Tag Archives: Liberals

Moms 4 Housing vs. Private Property

Moms 4 Housing

Sameerah Karim raises her fist with supporters after filing a claim to fight her eviction notice at Alameda County Superior Court. (Molly Solomon/KQED)

The Story, Once More

Hundreds of news articles have reported for the last couple of months the saga of four homeless moms and their children who moved last November into a vacant house owned by the investment firm Wedgewood Properties in Oakland, California.

Given that the estimated number of unsheltered people in the U.S. is nearly 200,000 (45% in California), one could assume that many take shelter unobtrusively in vacant property. However, quiet occupation was not the intent in this story.

The moms immediately received strategic and legal help from Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE), admiration from public officials, and support from cheering crowds outside the house. They founded the collective Moms 4 Housing, and in the name of one of the moms, Dominique Walker, defended an eviction notice in court.

Dominique Walker’s argument was that the court must grant right of possession to the women occupying the house with their children, because housing is a right, the house had been vacant for two years, and the alternative to occupying the house would be living in the streets. Walker requested the court’s permission to offer expert testimony on the right to hosing based on federal and international law.

Judge Patrick McKinney on January 10, ruled that Dominique Walker had no valid claim to possession of the house, and eviction could take place. He indicated that Walker’s argument of housing rights under federal and international law were “outside the scope of this proceeding.”

Alameda County Sheriffs then conducted a pre-dawn raid with full swat regalia and battering rams, while many supporters of Moms 4 Housing surrounded the house and the press took it all in. Two moms and two supporters were arrested and soon released. Dominique Walker was not in the house at the time of the raid, since she was attending an interview with Amy Goodman of Democracy Now.

Although Wedgewood Properties offered to pay for a few months of shelter for the moms they refused to negotiate the mom’s request to purchase the house through the Oakland Community Land Trust “for exactly what they paid for it.”

Rights Under Federal and International Law?

There are a number of U.S. federal statutes that prohibit discrimination in housing, provide home-buying assistance, and help with rent payments. None of these statutes mandate a roof over everyone’s head or indicate that housing is a human right.

There are numerous trans-national declarations of human rights. Most of these declarations were implemented by the United Nations, including one of the most notable, the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In spite of its mane, the Declaration of Human Rights does not mandate a home for all who need one; instead it speaks of economic, social, and cultural conditions that should be respected. Perhaps most pertinent to the Moms 4 Housing case is the Declaration’s Article 17: ”Everyone has the right to own property alone as well as in association with others. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his property.”

The Legal Perspective

The U.S. Constitution is clear on matters of property: no one can be “deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public good without just compensation.” (Amendment 5, Section 1). The prohibition applies also to States: ” …nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, without due process of law…” (Amendment 14, Section 1).

Judge Patrick McKinney’s decision in the Moms 4 Housing case should have been anticipated, given the case’s lack of a Constitutional basis, lack of U.S. statutes affording possession of other people’s property due to an occupier’s hardships, and the fact that international declarations (as opposed to international treaties) have no standing in U.S. courts.

Economic Realities and Progressive Solutions

The U.S. Constitution’s clarity in matters of private property has always been a stumbling block to those who favor a more communal ownership of property. They make a distinction between classical liberals (presumably outdated liberals) who defend unrestricted private property, and contemporary liberals who adjust the concept of private property to modern times. Corporate ownership of property, the function of wealth in political power, and rising economic inequalities are realities of modern time cited by contemporary liberals.

Contemporary ‘classical liberals’ (and related, ‘libertarians’) still defend the classical conception … However, most contemporary liberal authors accept private property as a fundamental right but supplement this acceptance of unrestricted private property rights with a set of social rights. This supplementation strategy also reflects the practice of many international human rights documents and national constitutions. Social rights (to housing, health care, etc.) are meant to counterbalance the harsh effects to vulnerable individuals resulting from only recognizing unrestricted private property rights.” Private Property and Political Power in a Liberal-Democratic Society, Dutch Research Council, 2016.

The largely supportive response from the press and from public officials that Moms 4 Housing received evidences that private property is no longer universally viewed as the unrestricted right of owners. However, Judge Patrick McKinney’s court order was based on the classical concept of property. According to the research paper mentioned above, such dichotomy could be remedied by implementing an “institutional translation” of “abstract proposals for a fair wealth distribution.” In other words change the nation’s Constitutional and statutory framework to reflect a concept of communal, rather than private, property.

