of health care reform.”

When Harry Truman proposed a national health insurance plan in 1945, 75 percent of Americans favored it, but again, says the Monitor, “after the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and medical groups attacked the plan as ‘socialized medicine,’ support sank” to almost nothing. 

If ordinary people don’t get engaged at the grassroots level and push for a public-insurance choice, then anything approaching real health care reform will likely face a similar fate. But with significant pressure on members of Congress and the Obama administration to challenge the status quo, we might just be able to avert a looming public policy disaster.

Joshua Holland is an editor and senior writer at AlterNet.

Make America a Foreclosure-free Zone March 9, 2009

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Make America a Foreclosure-Free Zone
Keep all Americans safe from foreclosure
Click Here To:
Support Home Defenders and tell Congress that it’s time for a national moratorium on foreclosures.

Sheriff Arpaio – The Bull Connor of the 21st Century February 10, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Human Rights, Immigration.
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Bertha Lewis, www.huffingtonpost.com, February 5, 2009

Friends, there are some things that cannot go unchallenged. They are affronts to human dignity and to what it means to live in America.

Yesterday one of those things happened in Maricopa County, Arizona, the mega-county that contains Phoenix. In a move that smacks of the treatment of detainees in Guantanamo Bay and that harks back to the days of the chain gang in the South, the Sheriff of Maricopa County, Joe Arpaio, is clustering 200 undocumented inmates of the County Jail in their own special tent city. The tent city is surrounded by an electric fence, further bringing home the treatment of human being as chattel. The Phoenix New Times has a compelling story detailing yesterdays outrage.

We cannot let this stand. We are circulating a petition that asks Congressman John Conyers, the Chair of the House Judiciary Committee, to hold hearings into this latest outrage and the long history of abuse carried out by Sheriff Arpaio.

What makes this move especially troubling is the Sheriff’s determination to expand his tent city to accommodate up to 2500 prisoners, an indication of the scope of his determination to continue his devastating policies of racial profiling, retaliatory arrests aimed at silencing (more…)

ACORN: Stop Foreclosures Now January 28, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Economic Crisis.
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ACORN Foreclosure Campaign Alert
Learn More / Donate / Take Action


           Baltimore ACORN members protest a recent foreclosure auction.  





Dear Roger,

I am writing to you today to announce the next phase in ACORN’s anti-foreclosure campaign. With over 2.3 million people facing foreclosure in 2008, the urgency of this crisis could not be greater. It affects all of our communities, but especially low-and moderate-income neighborhoods and communities of color, epitomized by people like ACORN members Rosa and Juan Rico.

Facing an impending foreclosure, the Ricos have been trying to work with their bank for months to get a modification of their loan. But the bank just kept giving them the runaround.

So Rosa and Juan, with backing from 40 Oakland ACORN members, moved themselves into a local branch of the bank on January 15th, complete with a cot and sleeping bags in order to press their demand that the bank work with them.

Unsurprisingly, the bank managers immediately called the police and kicked ACORN and the Ricos out pretty quickly. It’s clear that when banks decide to move swiftly they can, but it is sad that with the Rico’s they are swift only in saying “No!”

In 2008 2.3 million families faced foreclosure proceedings, the highest number since the Great Depression. Though the cost to individual families is hard to measure, the cost to our economy is staggering: using the Joint Economic Committee estimate of $78,000 per foreclosure, the cost to the US economy was at least $156 billion in 2008.

If we do not take any action, Credit Suisse predicts that there will be between 8 and 9 million foreclosures in the next four years, at a potential cost to the economy of $702 billion. Simply put, addressing the foreclosure crisis must be at the heart of any economic recovery plan.

Foreclosure Campaign
The foreclosure crisis touches all aspects of the economic meltdown and as such requires a comprehensive solution. A comprehensive solution requires a comprehensive campaign. ACORN’s strategy has two objectives: help affected families stay in their homes and create the political will necessary to implement a comprehensive solution in the face of the full court press lobbying effort the financial industry is running-an effort that cuts homeowners out of any recovery package.

Thus ACORN’s campaign is working to put the human faces of foreclosure victims front and center while escalating the campaign tactics to include civil disobedience aimed at keeping people from losing their homes. Everything is on the table: disruption of sales, disruption of banking business, even refusing to be evicted or moving families back into their foreclosed homes. (For a full description of our recent work, see my Huffington Post blog posting) from Tuesday, Jan 27. The urgency of the crisis demands no less.

