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How Prison Abolitionists Acquired a Former Baby Store in Oakland's Temescal District | KQED Arts
“On the corner of 44th Street and Telegraph Avenue in Oakland, amid the upstart cafes and yoga studios of the Temescal district, a longtime baby shop is becoming a center for prison abolition.

Where months ago the building’s blue facade advertised toys and car seats, now murals and slogans promote a world without incarceration. An image of a white dove ascends from brown hands, and a woman blows the word “Libertad” from a conch shell. Window banners mark local campaigns against police conferences and gang injunctions, and lettering above the 7,000-square-foot corner storefront’s entrance announces the new occupants’ intentions: “Building People Power.”

This will be the new national offices of Critical Resistance. The prison abolitionist group, cofounded 20 years ago by the activist and scholar Angela Davis, recently acquired the $3.3 million real estate through a young supporter who’s vowed to “radically redistribute” her inherited wealth, and is building offices and gathering space to share with allied groups. It’s an improbable fate for commercial property in an area synonymous with the city’s influx of young professionals.

And the unlikely deal required even more surprisingly interlocked interests: The Cabellos, who ran Baby World for decades, sold the building to Critical Resistance after rejecting offers from developers and corporate retailers (including one they blame for helping drive them out of business). They wanted to mitigate gentrification in North Oakland, and were endeared to the nonprofit’s politics by their harrowing experience of the United States-backed coup in their native Chile.

“I’d just seen Black Panther,” recalled Dania Cabello, the business owners’ 36-year-old daughter, of helping solicit Critical Resistance, where her brother once interned, to buy the family property. “So I was like, ‘How do we bring a real-life Wakanda Institute to Oakland?”

Abolition, Not Reform

The acquisition means stability for Critical Resistance, which faces steep rent increases in its downtown Oakland offices, and a more conspicuous public presence at a time when its once-fringe ideas are going mainstream. “Look at the headlines—you have people proudly calling themselves abolitionists, the popularization of ‘abolish ICE,’” said communications director Mohamed Shehk. “It shows chipping away at state violence is an achievable reality.”

Critical Resistance has several full-time employees and chapters in Los Angeles, New York City, Portland and Oakland. Part of its strategy is to dismantle the infrastructure of the prison-industrial complex, and then try to redirect public resources away from policing, surveillance and incarceration. Locally, for example, it participated in a successful coalition-based campaign against Urban Shield, a law-enforcement exposition criticized for promoting police militarization with emergency preparedness funds.

Building on the momentum of the recent San Francisco youth jail closure, Critical Resistance is working with Supervisor Matt Haney to shutter the county jail on Bryant Street. There’s broad political support for closing the seismically unsafe facility; Critical Resistance wants to go further and see that it isn’t replaced. “The idea is to reduce the incarcerated population, implement bail reform and divert people into services that make a new jail unnecessary,” Shehk said.

“Oakland Power Projects,” an ongoing campaign, shows another side of Critical Resistance’s work: community-based alternatives to policing. For one project, organizers canvassed Oaklanders and then developed literature about addressing health emergencies without calling the cops. Tahirah Rasheed, an Oakland native recently hired as building project manager, said the Temescal center will make these resources more accessible. “It will be a hub for racial justice and social justice organizing—especially pushing back against gentrification,” she said.

At a time when criminal-justice reform has widespread support, even from conservatives such as the Koch Brothers, Critical Resistance is leery of its ideas being co-opted or diluted, and often assails progressive-seeming ideas that entrench incarceration. In 2016, for example, the organization opposed a California proposition to repeal capital punishment and resentence death row prisoners to life without parole, arguing it enshrined “the other death sentence.”

Lately, the group has similarly challenged liberal outrage at privately-run prisons: Ruth Wilson Gilmore, the theorist and Critical Resistance cofounder, recently stressed her critique of the reformist referendum on private prisons in a New York Times Magazine profile, saying they play only a small, parasitic role in mass incarceration. “We don’t believe the system is broken, so we don’t want it fixed,” Critical Resistance organizer Rehana Lerandeau explained to KQED. “We want it abolished.”