Remedy Worse than the Disease

The Just Vote No Blog has pointed out in several articles that although the U.S. is overall still economically powerful and politically free, there are serious underlying challenges that need correction. Such challenges have the perverse effect of benefiting some and devastating others. Profligate government spending, an unsustainable national debt, cheap money, stocks valued at several times earnings are root challenges that will not be corrected by simply distributing property. Moms 4 Housing and their supporters are sadly on the wrong track.

Progressive Policies: How they Thrive

PromisesThe U.S. liberal strongholds exercise considerable influence over the nation’s attitudes and policies. The saying “As California goes, so goes the nation” suggests as much, and the popularity of high-profile progressives like Alexandria Ocasio Cortez boosts liberal solutions nationwide.

But There is a Sorry Scenario

Coexisting with the leadership scenario California enjoys is the state’s march toward being the first third world state in the county, given its overwhelming incidence of homelessness, drug addiction, and general quality of life decay. High taxes and high living costs add to the state’s list of ills.

New Yorkers do not fare much better in the quality of life scale, suffering from similar ills as California.

On August 29, 2019, Bloomberg News reported a substantial exodus of people from New York City, but noted that such exodus is also occurring in Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Jose (CA), and Washington DC.

Forbes fills in some details,

These statistics make sense to anyone living in these places. The costly living expenses, crumbling infrastructure and high tax rates are a big problem for residents.

Odd Contradictions?  Not Really

It would seem odd that officials making policy decisions in cities and states that live with costly living expenses, crumbling infrastructure, and high tax rates would not at some point come to the conclusion that something is amiss, something is not working. The situation is odd perhaps, but totally understandable.

Voters who are fed up with the status quo in progressive strongholds leave, some that know they will benefit arrive and join those that stay in fighting for more of the same – more subsidies at greater levels of the income scale, more employment and pension benefits, more tenant protections, more drug addiction support, more leniency toward low-level crime.

They get more of the same, since a crucial job of an elected official is to ensure his livelihood by ensuring his re-election, and a vital job of a bureaucrat is to grow the bureaucracy in order to justify his employment.

Really quite simple.

Where You Need Antifa’s Permission to Speak

riot

Some articles succeed in presenting such a vivid picture of events readers feel they are witnessing the happenings themselves. Mimi Soros (no relation) and Catherine Hart wrote one such article, published in the California Political News & Views.

They were trying to attend a College Republicans event featuring Ann Coulter, and were blocked by Antifa and other left-leaning activists. This sad situation happened at the University of California Berkeley campus – once home of the Free Speech Movement – but it could have happened in any progressive-leaning town in the U.S.A.

We seem to be entering an age in which we will all need permission to speak.  Does it stop at speech?  How about needing permission to exercise our religious beliefs, to defend ourselves against intruders or attackers, to travel, what else?

Reformer District Attorneys: Know What You Are Voting For

Chesa Boudin speaking to reporters

An especially progressive district attorney was recently elected in San Francisco. Chesa Boudin received some national press, mostly focused on his radical-left parents and his pledge not to prosecute “quality of life” events like public urination and prostitution.

Although such information is important, also significant is for voters to be aware that Chesa Boudin is not an isolated example of committed progressive reformers being elected throughout the U.S. in the last five or so years. Moreover, a voter’s political persuasion – whether conservative or progressive – is not the issue. The issue is understanding the forces propelling progressive DAs into office and what these DAs represent.

The article published November 19, Reformer DAs – What’s So Bad About Public Urination? in a popular on-line news publication California Political News & Views briefly discusses the new wave of reformer DAs.

The article has a strong and heartfelt introduction by Steve Frank, committed conservative and publisher of CPN&V. The Just Vote No Blog hopes readers will take a few minutes to read the article as well as the introduction.

Oil foes do not like kids’ plastic toys

WatermelonGreen deals are popping up like dandelions.  Left-leaning folks are ready to downright ban oil.  No more fossil fuels!  No more fracking!  To be responsibly green, we will need to do a lot more than what is common sense like investing in clean, effective and useful transit systems.