This week we’re launching a petition  asking the Obama Administration to adopt a set of short-term and long-term steps to address the crisis. Please take a minute to sign the petition and join the campaign to halt foreclosures. Please make sure that all your friends and family get this e-mail as well, so they can join in the fight!

But the biggest escalation of this campaign will occur over the first three weeks of February as ACORN members and local activists launch an effort to keep foreclosure victims in their homes.

Fighting Back – Homesteading and “Home Defender Teams”
Despite the refreshing change in attitude towards the plight of families facing foreclosure from the Obama Administration, it is clear that there continues to be tremendous opposition from the financial services industry and Wall Street to any plan that truly helps homeowners.

Therefore, ACORN members are launching a Homesteading effort as part of the comprehensive foreclosure campaign. Rolling out during the month of February, it will help families threatened with foreclosures to stay in their homes, or in some cases, to reoccupy their homes. ACORN members will occupy their homes in growing numbers of cities around the country in acts of civil disobedience designed to force the issue.   

ACORN is working with its membership and activists around the country to build “Home Defender Teams”. These teams will be prepared to mobilize on short notice to peacefully help defend a family’s right to stay in their homes until a fair solution to the crisis is put into place by the new Administration.  We are recruiting allies and elected officials to support our efforts and call for a full and comprehensive solution to this crisis.

We are escalating this campaign both to help save individual families’ homes, but also to win a foreclosure moratorium – some needed breathing room – while we push for a comprehensive solution to this crisis.

Look for a formal announcement of the Home Defender teams at the beginning of February, complete with a link to the on-line form that people who want to ensure that hard-hit families can stay in their homes until a common-sense solution to the crisis is put in place can use to join in. In the meantime, sign the petition  to the Obama Administration in order to fight back against Wall Street interests blocking needed reform from being enacted.

Please forward this e-mail to everyone you know who is affected by this crisis so we can all start fighting back now!



Bertha Lewis

ACORN CEO and Chief Organizer

Resistance to Housing Foreclosures Spread Across the Land January 24, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Economic Crisis.
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23 January 2009

by: Ben Ehrenreich, The Nation


  Community-based movements to halt the flood of foreclosures have been building across the country. And they’re not the usual suspects.

    “This is a crowd that won’t scatter,” James Steele wrote in the pages of The Nation some seventy-five years ago. Early one morning in July 1933, the police had evicted John Sparanga and his family from a home on Cleveland’s east side. Sparanga had lost his job and fallen behind on mortgage payments. The bank had foreclosed. A grassroots “home defense” organization, which had managed to forestall the eviction on three occasions, put out the call, and 10,000 people — mainly working-class immigrants from Southern and Central Europe — soon gathered, withstanding wave after wave of police tear gas, clubbings and bullets, “vowing not to leave until John Sparanga [was] back in his home.”

    “The small home-owners of the United States are organizing,” Steele concluded, “tardily perhaps, but none the less surely.” It wasn’t just homeowners — three months earlier the governor of Iowa had called out the National Guard after farmers stormed a courthouse and threatened to hang the judge if he didn’t stop issuing foreclosures. They left him in a ditch, bruised but alive. By the end of the 1930s, farmers’ and home-owners’ struggles had pushed the legislatures of no fewer than twenty-seven states to pass moratoriums on foreclosures.

    The crowds appear to be gathering again — far more quietly this time but hardly tentatively. Community-based movements to halt the flood of foreclosures have been building across the country. They turned out in Cleveland once again in October, when a coalition of grassroots housing groups rallied outside the Cuyahoga County courthouse, calling for a foreclosure freeze and constructing a mock graveyard of Styrofoam headstones bearing the names of local communities decimated by the housing crisis. (They did not, unfortunately, stop the more than 1,000 foreclosure filings in the county the following month.) In Boston the Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America began protesting in front of Countrywide Financial offices in October 2007. Within weeks, Countrywide had agreed to work with the group to renegotiate loans. In Philadelphia ACORN and other community organizations helped to pressure the city council to order the county sheriff to halt foreclosure auctions this past March. Philadelphia has since implemented a program mandating “conciliation conferences” between defaulting homeowners and lenders. ACORN organizers say the program has a 78 percent success rate at keeping people in their homes. One activist group in Miami has taken a more direct approach to the crisis, housing homeless families in abandoned bank-owned homes without waiting for government permission.