Philanthropy as Redistribution

Rachel Gelman grew up in what she called a wealthy, owning-class family in Washington, D.C., struggling to reconcile her sharpening social-justice convictions with her privilege. Her family’s fortune, she said, derives largely from investments that benefit shareholders and executives at the expense of workers. “So, I was confused about my role in the movement,” she said.

Gelman, 29, is program director at Jewish Youth for Community Action, an activist and leadership training program in Piedmont. She moved to Oakland six years ago and discovered Resource Generation, a nonprofit that encourages wealthy young people to back leftist and progressive causes. Members of her family are philanthropists, and she considers their giving well-meaning and inspiring. But old-world charity, she said, can be “top down” or prescriptive, and it almost always entrenches status. Gelman doesn’t want her name on a theater.

Resource Generation, by contrast, recasts philanthropy as redistribution, stressing donations as a way to diffuse instead of bolster one’s own power. Now Gelman thinks of giving as a way to help upend the forces of capitalism, patriarchy and white supremacy that underlie her inheritance. “I believe ending this economic system that creates such drastic wealth inequality is necessary for all peoples’ humanity and dignity, including my own and that of my family,” she said.

Gelman was supporting Critical Resistance when the organization approached her about the Temescal building. She knew Critical Resistance was struggling with rising rents, and saw an opportunity to offer the group stability while removing property from the speculative market with her $3.3 million purchase. The company she formed to hold the building, which Critical Resistance is considering placing in a land trust, is named for an Arundhati Roy quotation: Another World Possible.

Critical Resistance shifted Gelman’s view of incarceration. She had gone from from being disgusted at its profiteers to embracing the idea that “any system that cages people is fundamentally inhumane,” she said. The multimillion-dollar donation to an organization that in 2017 had $373,000 in revenue reflects her optimism about the prospect of abolition, and she agreed to be interviewed in order to send a message to people with backgrounds similar to hers: “Invest in a world that benefits everybody.”

‘Bittersweet’
Aldo and Cristina Cabello listed 4400 Telegraph Ave. for sale in 2017, as business at Baby World declined. Dania, their daughter, pointed to online competition and also to displacement: The family-run business, founded more than 30 years prior, found the intergenerational continuity of its customer base severed. So it was “heartbreaking,” she said, to field offers from “condo developers and mega-corporations—the antithesis of the community we want to serve.”

Selling to Critical Resistance, though, appealed to the Cabellos’ abiding quest for justice. They came to Oakland as political refugees from Chile in 1973 after Augusto Pinochet, with United States government support, seized power in a military coup. A hit squad known as the Caravan of Death had executed Aldo’s brother Winston, and they feared for their lives. “My father was actually taken in on a couple occasions and released alive,” Dania said. “That was rare.”

Living in North Oakland with Dania’s two elder sisters, the Cabellos started selling refurbished electronics and baby accessories at the Coliseum Flea Market. “My memory is bleaching used toys in the backyard,” Dania said. The hustle led to small storefronts and, in the 1990s, the property on Telegraph Avenue. All the while, Aldo and other exiled family members researched the role of Armando Fernandez Larios, an officer in the Caravan of Death, in Winston’s slaying.

The effort culminated in a 1999 civil lawsuit against Larios, who was then living in Florida as part of a plea agreement with federal prosecutors regarding other assassinations. Four years later, a jury found him liable for torture, crimes against humanity and extrajudicial killing, and awarded the Cabellos $4 million in damages. (Dania called the figure “symbolic,” saying they don’t expect to ever receive the money.) According to the Center for Justice and Accountability, it was the first time a Pinochet operative was tried in the United States for human rights violations.

