Friday, August 19, 2016

AFFH. admission of stealth caught on video

AFFH: Admission of Stealth Caught on Video

 by STANLEY KURTZ June 15, 2015 9:40 AM 

How has the Obama administration’s radically transformative Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) regulation—released in preliminary form nearly two years ago—largely escaped public scrutiny until now? AFFH will dramatically undercut the independence of local governments, will mean significant population transfers across metropolitan areas, and will force densified development on suburbs and cities alike. Last week, by passing an amendment authored by Arizona Congressman Paul Gosar, House Republicans moved to starve the Department of Housing and Urban Development of the funds required to enforce the rule. Also, last week at a congressional hearing, HUD Secretary Julian Castro, widely touted as Hillary Clinton’s most likely vice-presidential running mate, was sharply questioned about AFFH by Utah Congresswoman Mia Love. If all that’s not news, what is? Yet the mainstream media has been missing in action on this issue since the preliminary version of AFFH was promulgated in July of 2013. Why? The answer is that President Obama understands how politically explosive AFFH is, and is at pains to enact it as quietly as possible. Meanwhile, a thoroughly biased and compliant press plays along. My 2012 book on Obama’s anti-suburban policies, Spreading the Wealth, highlighted several admissions of stealth by advocates and scholars sympathetic to the Obama administration. But that was three years ago, and a year before the initial draft of AFFH was released. So it’s helpful now to find a video confession by a sympathetic observer of the Obama administration’s policies to the effect that, when it comes to AFFH, stealth is the order of the day. 

The video in question is of a June 1, 2015 Brookings Institution event, “Place Opportunity and Social Mobility: What Now for Policy?” Brookings, by the way, is ground zero for the Obama administration’s anti-suburban “regionalist” policies. Brookings specialists help stock Obama’s HUD with pro-regionalist bureaucrats; and Brookings fellows help to build stealthily regionalist policies into Obama administration initiatives. Obama’s only serious public foray into urban-suburban issues during his first term came in an important 2009 Brookings Institution address that received virtually no press coverage. The June 1, 2015 Brookings event on “Place and Opportunity” was streamed on video by 30 officials at HUD and 9 officials from the Seattle Housing Authority, a national center of regionalist policies. The section of the video of particular interest comes in the form of a comment by event host, Brookings Fellow Richard Reeves, on remarks by panelist Margery Austin Turner. Turner, senior vice president for Program, Planning, and Management at the Urban Institute, is also a former deputy assistant secretary for research at HUD, and so (as Reeves points out) was addressing many of her former HUD colleagues online. What we’re seeing on video, then, is not an isolated opinion, but evidence of the state of mind of the core advocates and officials who shape the Obama administration’s housing policies. The key exchange comes between 1:21:08 and 1:23:59 on the video. In response to a question from Reeves about what “getting serious” about housing policy would mean, Turner cites AFFH, arguing that the rule could bring “incredibly important” changes to America. Slyly, she acknowledges that AFFH isn’t so much enforcing the original legal obligation to “affirmatively further fair housing,” as it is changing our understanding of what that obligation means. (In other words, AFFH is stretching a directive to prevent discrimination into a mandate for social engineering.) Turner then says that it would take decades for AFFH to fully transform society along the lines she desires. (I’d add that the rule won’t take nearly that long to gut local government in America.) What’s interesting is that when Turner finishes her discussion of AFFH by saying that the rule “sounds very obscure, but I think it could be hugely important,” Reeves breaks in and says: “Perhaps it’s important to keep [the AFFH rule] sounding obscure in order to get it through.” (In other words, to get the AFFH rule enacted before public opposition and congressional Republicans can block it, we’ve got to keep its existence and importance quiet.) At this point, the audience laughs sympathetically. Then Reeves adds: “Sometimes obscurity is the best political strategy, particularly in this area.” You don’t often see a direct admission by AFFH advocates that they are trying to fly under the political and media radar, but here it is—and at a Brookings event that Reeves himself emphasizes was being streamed by bureaucrats at HUD. Reeves clearly has no worries that his call for stealth might stir outrage from the 30 Obama administration officials listening in. Another revealing section of the video comes between 42:30 and 48:24 when we hear from Emily Badger, a staff writer at The Washington Post. Not only is Badger an enthusiastic advocate of precisely the sort of policies represented by AFFH, but she’s clearly aware of how politically awkward the topic is. So why won’t the mainstream press fairly report—or indeed report at all—on the sweeping ambitions of AFFH? If Badger is any indication, the press has refused to do its job because it is thoroughly on the side of AFFH’s advocates, and is complicit in their plans to keep this issue out of the public eye. Why wasn’t Reeves ashamed to call for keeping AFFH quiet, in front of a reporter for The Washington Post? And why didn’t Badger write a story, say, about the stealthy ways of AFFH supporters? Obviously, it’s because Badger is herself an advocate of AFFH, and holds that interest above her obligations as a reporter. It’s also notable that Margery Turner begins her remarks on AFFH by revealing that “any week now” HUD will promulgate the rule in its final form. (Remember, the panel was held on June 1, 2015.) This is consistent with the last week’s report in The Hill that AFFH is “due out this month.” Turner is an insider, so her prediction carries weight. A release toward the end of June, in the hopes that the July 4 holiday and summer vacation will dampen public attention, seems likely. (Or will the unexpected wave of publicity among conservatives over the past week frighten the Obama administration into yet another delay?) In any case, the lesson here is clear. Don’t take silence on the part of the media or the administration as an indication of how significant AFFH is. As Turner herself says, despite its apparent obscurity, AFFH is “incredibly important.” And when the mainstream press finally gets around to reporting on AFFH, treat them not as fair-minded observers, but as the advocates-in-reporters-clothing they are. Stanley Kurtz is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center. He can be reached at more at:



Black Lives Matter doesn't just inspire murder. It demands it.

I want to tell you five stories, each rather minor in itself. They lead, I hope, to a larger point.
First story. In 1992 I was attending a social gathering in Berkeley, California. The guests were largely white and middle class. I was especially fond of "Tom." Tom was a SNAG – a sensitive, New Age guy. I was confident that if I went to Tom with any problem, he'd say something compassionate and endearing, and then we'd both tear up and hug. Tom's ancestors had arrived in North America before the US was even a country. I'm a child of Eastern European, Catholic immigrants. Tom was economically comfortable. I was struggling. WASPs like Tom fascinate and intimidate me. I did feel that he had more of a right to be an American than a newcomer like myself. I deferred to Tom.
Our gathering was meant to be low-key and personal, not political. Tom was the first to speak. He spoke with authority. "I know this is not why we are gathered here today,'' he said – rather, he announced. We hushed and listened carefully. "I think we need to devote some time to talking about what is happening in Los Angeles. I know I really need to talk about this, and I'm sure others do, too."
We all nodded. We wanted to hear what Tom had to say.
In 1991, Rodney King led police on a high-speed chase. He had been drinking. By driving under the influence, he was breaking parole for a robbery conviction. Once police caught him, they beat him. The beating was captured on camera. In April, 1992, police officers were acquitted in the use of excessive force against King.
After news of the acquittal was announced, riots broke out in LA. Rioters targeted Korean immigrant shopkeepers. Latino-owned businesses were also targeted. There was armed struggle between shopkeepers and African American looters.
One of the grisliest moments occurred when white truck driver Reginald Denny was tortured by rioters. Denny's skull was fractured in ninety-one places. This was all broadcast via news helicopter.
The following happened a quarter century ago, but I can still see it in my mind's eye. I was seated across a table from Tom. Sun shone through a window behind him. Tom said, "I am so happy to see what is happening in LA. Finally, the people are rising up. I am with the people." Tom insisted that the riot was not a riot at all, but justifiable self-defense, no different from the American Revolution. Actually, morally superior, because the American Revolution was all about slavery and oppression of women.
Others in the room voiced approval.
My world cracked – or a previously existing crack widened, and would continue to widen. If Tom had announced that he had come from Mars, he would not have become more alien to me. Our friendship died at that moment.
Reginald Denny, an innocent working man, a truck driver, was all but martyred, merely for his skin color. Korean and Hispanic shopkeepers had left their home countries, labored dawn to dusk, scrimped and saved, put everyone in their family to work, and opened businesses in neighborhoods someone like Tom wouldn't even drive through. My heart was with the working man and the immigrant strivers. My anger was at those who hurt them. 
"But Tom. Reginald Denny wasn't a slave-owner. He was a truck driver. The Koreans and Hispanic shopkeepers just arrived in this country. You can't hold them accountable for slavery." I didn't say this out loud. I was frozen by shock and incomprehension.
Second story. In the early 1980s, I was a Peace Corps volunteer in Africa. "Melanie," one of my fellow Peace Corps volunteers, was a shy, slender woman. She wore oversize granny dresses and no make-up. She spoke so softly you had to lean forward to hear her. She was raped by a man who broke into her home as she slept. She was white; the rapist was African.
One of our fellow volunteers expressed regret that it "had to happen to a nice girl like Melanie" but "It's inevitable. Read Eldridge Cleaver." Cleaver had written of rape as an "insurrectionary act" against white supremacy. Use of the word "inevitable" rendered the rape as something like gravity. "Inevitable" removed all agency from the rapist. He had to rape Melanie, just as a dropped rock has to fall to earth. No decision-making or guilt is involved in gravity and other inevitable acts.