    It’s unlikely, though, that any of these activists will be able to relax soon. Other than calling for a ninety-day freeze on foreclosures — which, given that loan negotiations can take many months to work out, would almost certainly be inadequate — President Obama has been consistently vague about his plans to address the foreclosure crisis. He has indicated his support for a $24 billion program proposed in November by FDIC chair Sheila Bair, which would offer banks incentives to renegotiate loans, aiming to reduce mortgage payments to 31 percent of homeowners’ monthly income. Obama’s economic team has since worked with House Financial Services Committee chair Barney Frank on a bill that would require that between $40 billion and $100 billion of what’s left in the bailout package be spent on an unspecified foreclosure mitigation program. It would be left to Obama’s Treasury Department to design that program. But Frank’s and Bair’s proposed plans are voluntary. Banks that choose not to accept federal assistance won’t have to renegotiate a single loan.

    Community organizers, however, aren’t sitting around waiting for banks to come to the table. Nowhere have they had more cause to keep busy than in California, home to a quarter of the 3.2 million foreclosures filed in the country last year. The collapse of the state’s hyperinflated real estate market has left as many as 27 percent of mortgage holders owing more on their homes than the properties are worth; California’s foreclosure rate is more than twice the national average. From San Diego to Stockton, in churches, union halls and community centers, angry homeowners have been organizing to freeze foreclosures and impose a systematic modification of home loans.

    The crisis has produced some unlikely activists. Faith Bautista didn’t start out as a rabble-rouser. A small, energetic and stubbornly cheerful woman, she has run a tiny nonprofit called the Mabuhay Alliance since 2004. Until recently, it functioned as an all-purpose minority small-business association. With a staff of six working out of a mini-mall office behind an auto parts store in an industrial section of San Diego, the Mabuhay Alliance served a largely Filipino community (mabuhay translates roughly from Tagalog as viva!) offering, among other services, free income-tax preparation, microloans and counseling for first-time homeowners.

    It was through the latter program that Bautista heard the first rumblings of the mortgage meltdown, which would ultimately bring down Wall Street’s most powerful financial firms. Southern California’s development boom hadn’t yet begun to ebb in late 2006, but, Bautista says, “people were already calling us and asking what was going to happen. They were clearly going to default.”

    The community Mabuhay serves — about 40 percent Filipino, the remainder Latino, African-American and other Asians — was hit particularly hard. Throughout the housing boom, immigrant and minority borrowers were disproportionately issued high-priced subprime loans, even when they qualified for less expensive, fixed-rate mortgages. One study by the California Reinvestment Coalition found that African-American and Latino borrowers were nearly four times as likely as whites to receive high-cost mortgages. Bautista had an adjustable-rate mortgage on the home she bought in 2004. Her monthly payments soon leapt to $6,000. It took her nine months, she says, and a personal meeting with the CEO of the bank that held her mortgage, to renegotiate the loan. It quickly became obvious to her that fighting the banks on an individual basis would be inadequate to the scale of the crisis — only an organized battle for systematic changes would help keep people in their homes.

    In the early months of 2007, as the first of the subprime lenders began to declare bankruptcy, Bautista started contacting major lenders, asking them to stop foreclosures and take part in a “massive loan-modification program” — dropping interest rates, writing down principals and donating executive bonuses to a fund for borrowers at risk of default. If lenders shared responsibility for the crisis, she calculated, homeowners shouldn’t bear the full brunt of the suffering. Not surprisingly, she laughs, “they didn’t want to talk to us.”

    That summer, with the help of the Greenlining Institute, a Berkeley-based research and advocacy group that works on racial equality issues, she was able to arrange a meeting with Countrywide co-founder and CEO Angelo Mozilo. At the time, almost one-fourth of Countrywide’s subprime loans were delinquent. The meeting, Bautista says, was fruitless: “Eyes are closed, ears are closed.” Over the next few months, she met three more times with Countrywide management, getting nowhere. “They didn’t want to admit they were doing anything wrong.”

    Elected officials appeared equally blind to the extent of the problem. Countrywide’s stock had plummeted, but the influence of the nation’s largest mortgage lender still ran deep. Mozilo’s so-called Friends of Angelo program had cut favorable deals on loans to his highly placed acquaintances, including Christopher Dodd and Kent Conrad, chairs of the Senate banking and budget committees, respectively. And Countrywide, along with other top mortgage lenders and industry associations, spent tens of millions of dollars lobbying Congress and gave millions more in campaign contributions. By mid-October 2007, the government’s only response to the foreclosure crisis had been the creation of the Hope Now alliance, a voluntary mortgage-industry coalition that established a telephone hot line to aid homeowners in altering the terms of their mortgages. But, critics say, the program has done little more than design repayment plans that in many cases actually increased borrowers’ monthly payments. “I call it Hope Not,” quips Bautista.