The United States’ hand in Pinochet’s coup, particularly training Larios through the School of the Americas, instilled in the Cabellos a sensitivity to abuses of power that easily dovetails with prison abolitionism. Dania’s brother interned with Critical Resistance, and her activism ties enabled the acquisition. She hopes it inspires more wealthy people to support collective ownership, and beamed that Critical Resistance commissioned muralist-activists Leslie “Dime” Lopez and Dominic “Treat U Nice” Villeda to “spread messages of strength and freedom” from the building.

Still, it’s “bittersweet… [more]
prisonabolition  criticalresistance  angeladavis  daniacabello  chile  oakland  philanthropy  temescal  mohamedshehk  urbanshield  kochbrothers  ruthwilsongilmore  rehanalaerandeau  2019  resdistribution  rachelgelman  inequality  resourcegeneration  aldocabello  cristinacabello  pinochet  justice  restorativejustice  prisons  incarceration  armandofernándezlarios  police  policing  sanfrancisco  bayarea  us  activism  capitalpunishment  integrity  canon  prison-industrialcomplex  arundhatiroy  reform  samlefebvre 
august 2019 by robertogreco
Being rich wrecks your soul. We used to know that. - The Washington Post
"The point is not necessarily that wealth is intrinsically and everywhere evil, but that it is dangerous — that it should be eyed with caution and suspicion, and definitely not pursued as an end in itself; that great riches pose great risks to their owners; and that societies are right to stigmatize the storing up of untold wealth. That’s why Aristotle, for instance, argued that wealth should be sought only for the sake of living virtuously — to manage a household, say, or to participate in the life of the polis. Here wealth is useful but not inherently good; indeed, Aristotle specifically warned that the accumulation of wealth for its own sake corrupts virtue instead of enabling it. For Hindus, working hard to earn money is a duty (dharma), but only when done through honest means and used for good ends. The function of money is not to satiate greed but to support oneself and one’s family. The Koran, too, warns against hoarding money and enjoins Muslims to disperse it to the needy.

Some contemporary voices join this ancient chorus, perhaps none more enthusiastically than Pope Francis. He’s proclaimed that unless wealth is used for the good of society, and above all for the good of the poor, it is an instrument “of corruption and death.” And Francis lives what he teaches: Despite access to some of the sweetest real estate imaginable — the palatial papal apartments are the sort of thing that President Trump’s gold-plated extravagance is a parody of — the pope bunks in a small suite in what is effectively the Vatican’s hostel. In his official state visit to Washington, he pulled up to the White House in a Fiat so sensible that a denizen of Northwest D.C. would be almost embarrassed to drive it. When Francis entered the Jesuit order 59 years ago, he took a vow of poverty, and he’s kept it.

According to many philosophies and faiths, then, wealth should serve only as a steppingstone to some further good and is always fraught with moral danger. We all used to recognize this; it was a commonplace. And this intuition, shared by various cultures across history, stands on firm empirical ground.

Over the past few years, a pile of studies from the behavioral sciences has appeared, and they all say, more or less, “Being rich is really bad for you.” Wealth, it turns out, leads to behavioral and psychological maladies. The rich act and think in misdirected ways.

When it comes to a broad range of vices, the rich outperform everybody else. They are much more likely than the rest of humanity to shoplift and cheat , for example, and they are more apt to be adulterers and to drink a great deal . They are even more likely to take candy that is meant for children. So whatever you think about the moral nastiness of the rich, take that, multiply it by the number of Mercedes and Lexuses that cut you off, and you’re still short of the mark. In fact, those Mercedes and Lexuses are more likely to cut you off than Hondas or Fords: Studies have shown that people who drive expensive cars are more prone to run stop signs and cut off other motorists .

The rich are the worst tax evaders, and, as The Washington Post has detailed, they are hiding vast sums from public scrutiny in secret overseas bank accounts.

They also give proportionally less to charity — not surprising, since they exhibit significantly less compassion and empathy toward suffering people. Studies also find that members of the upper class are worse than ordinary folks at “reading” people’ s emotions and are far more likely to be disengaged from the people with whom they are interacting — instead absorbed in doodling, checking their phones or what have you. Some studies go even further, suggesting that rich people, especially stockbrokers and their ilk (such as venture capitalists, whom we once called “robber barons”), are more competitive, impulsive and reckless than medically diagnosed psychopaths. And by the way, those vices do not make them better entrepreneurs; they just have Mommy and Daddy’s bank accounts (in New York or the Cayman Islands) to fall back on when they fail."