This attitude nauseated me. Melanie was sweet as a kitten; she had sacrificed the comfortable life her beauty and her Ivy League degree might have granted her, so that she could help poor children in Africa. No matter. She was white; her skin color trumped her individuality and rendered her merely a drop of water in a wave of white supremacy.
Rumors flew – rumors that I heard but cannot verify – that Peace Corps had threatened Melanie with financial penalties if she spoke about the rape or even sought medical or psychological treatment that might draw attention to it. Peace Corps didn't want anyone tarnishing the glowing recruitment posters of volunteers gaily interacting with grateful "host country nationals." The New York Times and the Daily Beast would eventually cover similar accounts of Peace Corps' mistreatment of victims and cover-ups of rapes.
Third story. In October, 1995, I was shopping in Bloomingfoods, a health-food co-op in Bloomington, Indiana. Suddenly one of the clerks, a very pretty white girl, a Hoosier and an IU student, began dancing, clapping her hands, and hugging her coworker, a bearded young man. She told me she was celebrating the news: O. J. Simpson had just been found not guilty of the murder of his ex-wife Nicole Brown and a waiter, Ron Goldman. She was ecstatic that a black man had beaten the white racist American system.
Fourth story. In 1994, I was a grad student at Indiana University. I received word that my father was dying. I told my boss. She said I could not leave; she was about to host an important conference and she needed me to type up the programs. I did leave, and missed four workdays. I returned. My boss began to harass me. I reported the harassment to a dean. The dean asked me to testify against my boss. An IU official, "She is a psychopath. She ruins people. Everyone is afraid to come forward because she is a black woman and everyone is afraid of being called a racist or a sexist."
My father had just died. I was on a new campus, taking a full load of graduate classes, and reporting to regular meetings with the most important officials on campus, to repeat, again and again, ugly events that wounded me greatly.
When I spoke of this with friends, they immediately expressed sympathy – for the professor. "Amanda" said, "Well, you know, back in slavery days, they didn't get to take time off when their father died." More than one campus official said to me, "Yes, I know she does things she shouldn't do. But we need diversity on this campus, and you people should keep your mouths shut." Please note the plural: "you people." This campus official knew that this woman had harmed others. And we should all keep our mouths shut, for the sake of "diversity."
One final story.
On July 7, 2016, a Black Lives Matter supporter murdered five police officers in Dallas, Texas. One victim, Patrick Zamarripa, was an Iraq war veteran. His Mexican mother spoke of his death in Spanish to Telemundo.
I mourned Patrick Zamarripa's death on Facebook.
"Max," a Facebook friend who is a well-to-do white male, would have none of it. "White supremacists have been fomenting race war for centuries. Perhaps you didn't notice. But then it's only race war if the darkies object," Max wrote. "Police brutality" was responsible for the Dallas deaths. Officer Zamarripa was part of a "race war" against black people, possibly motivated by "subconscious bias."
What do all these stories have in common? In all of them, people who happened to be black did bad things. If the perpetrators in these stories had been white, we would have no problem identifying their acts as evil, hurtful, anti-social, and possibly pathological. We would face no public censure for sympathizing with the victims of these acts. We would not say, "Melanie is a lovely person and it's horrible that she was raped, but…." There would be no "but."