    At the state level, things weren’t much better. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger brokered a nonbinding agreement in which Countrywide and other lenders volunteered to extend the introductory low interest rates on some adjustable-rate mortgages. It only deferred disaster and did nothing for those who were already in default. Meanwhile, new foreclosure records were being broken every month.

    The day before Thanksgiving, the Mabuhay Alliance, joined by the Mexican-American Political Alliance, staged a protest in front of Countrywide’s San Diego office. They attempted to hand-deliver a turkey to Mozilo, who, not counting stock options, would be paid $22 million in 2007, down from $42 million in 2006. Once again, the doors were locked. Only about fifty people showed up that day, but the protest got enough press to have a powerful symbolic effect. “No one was willing to take on Mozilo in California,” says Greenlining’s Robert Gnaizda. “He held enormous power. And [Bautista] took him on. She forced the financial industry to pay attention.”

    The next week, Bautista and Gnaizda went to Washington and met with Federal Reserve chief Ben Bernanke and FDIC chair Sheila Bair, asking for a freeze on foreclosures and wholesale relief for mortgage holders. Bair was receptive, Bautista says. Bernanke was not. Eight months later, when the FDIC took over IndyMac, Bair immediately suspended foreclosures. “Now they’re willing to do it,” Bautista shrugs. If they’d acted earlier, she says, “all those people who were foreclosed wouldn’t have been foreclosed.”

    In December, a few weeks after the Countrywide protest, she and Gnaizda wangled a meeting with California Attorney General Jerry Brown, asking him to sue Countrywide for defrauding borrowers. He wasn’t interested, Bautista says. The following June, a few days before Bank of America bought out the crippled lender, Brown finally filed suit against Mozilo and Countrywide. Gnaizda explains the delay: “Countrywide was not weak in December.”

    In the meantime, all the major loan providers in the country have agreed to work with Mabuhay to modify individual loans. This means, Bautista says, that Mabuhay can help about twenty people a week. She is far from satisfied. Despite the hundreds of billions of dollars given to the financial industry, no federal or state government has provided any substantive relief to the people hit the hardest by the mortgage crisis — the ones who are losing their homes. “You gotta start from the bottom and go up,” Bautista says. “If you start at the top, then at the bottom you get crumbs. You get nothing.”

    In December Mabuhay sponsored a “foreclosure clinic” at a community college in the San Francisco Bay Area city of Vallejo, which despite its small size — its population is about 112,000 — boasted the tenth-highest foreclosure rate in the country at the time. About 150 anxious homeowners showed up, clutching thick folders of financial documents, waiting to speak with mortgage counselors. Their stories were painfully similar: one couple was struggling to pay an interest rate of 16 percent; another was unable to make $4,300 monthly payments and owed $630,000 on a home worth $370,000; another, in their mid-60s, had resigned themselves to losing the home in which they’d lived for twenty-three years and spending their retirement in a motor home.

    Standing beside Bautista at the front of the auditorium, Gnaizda did his best to channel the crowd’s frustration into action. “Ten million families are facing foreclosure right now,” he said. “Change is not going to come about because President Obama wants it to. He is not going to act unless you hold his feet to the fire.”

    Gnaizda was not alone in that conclusion: other grassroots efforts to stop foreclosures have been sprouting up all over California. In metropolitan Los Angeles and Oakland, groups like ACORN had already established an effective infrastructure to organize low-income homeowners. A list of community demands that came out of a December 2007 ACORN-sponsored meeting at an Oakland senior center became the basis for a July state law requiring banks to warn homeowners thirty days before filing a notice of default. The law is credited with dramatically lowering foreclosure rates in California for two months after it took effect. (Predictably, foreclosure rates resumed their northward climb after that.)

    More recently, ACORN has been pushing the adoption of the program the group helped pioneer in Philadelphia, a mandatory mediation process that forces lenders to negotiate with homeowners before filing a judgment of default. “If they can’t figure this out in Sacramento,” says ACORN’s Austin King, “they’re not trying.”

    Much of the local organizing on the issue, though, has not come from the usual activist suspects. Circumstances have forced groups that usually practice more staid forms of engagement into the fray, particularly in the former industrial towns just beyond the urban fringe, which have been among those hit hardest by the economic collapse. The antiforeclosure movement in Antioch, about thirty-five miles east of Vallejo, began with ten people forming an organizing committee at a local Catholic church. “We just heard dozens and dozens of stories of people struggling to keep their homes, of people losing their homes. They couldn’t get any of the banks to respond or even speak to them,” says Adam Kruggel, executive director of Contra Costa Interfaith Supporting Community Organization (CCISCO). Two hundred and fifty people showed up at the group’s first meeting on the issue. “We sort of deputized ourselves,” Kruggel says. “The government wasn’t regulating the banks, so we were going to embarrass them in public.”