"Some will say that we have not entirely forgotten it and that we do complain about wealth today, at least occasionally. Think, they’ll say, about Occupy Wall Street; the blowback after Mitt Romney’s comment about the “47 percent”; how George W. Bush painted John Kerry as out of touch. But think again: By and large, those complaints were not about wealth per se but about corrupt wealth — about wealth “gone wrong” and about unfairness. The idea that there is no way for the vast accumulation of money to “go right” is hardly anywhere to be seen.

Getting here wasn’t straightforward. Wealth has arguably been seen as less threatening to one’s moral health since the Reformation, after which material success was sometimes taken as evidence of divine election. But extreme wealth remained morally suspect, with the rich bearing particular scrutiny and stigmatization during periods like the Gilded Age. This stigma persisted until relatively recently; only in the 1970s did political shifts cause executive salaries skyrocket, and the current effectively unprecedented inequality in income (and wealth) begin to appear, without any significant public complaint or lament.

The story of how a stigma fades is always murky, but contributing factors are not hard to identify. For one, think tanks have become increasingly partisan over the past several decades, particularly on the right: Certain conservative institutions, enjoying the backing of billionaires such as the Koch brothers, have thrown a ton of money at pseudo-academics and “thought leaders” to normalize and legitimate obscene piles of lucre. They produced arguments that suggest that high salaries naturally flowed from extreme talent and merit, thus baptizing wealth as simply some excellent people’s wholly legitimate rewards. These arguments were happily regurgitated by conservative media figures and politicians, eventually seeping into the broader public and replacing the folk wisdom of yore. But it is hard to argue that a company’s top earners are literally hundreds of times more talented than the lowest-paid employees.

As stratospheric salaries became increasingly common, and as the stigma of wildly disproportionate pay faded, the moral hazards of wealth were largely forgotten. But it’s time to put the apologists for plutocracy back on the defensive, where they belong — not least for their own sake. After all, the Buddha, Aristotle, Jesus, the Koran, Jimmy Stewart, Pope Francis and now even science all agree: If you are wealthy and are reading this, give away your money as fast as you can."
charlesmathewes  evansandsmark  2017  wealth  inequality  behavior  psychology  buddha  aristotle  jesus  koran  jimmystewart  popefrancis  ethics  generosity  vices  fscottfitzgerald  ernesthemingway  tonystark  confucius  austerity  tacitus  opulence  christ  virtue  caution  suspicion  polis  poverty  donaldtrump  jesuits  morality  humanism  cheating  taxevasion  charity  empathy  compassion  disengagement  competition  competitiveness  psychopaths  capitalism  luxury  politics  simplicity  well-being  suicide  ows  occupywallstreet  geogewbush  johnkerry  mittromney  gildedage  kochbrothers 
august 2017 by robertogreco
Neoliberalism – the ideology at the root of all our problems | Books | The Guardian
"We internalise and reproduce its creeds. The rich persuade themselves that they acquired their wealth through merit, ignoring the advantages – such as education, inheritance and class – that may have helped to secure it. The poor begin to blame themselves for their failures, even when they can do little to change their circumstances.

Never mind structural unemployment: if you don’t have a job it’s because you are unenterprising. Never mind the impossible costs of housing: if your credit card is maxed out, you’re feckless and improvident. Never mind that your children no longer have a school playing field: if they get fat, it’s your fault. In a world governed by competition, those who fall behind become defined and self-defined as losers.

Among the results, as Paul Verhaeghe documents in his book What About Me? are epidemics of self-harm, eating disorders, depression, loneliness, performance anxiety and social phobia. Perhaps it’s unsurprising that Britain, in which neoliberal ideology has been most rigorously applied, is the loneliness capital of Europe. We are all neoliberals now."