Tom, the Peace Corps higher-ups, the Bloomingfoods clerk, Amanda and Max all have a few things in common. All are very unlikely to be targets of violent crime. Tom lived in the Berkeley Hills, where the median home price is over a million dollars. The country directors in Peace Corps lived within a compound surrounded by a ten feet high wall topped with razor wire; they were accompanied by twenty-four-hour security. The Bloomingfoods clerk was a hippie Hoosier, growing up in one of the whitest, most rural, and lowest crime areas of the country. Amanda and Max are both white-collar professionals.
I think they have a few more features in common, as well. I think they see America as a land polluted by ineradicable sin. Please note use of the word "sin" and not "error." Please note the word "polluted," not "flawed." I think, unconsciously, these good white liberals see human sacrifice as the best expiation for America's polluted state.
Human sacrifice used to be practiced worldwide. Humans recognized that there was something just not right about existence on planet earth. Worms eat apples. Hail destroys crops. Deformities mar newborns. All life's glorious miracles that hint at perfection are tainted with something from which we recoil. Rather than discovering, and addressing, the factual cause of wormy apples, societies the world over applied pre-approved myths to their woes. Some predictable villain did some predictable bad thing. A ritual, including human sacrifice, would set things to right. A proffered human life would temporarily propitiate the powers that be, and the survivors could enter a grace period.
In modern times, human sacrifice in the classic sense is regarded with disdain, but analogous behaviors have certainly erupted. The 15th – 18th century witch craze was promulgated by agricultural communities beset by the Little Ice Age, crop price increases, the wars of Reformation, and plague. The burning witch was meant to purify and restore the community to previous norms of fecundity and order. It shocks people, but it really shouldn't – the Roman Catholic Inquisition played a significant role in ending the witch craze. Priests like Friedrich Spee and Alonso de Salazar Frías recognized that the witch craze violated authentic Christian theology.
Some interpret Islamic honor killing as a form of human sacrifice. A fragile, mythical commodity – a family's honor – is damaged when a female has unsanctioned contact with a male. Only her blood, spilt when a family member murders her, can ritually "cleanse" the non-existent substance, family honor.
Who was chosen for human sacrifice? Those without power. Typical victims included children, slaves, and war captives. When reports of human sacrifice emerge from modern-day India, victims are often Dalits, or untouchables, the lowest, most disempowered caste.
Note that there is no record of a permanently efficacious human sacrifice, no "once for all time and never again" sacrifice, unless you want to include Jesus' crucifixion. In all other human sacrifice, the world is never set right for any longer than a ritually determined cycle of time. When that period has run its course, the ritual must be repeated. Ritual time never moves forward on a linear trajectory. It always moves in circles. The past is never released or transcended. There is no progress.
That human sacrifice was so widespread indicates how deeply it reflects the "logic" of the human mind. The logic of human sacrifice is completely divorced from actual facts and cause and effect. Human sacrifice occupies a space that completely rejects any real attention to real facts and real potential solutions.
The process worked like this. People encountered a stimulus that disturbed them. If a cow went dry in Early Modern Europe, the solution would be to burn the next door neighbor, a poor and isolated elderly beggar woman whom no one liked. Everyone knew that the post-menopausal woman's barrenness could infect cows and make them go dry. Everyone knew that when a poor person gazed upon those with good fortune, the envy in their "evil eye" sucked out good fortune. When a boy disappeared in Kielce, in post-war Poland, the solution was to stone Jews to death – after all, everyone knew that Jews make their matzah from Christian children's blood.  See full story HERE