    The strategy worked. CCISCO protested in front of several Antioch bank branches in May. Lenders soon began returning the group’s phone calls and agreeing to renegotiate their members’ loans. But the Bush administration’s bailout plan generated enough anger that, Kruggel says, “we realized we needed to work on a local and national level. For less than what [the Treasury] gave Wells Fargo, they could create a loan-modification program that could save a million and a half families their homes.” CCISCO began coordinating with similar efforts one county over in Stockton and halfway across the country in Kansas City, and the group sent a lobbying delegation to Washington. It’s asking for a six-month freeze on foreclosures and a cap on mortgage payments at 34 percent of family income. “Any bank that got any bailout money needs to do systematic loan modifications,” Kruggel says. “We’re not going to wait for the Obama administration.”

    Craig Robbins, who directs ACORN’s foreclosure campaign, echoes Kruggel’s sentiment: “We’re excited about some of the things Obama has been saying, but there’s got to be tremendous pressure for a real, comprehensive federal solution.” Taking cues from Depression-era antiforeclosure movements, ACORN activists began disrupting foreclosure sales at courthouses across the country in Januaary. “We’re looking to throw a wrench in the foreclosure machinery,” says Robbins, adding that ACORN is planning to organize “rapid defense teams” ready to turn out crowds on short notice to prevent evictions. Until that happens, it might help to remember that the crowd of thousands that came to the Sparanga family’s defense in Cleveland didn’t gather until four years into the Depression. This one has just begun.


    Ben Ehrenreich, a journalist and novelist based in Los Angeles, is the author of The Suitors.

Bush Comparison Seen As Unfair to Dogs December 18, 2008

Posted by rogerhollander in George W. Bush, Iraq and Afghanistan, Media.
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David Swanson

December 16, 2008

This is the question now raised in Iraq: If they throw shoes at your face are you a combat troop or a noncombat troop? The answer may be important in helping to guide President Elect Obama’s strategy of reducing but continuing the genocidal occupation that has made a shoeless journalist one of the most beloved, if little known, people in the world overnight.

A related dilemma is this: If shoes become weapons, were the metal detectors, searches, and bribes to phony journalists successful? This strikes me as a similar question to the following: if box cutters become weapons, were the nuclear arsenal, the missile offense shield, and the empire of bases successful?

That all depends upon what the goal was, I suppose. If the goal encompassed the well-being of only one person, then success may have been achieved. Dallas mansion, six-figure speeches, and drunk golfing here I come! But no dog’s goal would ever be so narrow, and animal rights groups can be expected to speak out against Muntadar al-Zeidi’s comparison of George W. Bush to a dog. I also hope human rights groups will be closely monitoring the well-being of this shoe-throwing hero to billions.

I don’t advocate violence, even in response to violence, much less as substitution for words, and yet it seems to me that al-Zeidi has restored the good standing of journalists in the world. He’s punctuated his brief editorial with a statement in the universal language of television. A cream pie would have helped but would probably have tipped off the Secret Service to his plans. With the toss of two shoes, this journalist communicated more honest information to more people than a thousand New York Times exposes on aluminum tubes or expert commentaries on the Pentagon paid for by the Pentagon.

Here’s a little of what he communicated: no technology, no weaponry, and no propaganda can protect you from the results of mistreating millions of human beings. Iraq has been made a living hell. Everyone there has suffered and lost people they loved because of the callous greed and self-centered calculations of George W. Bush who has blood up to his shoulders after waging an illegal aggressive war for politics, money, oil, and bases from which to murder human beings in neighboring countries while seated at the safe distance of the Oval Office.

The question we should really ponder is not why al-Zeidi could be so impolite as to throw his shoes at Bush, but why the dozens of other shoes in the room remained on people’s feet, why no foot odor ever purifies the air at a White House press conference, why a man who throws his shoes at our president is more popular with the people I’ve spoken to here in O’Hare Airport in Chicago than our president himself and yet most Americans are not working with all the advantages we have to put our nation right with the people of Iraq by prosecuting and imprisoning not just petty crook governors of Illinois but also emperors whose nudity has to be exposed by other people taking off their shoes.

When I worked for ACORN six years ago and Bush was pushing a plan to eliminate welfare that had been written by a slimy character at the Heritage Foundation who believed pushing women to get married would do more good than transportation, child care, education, a living wage, or even protection from abusive husbands, we took a few hundred people into the Heritage Foundation building in D.C. and pelted the guy with shoes until he agreed to “walk a day in the shoes” of some of our members on welfare. He later did so, and it changed his mind to some degree, as he admitted to reporters covering the story.