"It may seem strange that a doctrine promising choice and freedom should have been promoted with the slogan “there is no alternative”. But, as Hayek remarked on a visit to Pinochet’s Chile – one of the first nations in which the programme was comprehensively applied – “my personal preference leans toward a liberal dictatorship rather than toward a democratic government devoid of liberalism”. The freedom that neoliberalism offers, which sounds so beguiling when expressed in general terms, turns out to mean freedom for the pike, not for the minnows.

Freedom from trade unions and collective bargaining means the freedom to suppress wages. Freedom from regulation means the freedom to poison rivers, endanger workers, charge iniquitous rates of interest and design exotic financial instruments. Freedom from tax means freedom from the distribution of wealth that lifts people out of poverty."



"Like communism, neoliberalism is the God that failed. But the zombie doctrine staggers on, and one of the reasons is its anonymity. Or rather, a cluster of anonymities.

The invisible doctrine of the invisible hand is promoted by invisible backers. Slowly, very slowly, we have begun to discover the names of a few of them. We find that the Institute of Economic Affairs, which has argued forcefully in the media against the further regulation of the tobacco industry, has been secretly funded by British American Tobacco since 1963. We discover that Charles and David Koch, two of the richest men in the world, founded the institute that set up the Tea Party movement. We find that Charles Koch, in establishing one of his thinktanks, noted that “in order to avoid undesirable criticism, how the organisation is controlled and directed should not be widely advertised”.

The words used by neoliberalism often conceal more than they elucidate. “The market” sounds like a natural system that might bear upon us equally, like gravity or atmospheric pressure. But it is fraught with power relations. What “the market wants” tends to mean what corporations and their bosses want. “Investment”, as Sayer notes, means two quite different things. One is the funding of productive and socially useful activities, the other is the purchase of existing assets to milk them for rent, interest, dividends and capital gains. Using the same word for different activities “camouflages the sources of wealth”, leading us to confuse wealth extraction with wealth creation.

A century ago, the nouveau riche were disparaged by those who had inherited their money. Entrepreneurs sought social acceptance by passing themselves off as rentiers. Today, the relationship has been reversed: the rentiers and inheritors style themselves entre preneurs. They claim to have earned their unearned income.

These anonymities and confusions mesh with the namelessness and placelessness of modern capitalism: the franchise model which ensures that workers do not know for whom they toil; the companies registered through a network of offshore secrecy regimes so complex that even the police cannot discover the beneficial owners; the tax arrangements that bamboozle governments; the financial products no one understands.

The anonymity of neoliberalism is fiercely guarded. Those who are influenced by Hayek, Mises and Friedman tend to reject the term, maintaining – with some justice – that it is used today only pejoratively. But they offer us no substitute. Some describe themselves as classical liberals or libertarians, but these descriptions are both misleading and curiously self-effacing, as they suggest that there is nothing novel about The Road to Serfdom, Bureaucracy or Friedman’s classic work, Capitalism and Freedom."
georgemonbiot  economics  neoliberalism  politics  history  capitalism  unions  2016  policy  ludwigvonmises  friedrichhayek  miltonfriedman  chile  us  margaretthatcher  ronaldreagan  naomiklein  privatization  well-being  democracy  oligarchy  noueaurich  entrepreneurship  communism  society  kochbrothers  freedom  precarity 
august 2016 by robertogreco
Radicals, Imbeciles & FBI Stooges: From Jerry Rubin To Rich Fink, We’ve Reached Rock-Bottom, Baby! - By Mark Ames - The eXiled
"…FBI gave explicit orders to leave the “anarchist” Libertarian Alliance alone, and focus on everyone else in the room.