Why Rent Control Hurts Renters

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Will The Supreme Court End New York's Rent Control Laws?

New transportation funding plan calls for gas tax hike of 17 cents per gallon

New transportation funding plan calls for gas tax hike of 17 cents per gallon

Vehicles pass a highway construction site on Interstate 80 in Sacramento last year. (Associated Press)

Two Democratic lawmakers unveiled a $7.4-billion transportation plan late Wednesday, the latest effort to break through a yearlong logjam over the state’s funding woes.

The plan, highlighted by an increase of 17 cents per gallon in the gas tax, comes from Assemblyman Jim Frazier (D-Oakley) and Sen. Jim Beall (D-San Jose) in an attempt to unify the disparate proposals the pair had previously introduced in their respective houses.

The combined plan is more than double Gov. Jerry Brown's $3.6-billion proposal, which calls for a 6-cent gas tax hike.

"We need to be able to have a big plan to be able to be effective and catch back up," Frazier said.

Last summer, Brown called a special session of the Legislature to highlight the $130-billion backlog in state and local road repairs, as well as the billions more in other transportation budget deficits. But lawmakers have made little progress, especially with gas tax hikes — which would require a bipartisan supermajority vote — on the table.

Republican lawmakers have previously shown little appetite for a tax increase, instead pitching a plan that would eliminate vacant state worker positionsand reallocate existing dollars — including from the state’s climate change programs — toward transportation spending.

Earlier this week, GOP assemblymembers renewed their efforts to focus on transportation funding, starting a social media campaign to highlight the hours Californians spend stuck in traffic each year.

With just two weeks left in the legislative session, Frazier said he was open to calling lawmakers back in a November lame-duck session to resolve transportation funding.

"If that's what it takes," he said.

Among other changes and aside from the 17-cents-per-gallon gas tax increase, which would be indexed to inflation, the Frazier-Beall plan also includes:
A diesel tax increase of 30 cents per gallon, also indexed to inflation
$165 annual fee for zero-emission vehicles
The creation of an Office of Transportation inspector general to oversee state spending
Greater environmental streamlining for repairing existing transportation infrastructure

Editor's Note: Looks like more dough is needed for bike trails, light rail and transit oriented development. Cough it up!

PLF challenges Marin County’s extortionate “affordable housing fee”

PLF challenges Marin County’s extortionate “affordable housing fee”

SAN RAFAEL, CA;  August 17, 2016: An elderly couple has sued Marin County for being forced to pay an extortionate “affordable housing fee” of nearly $40,000 for permission to split a roughly three-acre residential lot into two lots.  The land in unincorporated Marin County, north of San Rafael, has been in their family for more than 60 years and they split the lot to use the proceeds to build their long-planned family retreat.

Damien M. Schiff
Principal Attorney
In the challenge, filed this week in Marin County Superior Court, Dart and Esther Cherk of Mill Valley are represented by attorneys with Pacific Legal Foundation (PLF), a national property rights watchdog organization.  Donor-supported PLF represents the Cherks free of charge, as with all its clients.

At issue is a $39,960 fee the county imposed pursuant to Marin County Code Section 22.22.090 to fund “affordable housing.”  According to U.S. Supreme Court precedent, regulators may impose fees as a land use permit condition only to the extent they mitigate for some adverse public impact from the proposed land use project.  However, the Cherks’ lot split does not increase the need for affordable housing.

“Local governments are increasingly abusing the permit process to make unlawful demands of property owners while they are in a vulnerable position,” said Larry Salzman, a PLF attorney representing the Cherks.  “There is no connection between the Cherks’ lot split and the lack of affordable housing in Marin.  In fact, by increasing the supply of buildable lots in the area, the Cherks are doing their part to help solve the lack of housing here.”

Indeed, originally the Cherks sought permission to subdivide the parcel into four lots and create a project of genuinely affordable housing.  But without any interest or support from the county, ultimately the Cherks agreed to a plan of creating just two lots.  Yet the county still insisted on charging them the stiff affordable housing fee — which they paid under protest, having to take out a loan against their own house to raise the money.

An oppressive demand with no justification

“We are suing the county because its oppressive financial demand on the Cherks is a flagrant violation of their constitutional rights,” said PLF Principal Attorney Damien Schiff.  “The Supreme Court has said clearly and consistently that land use authorities cannot impose punitive conditions or demands for money that have no relationship to the proposed land use project.  In other words, the permit process cannot be used as a shakedown machine.

“The injustice to the Cherks was even worse,” Schiff added, “because the Cherks were dealt with more harshly than some other area landowners.  Even while the county was imposing a crushing financial demand on the Cherks, it was waiving the fee for some other property owners in the area who were also subdividing.  So we have the county violating Equal Protection guarantees as well as the Constitution’s safeguard for property rights.”