When I worked to expose Bush’s war lies three years ago, we took a crowd of people with a petition from tens of thousands to present at the White House gate. When the guards would not accept our petition, we hurled hundreds of pages of white paper over the White House fence, scattering them all across the lawn of our finest public housing.

I recall these two actions only because it occurs to me that people often walk by the White House with shoes on their feet that could perhaps be put to better use.

ABOUT AUTHORDavid Swanson is a co-founder of After Downing Street, a writer and activist, and the Washington Director of Democrats.com.

ACORN? How About Canadian Milton Acorn, the People’s Poet October 26, 2008

Posted by rogerhollander in Art, Literature and Culture, Canada.
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With all the fuss in the U.S. presidentila campaign about ACORN it brought to mind whom I consider to be one of Canada’s greatest cultural figures (unfortunately mostly ignored or forgotten), the venerable Prince Edward Island poet, Milton Acorn (the People’s Poet).  I was looking on the Internet for his classic poem on Ché Guevara.  What I was able to find I post below from a site that calls itself “The Livin’ Bejeezus Sleeps Tonight” http://everything2.com/?node_id=175795 (RH, 10/26/2008)

So what happened to the left/socialist/revolutionary impulse that haunted the West from the coffee houses

used to be
places of
countercultural foment,
wombs of revolution;

  • liberté now they’re “investment opportunities”

    now they’re leisurepalaces




    Woodstock? Has it vanished, to be supplanted by

    Time Warner


    Joe? Not even right-wing media outlets like The National Post think so. They obsess about the left.

    like Abe Simpson
    on a bad day
    spitting at ghosts

    The same day as their (anti-spirit-of) Woodstock editorial, they ran a piece on the NDP from coast to coast and one on how chimpanzees are socialists — you can look it up. They sound like Milton Acorn’s poem of the sixties, “Where is Che Guevara?” Che, a leader of the Cuban revolution, suddenly vanished in the 1960s and rumour made him part of every revolutionary uprising in the world.

    saw him in Mozambique

    saw him in Nicaragua

    saw him in Berkeley

    saw him in Paris

    saw him under the bed
    splashing rum
    in the boogie man’s latte

    Acorn pictured the leaders of the capitalist West pausing as they went about their grisly business to wonder with a shudder, “Where is Che Guevara?” Acorn’s answer: “He moves…” wherever people struggle against wealth and power.

    You won’t find him in the NDP. They’ve so adapted to the needs of “the market” that the only capitalists they’d cause a shudder in would be certifiable paranoiacs.

    “Talent on loan from God…”

    Nor in the left in the media, such as they (or we) are. Counterspin is a show on CBC‘s Newsworld that uses left and right perspectives. But host Avi Lewis often introduces guests as “lefties” or “lefty-in-exile,” as if it’s in their CV and ought to get them media gigs just like experts on mutual funds. None of this passes the Che Guevara Threat Test: a sense that those who occupy the corridors of power would think, Uh-oh, here’s something we better put serious worry into.

    — Rick Salutin, The Globe and Mail, 29 July 1999

    Remixed (the Gas Face in boldface) by me. Che Guevara: still dead. The livin’ bejeezus sleeps tonight. Unless you’re really, really paranoid — then your bejeezus likes to jump out and take long, soothing walks.

  • égalité
  • fraternité
  • ACORN Has Long Been in Republicans’ Cross Hairs October 24, 2008

    Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Electoral Fraud, John McCain, U.S. Election 2008.
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    Peter Overby, NPR

    Morning Edition, October 15, 2008 · Republicans continued the drumbeat of allegations against ACORN on Tuesday. Sen. John McCain’s presidential campaign, the Republican National Committee and others accuse the grassroots group of widespread voter registration fraud. It’s the latest, and most bitter, battle in a long conflict between conservatives and ACORN.

    ACORN, which stands for the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, makes no secret of its progressive tilt. Its top job isn’t CEO, it’s chief organizer.

    “We’re like a community union,” says Bertha Lewis, the interim chief organizer. “Our folks are low and moderate income. And we’ve been doing the fight on bread-and-butter issues for 38 years.”

    Those bread-and-butter issues have recently included predatory lending and mortgages. Not long ago, ACORN forced Countrywide Financial into an agreement to help homeowners trapped in their subprime loans. In 1996, it led a campaign in Philadelphia to stop Pennsylvania from selling liquor stores to raise money for sports arenas.