What’s so galling is that, in the libertarians’ revisionist history of themselves, they constantly describe themselves as “radicals”–as in “radicals for capitalism” or “anarcho-capitalists.” For three decades now, they’ve been pumping American history full of free-market mind-smog…

The real radicals were destroyed by the State: imprisoned, scattered, harassed, surveilled, ruined, even shot to death in their beds, like Fred Hampton. That becomes clear in those FBI files. Today, there’s no Left to speak of. Today, libertarianism is not only the only “choice” that the state allows us to make, but worse, libertarianism’s popularity is growing to record levels (thanks to the billionaire Koch brothers’ investment), according to a recent New York Times article, “Poll Finds Shift Towards More Libertarian Views.”"
radicals  history  libertarianism  libertarian  capitalism  2011  markames  via:adamgreenfield  politics  policy  revisionism  anarcho-capitalism  freemarkets  1960s  1970s  yippies  hippies  marxism  anarchism  radicalism  fbi  kochbrothers  larrykudlow  richardnixon  huntercollege  jneilschulman  richfink  briandoherty  rebellion  civilrights 
july 2011 by robertogreco
Billionaire self-pity and the Koch brothers - Glenn Greenwald - Salon.com
"This is exactly the psychological affliction that leads Wall Street plunderers and tycoons and billionaires to see themselves as the victims of the resentful lower-classes and the "radical egalitarians" who run the U.S. Government.  Even as they get richer and everyone else gets poorer, even as the very few remaining restraints on their political power are abolished, even as the disparities in wealth and power grow ever-larger, they become increasingly convinced that everything is stacked against them, that there is a grand conspiracy to deprive them of what is rightfully theirs.  All of this could be confined to a fascinating, abstract psychological study if not for the fact that the people who think this way exercise the most political power and continue to exercise more and more."
kochbrothers  glenngreenwald  self-pity  politics  policy  us  2011  wealth  economics  power  influence  control  unions  socialunrest 
march 2011 by robertogreco
The Tipping Point | Coffee Party
"Years from now, we will think of February 2011 as the tipping point in America’s great awakening. After all the warnings and wake-up calls, this be will remembered as the time when the American people decided to come together, confront the plutocracy that plagues our republic, and do something to change the economic inequality / instability that has grown from it. There is a tide. If you don't yet feel it, here are Ten Wake Up Calls that we predict will help define February 2011 in America.  The more people who get involved, the more meaningful it will be.  So, please share this page with others who may still need a reason to wake up and stand up."

1 Egypt; 2 Bob Herbert's Challenge To America; 3 The Protest & the Prank Call in Wisconsin; 4 Johann Hari's article in The Nation; 5 It's the Inequality, Stupid; 6 The Great American Rip-off; 7 BP makes US sick; 8 House of Representatives run amok; 9 The Stiglitz Deficit-reduction Plan; 10 Tax Week, April 11 to 17, 2011."
2011  tippingpoint  us  politics  policy  plutocracy  change  gamechanging  egypt  bobherbert  matttaibbi  bp  corporations  corporatism  capitalism  corruption  campaignfinance  josephstiglitz  johannhari  inequality  disparity  incomegap  taxes  crisis  banking  finance  government  bailouts  foreclosures  unions  unionbusting  wisconsin  deficits  deficitreduction  teaparty  coffeeparty  kochbrothers  havesandhavenots  money  wealth  influence  power 
february 2011 by robertogreco
Robert Reich (The Republican Strategy)
"These three aspects of the Republican strategy – a federal budget battle to shrink government, focused on programs the vast middle class depends on; state efforts to undermine public employees, whom the middle class depends on; and a Supreme Court dedicated to bending the Constitution to enlarge and entrench the political power of the wealthy – fit perfectly together.

They pit average working Americans against one another, distract attention from the almost unprecedented concentration of wealth and power at the top, and conceal Republican plans to further enlarge and entrench that wealth and power.

What is the Democratic strategy to counter this and reclaim America for the rest of us?"
politics  labor  economics  us  2011  republicans  robertreich  policy  taxes  unions  government  disparity  kochbrothers  supremecourt  antoninscalia  clarencethomas  scotus  teaparty  money  influence  wealth  democracy  corruption 
february 2011 by robertogreco

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