“I feel damaged”

“It’s very disappointing that the county resisted our initial subdivision plan for four lots, a plan that emphasized affordability,” said Mr. Cherk.  “But we had to go ahead with what they would permit — we couldn’t afford not to.  However, when they told us that the subdivision they would approve would require a $40,000 fee, it was a blow.  This was $40,000 that we didn’t have.  We were able to pay it only by going into the red.  Our house had been owned free and clear, but now we are in debt and under pressure to repay that debt, all because we had to raise the money to pay the county’s fee.  I feel damaged by this whole punishing process.”

The case is Cherk v. County of Marin.  More information, including the opening legal filing, avideo statementpodcast, and photos are available at:

About Pacific Legal Foundation
Donor-supported Pacific Legal Foundation (PLF) is the leading watchdog organization that litigates for limited government, property rights, and individual rights, in courts nationwide.  PLF represents all clients free of charge.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Cranial Metropolis - Sarah Longfield

Tim Kaine's Vision for the Future of Fair Housing

Tim Kaine's Vision for the Future of Fair Housing

The Democratic VP nominee shares his campaign’s plans to make housing more accessible and affordable to the full economic spectrum of Americans.

Chuck Burton/AP

Democratic vice-presidential candidate Senator Tim Kaine drew a bright line on Friday between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump on a subject important to pretty much every voter: housing. While Americans say that housing is as important an issue as other priorities, so far the subject hasn’t come up muchduring the campaign. That just changed.
As voters have come to learn, Kaine built his career as a lawyer in Richmond by pursuing fair-housing cases. As the former mayor of Richmond and former governor of Virginia, Kaine has experience examining the issues of fair and affordable housing from a variety of policy perches. He is uniquely qualified to talk about housing—perhaps more so than any candidate in recent years.
“A house is more than just a place to sleep. It's part of the foundation on which a family can build a life,” Kaine writes in an editorial published by CNN. “Where you live determines the jobs you can find, the schools your children can attend, the air you breathe, and the opportunities you have. And when you are blocked from living where you want, it cuts to the core of who you are.”
His editorial outlines the ways that a Clinton administration would work to make housing fairer and more affordable. Here’s a closer look at those policies, and what Americans should expect if Clinton wins the office.
Low Income Housing Tax Credits: The U.S. spends about $6 billion annually on LIHTCs, an indirect form of housing assistance. That Kaine lists it as the first line item in his housing memo might mean that that the Clinton administration thinks LIHTCs are the right tool for the job. The use of LIHTCs has increased steadily since the 1990s. Subsidizing housing by tax credits sometimes results in more segregated neighborhoods.
Rental assistance: Kaine’s editorial doesn’t go into detail about how Clinton’s administration would inject some life into federal housing assistance. But it’s needed: According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, growth in rental assistance has slowed dramatically. If present trends continue, federal housing-assistance spending would reach its lowest point in 40 years. Presumably, the Clinton plan for housing involves the Democratic Party winning control of the Senate, as it would take a sea change for Congress to pass another budget. Then, restoring housing choice vouchers to pre-sequester levels might be feasible.
The senator also mentions that the Democrats will help families choose from a wide range of neighborhoods to live in—a nod at fair housing and a campaign pledge that would likely mean embracing and implementing the Affordably Furthering Fair Housing standards set by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development under President Barack Obama.
Public housing authorities: Kaine is least clear when it comes to explaining how a Clinton administration would build more public housing. “We'll provide more resources to public-housing authorities, and pair these investments with broader economic development efforts,” he writes.
The needs of public housing have a figure attached to them: $46 billion. That’s the estimated capital backlog for the nation’s 1.1 million public housing units, nearly all of which were built before 1985. (That figure is climbing rapidly. In 2010 it was $26 billion; the costs grow by an average of $3.4 billion per year.)
Undoing the damage done by austerity will be the first order of business for a Clinton administration looking to boost spending on housing. But dialing back the Budget Control Act is not enough. Federal housing spending, in terms of direct rental assistance and public-housing maintenance, has been declining for decades.
First-time home-buyers: The Clinton administration wants to provide $10,000 in assistance on down payments for families looking to buy their first homes, a plan that would build off the popularity of the first-time homebuyer tax creditof 2008-2010. Of the housing efforts listed by Kaine, this one’s bound to be the most popular, since Americans of all income levels would be eligible to receive it (unless I misread him, the program is not means tested).
Giving Americans a one-time boost with their down payments might help launch millions of new households. Today, more than 50 percent of renters could afford mortgages, but still can’t afford to buy a home. Part of the reason for that may be that they simply lack the savings, especially in cities with rising housing prices.
Making the program available to any first-time home-buyers, regardless of income, means that it will serve as an enormous subsidy for middle-class and upper-class households—much like the mortgage-interest tax deduction, a $195 billion subsidy for better-off Americans. A progressive administration should look at ways to dial back regressive subsidies, not expand them.
Fair-housing laws: This is the real line between Clinton-Kaine and Trump-Pence. While both Clinton and Kaine spent the early part of their careers fighting discrimination, Trump built his empire on discrimination. From Kaine’s editorial:
Around this same time, if a woman like Lorraine attempted to rent an apartment from Trump's company, federal investigators were told that employees would have added a piece of paper to her rental application with the letter "C" on it. As the Department of Justice would later discover, "C" stood for "Colored."
The U.S. government brought a housing discrimination suit, challenging this racist and discriminatory practice, which took place across 39 Trump properties.
Kaine embraces the Fair Housing Act as an example of what government can and should do in people’s lives. While some of the Clinton administration’s plans for fulfilling these pledges have yet to be revealed, they do recognize that the nation is far from post-racial when it comes to housing.