    “We have huge needs around education, around housing, around jobs programs, around social services,” Bruce Dorpalen of ACORN Housing said at the time. “And to devote that kind of money to sports stadiums is just wrong.”

    At a 2006 rally in Miami, ACORN featured a friend who now seems surprising: McCain. As a senator, he was pushing an immigration reform bill supported by ACORN and other progressive groups. ACORN members waved “McCain ’08” signs at the rally as McCain said, “What makes America special is what’s in this room tonight. That’s what makes America special.”

    Now, McCain’s campaign has accused ACORN of flooding America’s polling places with illegal voters. The campaign and the RNC also have played up Democratic Sen. Barack Obama’s ties to ACORN.

    Obama responded Tuesday, calling his relationship to the group “pretty straightforward.”

    In 1995, Obama said, he represented ACORN in a lawsuit against the state of Illinois. “My partner in that representation was the U.S. Justice Department, in having Illinois implement what was called the motor voter law, to make sure that people could go to DMVs and driver’s license facilities to get registered. It wasn’t being implemented,” he said.

    There are other connections that conservatives have highlighted. Obama ran a voter-registration project in Chicago in 1992 under the banner of Project Vote, and years later, the national Project Vote affiliated with ACORN. Earlier this year, his presidential campaign indirectly paid ACORN more than $800,000 for campaign work in the primaries. And ACORN’s political action committee has endorsed Obama.

    But conservatives have been after ACORN for years.

    “It is an organization that has a very outsized role in the democratic process,” says Tim Miller of the business-backed Employment Policies Institute, which produced a 2006 report titled “Rotten ACORN, America’s Bad Seed.”

    Miller points to the ouster of ACORN’s founder earlier this year after the controller, the founder’s brother, had embezzled nearly a million dollars.

    “When you think about a truly transparent organization, there would never be any way somebody could embezzle such a large amount,” he says.

    The Employment Policies Institute also criticizes ACORN’s organizational structure. ACORN has dozens of subsidiaries. Some get federal funds. Some get money from charities such as the liberal Charles Stewart Mott Foundation and the not-so-liberal Bank of America Charitable Foundation.

    Miller says ACORN moves money around among the subsidiaries. He says it “essentially gives them a cloak that prevents people from seeing really how they’re spending money that comes, in some cases, from the taxpayers, in other cases, comes from members of their organization who pay dues.”

    But right now, voter fraud is the GOP’s top campaign message. The Republican National Committee produced an online ad called “ACORN Chicago” that reads: “Nationwide voter fraud. Barack Obama. Bad judgment. Blind ambition. Too risky for America.”

    Lewis, ACORN’s chief organizer, says the group’s profile has never been so high. “This election, this linking us to Obama in order to try to damage him, that’s a great opportunity,” she says.

    Will Evans of the Center for Investigative Reporting contributed to this piece.

    A Mighty Hoax from ACORN Grows October 18, 2008

    Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Electoral Fraud, John McCain, U.S. Election 2008.
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    by: Michael Winship, t r u t h o u t | Perspective

    Michael Winship sees the ACORN “election fraud” story as one of the urban legends that come up every election cycle.



     ACORN and election fraud. Hang on. As soon as I can get the alligator that crawled out of my toilet back into the New York City sewers where it belongs, I can turn my attention to this very important topic.

        You see, the ACORN “election fraud” story is one of those urban legends, like fake moon landings and alligators in the sewers, and it appears three or four weeks before every recent national election with the regularity of the swallows returning to Capistrano. First, the basics: ACORN, which stands for the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, is an activist group working with low- and moderate-income families to, among many other things, register voters. To do this, they hire people to go around signing up the unregistered, killing two birds with one stone – giving employment to people who need it (some with criminal records) and providing the opportunity to vote to members of minority communities whose voices all too often go unheard.

        What happens is that some of those hired to do the registering, who are paid by the name, make people up. As a result, you’ll discover that among the registrants are such obvious fakes as Mickey Mouse and the starting line-up of the Dallas Cowboys, among others.

        This is where the Republican meme kicks in. As they have in past elections (although now louder and more angrily than ever), the G.O.P. has made ACORN the red flag du jour as the party tries to mobilize its conservative base and, allegedly, attempts to suppress the vote and distract attention from accusations of election tampering made against them, too.

        The charge is that these fake registrations will create havoc at the polls. On Tuesday morning, former Republican Sens. John Danforth and Warren Rudman, chairs of Senator McCain’s Honest and Open Elections Committee, held a press conference and described the results of the bad seeds in ACORN’s registration program as “a potential nightmare.” Danforth said he was concerned “that this election night and the days that follow will be a rerun of 2000, and even worse than 2000.”