Aside from the question whether we need to anticipate flying in solar-powered airplanes, we also need to reflect on how many things around the house we will need to replace when oil becomes prohibitively expensive or just plain unavailable.

Of course, our toddler’s toys, eating utensils, backyard kiddie pool, and playground slides will need to go away.  Disposable diapers will be a problem — outer shell is plastic.  Crayons — oil based.

Also to depart will be the cheap bag of fertilizer we use for our potted plants.  Inexpensive T-shirts will need to be replaced by cotton or maybe even Irish linen.  Regarding shoes, we will have to face a huge dilemma, since the alternative to synthetic might be leather from little innocent cows.

Vaseline, lipstick, nail polish — all petroleum based.

So, when a candidate for office says at a neighborhood town hall that she would suspend all fossil fuel drilling leases for offshore and public lands, start worrying about all those T-shits and sneakers.

Oh, but wait, the U.S. imports like 70% of all that stuff anyway, so we would not need domestic oil, right?  Other countries can increase their oil production to make up for the U.S. decrease, no?  Oh, that will fight global warming how, again?

 

Antonio Gramsci: The New Hegemony

One of the most fascinating political writers of the early 20th century was Antonio Francesco Gramsci. Gramsci was born in 1891 in the beautiful Mediterranean island of Sardinia, and died at only 46 in Rome in 1937. During such a short life, he was able to formulate possibly the most influential philosophy of our times – rule brought about not by violent force but by consent of the subjugated class. Some call Gramsci’s philosophy Neo-Marxism, since it aims to achieve similar results without the extreme authoritarianism of Traditional Marxism. Gramsci himself does not appear to have called his philosophy anything; he simply described and emphasized the plan’s components: hegemony, praxis, and civil society.

Gramsci’s writings, mostly essays, are divided into pre-prison time and prison time. Prison time, courtesy of Benito Mussolini’s anti-Marxist Fascist Italy, lasted six years, 1929-1935. According to those who study Gramsci’s work, the pre-prison essays (1910-1926) lean towards the politically specific, while the latter woks are more historical and theoretical. Interestingly, Gramsci’s socio-political theories provide insight into common strategies used by both capitalists and Marxists. Concepts of hegemony, praxis, and civil society are entirely adaptable.

Hegemony

The bourgeoisie, in Gramsci’s view, develops a hegemonic culture using ideology rather than violence, economic force, or coercion. Hegemonic culture propagates its own values and norms so that they become the “common sense” values of all and thus maintain the status quo. Hegemonic power is therefore used to maintain consent to the capitalist order, rather than coercive power using force to maintain order. This cultural hegemony is produced and reproduced by the dominant class through the institutions that form the superstructure.  Wikipedia, Antonio Gramsci

The bourgeoisie indeed ruled, until it was officially challenged in the 1960s by Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society.  During the last 50 years, the U.S. has experienced a gradual and relatively peaceful normalization of the socialist order. The newly- socialist-bent institutions of the superstructure (courts, universities, news media) provide support to the superstructure itself (today popularly alternately called the military-industrial complex, the deep state, or the central banks). Meanwhile “the capitalist order” has assumed the full mantle of crony capitalism and is busy normalizing its own crony newspeak (bailouts, affordable housing, industry tax breaks). Hegemony brought about by the consent of the subjugated (taxpayers, the working-poor dependent on public assistance, the priced out renter) is totally fungible.

Praxis

Praxis is the process by which a theory, lesson, or skill is enacted, embodied, or realized. Praxis may also refer to the act of engaging, applying, exercising, realizing, or practicing ideas … It has meaning in the political, educational, spiritual and medical realms.  Wikipedia, Praxis

In other words, praxis is the end result of observation, study, and thinking. It is doing.  It can be action oriented towards changing societal norms and values. Or it can be action to defend the status quo against factions desiring change.  Endless discussions on the virtues of capitalism vs. socialism are fine, but movement towards or against one or the other can only come about via mobilization of armies of volunteers, financial supporters, and strategists.  Praxis is exemplified by mobilizers such as the Tea Party or MoveOn and the Koch brothers or George Soros.