Editor's Note : It looks like a Clinton-Kaine administration will INCREASE the favors for developers and the mission of HUD. The local taxpayers get stuck paying the developer costs for tax free development. It isn't "magic money". Someone pays the bill.

WikiLeaks' Assange - TPP Not Only Trade, 83% Is Fascists Controlling Our Daily Lives

Although this is not strictly about High Density Development, it has much to do with regionalism and the loss of local control. At the heart of the TPP is multinational corporate interests who seem to have been elevated to supra state citizens who are beholden to no locality or jurisdiction. Scary stuff. Cant wait for the full documents to come out. There is no place in a democratic society for secret agreements that even our representatives are restricted access to.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Today’s Tech Oligarchs Are Worse Than the Robber Barons

Today’s Tech Oligarchs Are Worse Than the Robber Barons

Yes, Jay Gould was a bad guy. But at least he helped build societal wealth. Not so our Silicon Valley overlords. And they have our politicians in their pockets.

A decade ago these guys—and they are mostly guys—were folk heroes, and for many people, they remain so. They represented everything traditional business, from Wall Street and Hollywood to the auto industry, in their pursuit of sure profits and golden parachutes, was not—hip, daring, risk-taking folk seeking to change the world for the better.
Now from San Francisco to Washington and Brussels, the tech oligarchs are something less attractive: a fearsome threat whose ambitions to control our future politics, media, and commerce seem without limits. Amazon, Google, Facebook, Netflix, and Uber may be improving our lives in many ways, but they also are disrupting old industries—and the lives of the many thousands of people employed by them. And as the tech boom has expanded, these individuals and companies have gathered economic resources to match their ambitions.
And as their fortunes have ballooned, so has their hubris. They see themselves as somehow better than the scum of Wall Street or the trolls in Houston or Detroit. It’s their intelligence, not just their money, that makes them the proper global rulers. In their contempt for the less cognitively gifted, they are waging what The Atlantic recently called“a war on stupid people.”
I had friends of mine who attended MIT back in the 1970s  tell me they used to call themselves “tools,” which told us us something about how they regarded themselves and were regarded. Technologists were clearly bright people whom others used to solve problems or make money. Divorced from any mystical value, their technical innovations, in the words of the French sociologist Marcel Mauss, constituted “a traditional action made effective.” Their skills could be applied to agriculture, metallurgy, commerce, and energy.
In recent years, like Skynet in the Terminator, the tools have achieved consciousness, imbuing themselves with something of a society-altering mission. To a large extent, they have created what the sociologist Alvin Gouldner called “the new class” of highly educated professionals who would remake society. Initially they made life better—making spaceflight possible, creating advanced medical devices and improving communications (the internet); they built machines that were more efficient and created great research tools for both business and individuals. Yet they did not seek to disrupt all industries—such as energy, food, automobiles—that still employed millions of people. They remained “tools” rather than rulers.
With the massive wealth they have now acquired, the tools at the top now aim to dominate those they used to serve. Netflix is gradually undermining Hollywood, just as iTunes essentially murdered the music industry. Uber is wiping out the old order of cabbies, and Google, Facebook, and the social media people are gradually supplanting newspapers. Amazon has already undermined the book industry and is seeking to do the same to apparel, supermarkets, and electronics.
Past economic revolutions—from the steam engine to the jet engine and the internet—created in their wake a productivity revolution. To be sure, as brute force or slower technologies lost out, so did some companies and classes of people. But generally the economy got stronger and more productive. People got places sooner, information flows quickened, and new jobs were created, many of them paying middle- and working-class people a living wage.
This is largely not the case today. As numerous scholars including Robert Gordon have pointed out, the new social-media based technologies have had little positive impact on economic productivity, now growing at far lower rates than during past industrial booms, including the 1990s internet revolution.
Much of the problem, notes MIT Technology Review editor David Rotman, is that most information investment no longer serves primarily the basic industries that still drive most of the economy, providing a wide array of jobs for middle- and working-class Americans. This slowdown in productivity, notes Chad Syverson, an economist at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, has decreased gross domestic product by $2.7 trillion in 2015—about $8,400 for every American. “If you think Silicon Valley is going to fuel growing prosperity, you are likely to be disappointed,” suggests Rotman.