        John McCain raised it at Wednesday night’s final debate and went further, adding, “We need to know the full extent of Senator Obama’s relationship with ACORN, who [sic] is now on the verge of maybe perpetrating one of the greatest frauds in voter history in this country, maybe destroying the fabric of democracy É”

        Obama replied, “ACORN is a community organization. Apparently, what they have done is they were paying people to go out and register folks. And apparently, some of the people who were out there didn’t really register people; they just filled out a bunch of names. Had nothing to do with us. We were not involved.”

        Which is not to say Obama has not been associated with ACORN in the recent past. He has. As he said in the debate, as a lawyer, he joined with the group in partnership with the US Justice Department to implement a motor voter registration law in Illinois – allowing folks to register to vote at their local DMV. His work as a community organizer bought him into contact with ACORN, the organization received money from the Woods Fund while he was a board member there, and his presidential campaign gave ACORN more than $800,000 to help with get-out-the-vote campaigns during the primary season – but not, apparently, for registration drives.

        All of this distracts from several important points. ACORN has registered 1.3 million voters and maintains that in virtually every instance it is ACORN that has reported the incidents of fraud.

        As the organization asserted in a response to Senator McCain, “ACORN hired 13,000 field workers to register people to vote. In any endeavor of this size, some people will engage in inappropriate conduct. ACORN has a zero tolerance policy and terminated any field workers caught engaging in questionable activity. At the end of the day, as ACORN is paying these people to register voters, it is ACORN that is defrauded.”

        Arrests have been made, as well they should be.

        Add to this the simple fact that registration fraud is not election fraud. Seventy-five made-up people who are registered as, say, “Brad Pitt,” are not likely going to show up at some polling place on November 4 to vote in the election. Because they don’t exist. (Besides, Angelina would never give them time off from babysitting duties.)

        Granted, there are ways to mail in an absentee ballot under a fake name and, too, from time to time some joker is going to come to the polls and try to bluff his or her way in. But despite the charge that thousands and thousands of fakes will flood the machines and throw off the count, it does not happen very often. And according to ACORN, “Even RNC [Republican National Committee] General Counsel Sean Cairncross has recently acknowledged he is not aware of a single improper vote cast as a result of bad cards submitted in the course of an organized voter registration effort.”

        Not that this has stopped the G.O.P. from banging the same drum every national election. And amnesiac members of the media and some government agencies from buying into it every time. Last year, The New York Times reported that the federal Election Assistance Commission, created by the Help America Vote Act, legislation enacted after the Florida debacle, was told by a pair of experts – one Republican, the other described as having “liberal leanings” – that there was not that much fraud to be found. But their conclusions were downplayed.

        As per the Times, “Though the original report said that among experts ‘there is widespread but not unanimous agreement that there is little polling place fraud,’ the final version of the report released to the public concluded in its executive summary that ‘there is a great deal of debate on the pervasiveness of fraud.'”

        Which raises the ongoing investigation of the Justice Department’s firing of those eight US attorneys shortly after President Bush’s re-election. It shouldn’t be forgotten that despite official explanations, half of them were let go after refusing to prosecute vote fraud charges demanded by Republicans. The attorneys had determined there was little or no evidence of skullduggery; certainly not enough to prosecute.

        (In an interview with Talking Points Memo on Thursday, one of those fired attorneys, David Iglesias, reacted to reports that the FBI has launched an investigation of ACORN: “I’m astounded that this issue is being trotted out again. Based on what I saw in 2004 and 2006, it’s a scare tactic.”)

        What’s equally if not more scary are continued allegations of Republican attempts at “caging” minority voters – making challenge lists of African- and Hispanic-Americans registered in heavily Democratic districts. Just this week, a federal judge in Michigan ruled that voters could not be purged from the rolls in that state simply because their mailing address was invalid – this followed a failed attempt by a Michigan Republican county chairman to use a list of foreclosed homes as the basis of voter challenges.

        This comes on the heels of a recent report from the Brennan Center at New York University documenting how state officials – often with the best of intentions – purge huge numbers of perfectly legal voters from the rolls.

        As my colleague Bill Moyers reported, “Hundreds of thousands of legal voters may have been dumped in recent years, many without ever being notified.” The report describes a “process that is shrouded in secrecy, prone to error, and vulnerable to manipulation.”

        Hardly reassuring words if you want democracy to work, and sadly, not an urban legend, but the simple truth.