Civil Society

What we can do, for the moment, is to fix two major superstructural “levels”: the one that can be called “civil society”, that is the ensemble of organisms commonly called “private”, and that of “political society” or “the State”. These two levels correspond on the one hand to the function of “hegemony” which the dominant group exercises throughout society and on the other hand to that of “direct domination” or command exercised through the State and “juridical” government. The functions in question are precisely organisational and connective. The intellectuals are the dominant group’s “deputies” exercising the sub-altern functions of social hegemony and political government.  Archive.org, Antonio Gramsci, Selections from the Prison Notebooks

In summary, civil society lives by consent, while the State ensures by force the continuation of consent. Intellectuals function as the principal manufacturers of consent.  Academics are the foot soldiers that help either preserve the status quo or generate fresh value systems from which new hegemony arises.  Civil society is the battleground that gives rise to hegemony.

The International Gramsci Society, until recently presided by the late literary scholar Joseph Buttigieg (father of Rhodes-scholar and Mayor of South Bend, Peter Buttigieg, a presidential candidate in the 2020 U.S. elections), is one of many societies developing the socialist/Marxist consensual hegemony within today’s civil society.

Gransci meetingPictured lecturer:  Marcus E. Green, Phd, Pasadena City College, author of several Gramsci-related essays and secretary of the International Gramsci Society.

Gramsci’s Other Concepts

Antonio Gramsci discussed several other important concepts, many of which we can clearly see playing out today. Here are three:

Organic intellectuals: Scholars, artists, and functionaries (administrators, bureaucrats, industrial managers, and politicians) that identify with the economic structure of their society more than traditional intellectuals. Thus, organic intellectuals are more able to spread organic ideology, since their communication is with structures they identify as their own. Our representatives in the U.S. Congress are good examples of organic intellectuals; they identify with today’s penchant for kicking the can of the obviously unsustainable national debt down the road, and their ideological hegemony persists.

War of Position: Struggle against the existing hegemonic system is necessary for the establishment of a new system. The war to establish a dominant position must be waged on all three levels of society – economic, political and cultural. The current thrashing about between the administrative and legislative arms of our federal government should go down in history as a quintessential war of position.

Organic Crisis: Differs from ordinary financial, economic, or political crises. It encompasses an entire system that is no longer able to generate social consensus because the system’s ruling classes are unable to resolve conflicts. Organic crisis appears when, as Antonio Gramsci describes in his Prison Notebooks, “the old is dying and the new cannot be born.” Has the U.S. reached that point yet?

Venezuela, The Neocons are Back!

Yes, the neocons are back, and as matter of fact they were never far away from power through think-tanks like the Council on Foreign Relations or the Heritage Foundation. Monthly Review Online, 02/19/19.

Elliott Abrams 2Elliott Abrams, a controversial neoconservative figure who was entangled in the Iran-Contra affair, has been named as a Trump administration special envoy overseeing policy toward Venezuela, which has been rocked by a leadership crisis.  Politico, 01/25/19.

The United States has a clear objective in Venezuela: regime change and the restoration of democracy and the rule of law. Yet sanctions, international diplomatic isolation, and internal pressure have failed to deliver a breakthrough. Minds are turning to military intervention. U.S. President Donald Trump has said that “all options are on the table.  Foreign Affairs, 03/19/19.

Iterations of Interventionists

Neoconservatives, or neocons, are the hawkish rightwing in the political spectrum. They are fond of regime change, spreading democracy, defending our interest abroad, and protecting oil.

This is not to say that U.S. interventionism or empire building started with the rise of the neocons in the 1960s. Far from it. Neocons just took over where previous iterations of interventionists left off.

Neocons are the liberal internationalists who endeavored to impose U.S. ideals where they saw such ideals lacking. They are the remnants of the Cold War. They are the revolutionaries of the 1960s who became disenchanted with what the liberalism of the day came to mean: hippies and the anti-war protests. Eventually they migrated to a solid hawkish camp and embraced regime change in whatever form.

Certainly there are those who wish to make fine distinctions between iterations of interventionists. But black ops, development aid, building civil society, hard power, and military force all aim toward the same objective – takeover of a sovereign nation.

The U.S., of course, is not alone in its quest for hegemony. Cultural, economic, and military conquest has existed since the beginning of time. Today, as always, superpowers vie with one another as to who can dominate the most people. But here we focus on Venezuela and the U.S. track record in Latin America. Will U.S. taxpayers be once again on the hook for another questionably imperative neocon adventure?

U.S. Intervention in Latin America

Before the Middle East was all the news, there was Latin America. Now, after Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and Syria, the U.S. is pivoting towards Venezuela. A look at the U.S. track record in Latin America since the 1960s would give us a rough idea of how useful an intervention in Venezuela would be.

* Fidel Castro’s economic and military alliance with the Soviet Union displeased President John F. Kennedy. In 1961 the U.S. backed an invasion of Cuba intended to overthrow Castro. The “Bay of Pigs Invasion” failed and Castro continued in power.

* When President of Brazil Janio Quadros resigned in 1961 after seven months in office, his vice president Joao Goulart assumed the presidency over the objections of the military, who feared Goulart’s left-leaning tendencies. In 1964 Goulart was overthrown in a U.S.-backed coup, which installed a military authoritarian government that lasted until the 1980s.

* Before and after the election of Marxist President Salvador Allende of Chile, the CIA worked diligently first to prevent Allende from getting elected and then to promote a coup to remove him from office. The CIA succeeded when in 1973 troops led by General Augusto Pinochet overthrew Allende. Pinochet ruled as president of a repressive authoritarian state for the next 17 years.

* In 1979 left-leaning Sandinistas took power in Nicaragua, and were not interested in U.S. influence. The Ronald Reagan administration mounted a covert operation whereby the U.S. would sell arms to Iran, so Iran could continue its war with Iraq, and the money generated from the arms sale would finance the Contras opposition to the Sandinistas. The Sandinistas remained in power for the next decade, while the Regan administration suffered accusations of illegal foreign operations.

* Manuel Noriega was a long-standing CIA informer who became President of Panama. In 1989, the U.S. invaded Panama and arrested Noriega. U.S. President George H.W. Bush cited the need to safeguard the lives of U.S. citizens living in Panama, defend democracy and human rights, combat drug trafficking, and protect the integrity of the Panama Canal Treaties. This incident marked the first time the U.S. arrested, tried and convicted the leader of a sovereign nation.

* Haiti’s duly elected President Jean-Bertrand Aristide was deposed in 1991 by a military coup headed by Lieutenant-General Raoul Cédras. Aristide appealed to the Organization of American States and the United Nation’s Security Council. After many attempts at negotiation with Cedras, in 1994 the U.N. Security Council authorized member states to form a multinational force to use all necessary means to restore Aristide to his post as President of Haiti. A U.S.-led invasion of Haiti did just that. In 2004, Jean-Bertrand Aristide was deposed again. U.N. Missions are still in Haiti.

* Starting in the 1890s U.S.-based banana companies established vast plantations in Honduras, transforming the country into the quintessential Banana Republic. Militarization as a result of the U.S. using Honduras as a base to fight the Nicaraguan Sandinistas added to the country’s problems. In 2005 left-leaning Manuel Zelaya was elected President of Honduras. He attempted liberal reforms and relations with Cuba, and was overthrown by a military coup in 2009, in which the U.S. remained tacit. Today, the dire situation in Honduras contributes to thousands of asylum seekers to flood U.S. borders.

It’s not surprising then that the rising and pervasive violence and deep economic insecurity in Honduras and the region has resulted in unprecedented numbers of refugees and migrants fleeing to seek safety and security. The awful irony is that many must seek that shelter in a country that has in no small part contributed over the course of decades to the rapidly deteriorating conditions from which they are fleeing – and that is overtly unwelcoming and hostile.  Eight Years After the Coup in Honduras The Struggle Continues, Center for Constitutional Rights, 06/28/17

So, Does Intervention Work?

From the U.S. track record in Latin America (and the Middle East), one might question the long term effects of military intervention. Thousands suffered at the hands of right-wing autocrats like Augusto Pinochet because such leaders were deemed by the U.S. preferable to left-leaning reformers. Thousands suffer today in Haiti, Honduras, and Venezuela. Relatively stable nations like Brazil and Panama are plagued by extreme inequalities of opportunity.

Maybe the Donald Trump Administration should engage in a reality check before intervening in Venezuela.