One reason may be the nature of “social media,” which is largely a replacement for technology that already exists, or in many cases, is simply a diversion, even a source oftime-wasting addiction for many. Having millions of millennials spend endless hours on Facebook is no more valuable than binging on television shows, except that TV actually employs people.
At their best, the social media firms have supplanted the old advertising model, essentially undermining the old agencies and archaic forms like newspapers, books, and magazines. But overall information employment has barely increased. It’s up 70,000 jobs since 2010, but this is after losing 700,000 jobs in the first decade of the 21st century.
Tech firms had once been prodigious employers of American workers. But now, many depend on either workers abroad of imported under H-1B visa program. These are essentially indentured servants whom they can hire for cheap and prevent from switching jobs. Tens of thousands of jobs in Silicon Valley, and many corporate IT departments elsewhere, rent these “technocoolies,” often replacing longstanding U.S. workers.
Expanding H-1Bs, not surprisingly, has become a priority issue for oligarchs such as Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, and a host of tech firms, including Yahoo, Cisco Systems, NetApp, Hewlett-Packard, and Intel, firms that in some cases have been laying off thousands of American workers. Most of the bought-and-paid-for GOP presidential contenders, as well as the money-grubbing Hillary Clinton, embrace the program, with some advocating expansion. The only opposition came from two candidates disdained by the oligarchs, Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump.
Now cab drivers, retail clerks, and even food service workers face technology-driven extinction. Some of this may be positive in the long run, certainly in the case of Uber and Lyft, to the benefit of consumers. But losing the single mom waitress at Denny’s to an iPad does not seem to be a major advance toward social justice or a civilized society—nor much of a boost for our society’s economic competitiveness. Wiping out cab drivers, many of them immigrants, for part-time workers driving Ubers provides opportunity for some, but it does threaten what has long been one of the traditional ladders to upward mobility.
Then there is the extraordinary geographical concentration of the new tech wave. Previous waves were much more highly dispersed. But not now. Social media and search, the drivers of the current tech boom, are heavily concentrated in the Bay Area, which has a remarkable 40 percent of all jobs in the software publishing and search field. In contrast, previous tech waves created jobs in numerous locales.
By clicking "Subscribe," you agree to have read theTerms of Use and Privacy Policy
This concentration has been two-edged sword, even in its Bay Area heartland. The massive infusions of wealth and new jobs has created enormous tensions in San Francisco and its environs. Many San Franciscans, for example, feel like second class citizens in their own city. Others oppose tax measures in San Francisco that are favorable to tech companies like Twitter. There is now a movement on to reverse course and apply “tech taxes” on these firms, in part to fund affordable housing and homeless services. Further down in the Valley, there is also widespread opposition to plans to increase the density of the largely suburban areas in order to house the tech workforce. Rather than being happy with the tech boom, many in the Bay Area see their quality of life slipping and upwards of a third are now considering a move elsewhere.
Once, we hoped that the technology revolution would create ever more dispersion of wealth and power. This dream has been squashed. Rather than an effusion of start-ups we see the downturn in new businesses. Information Technology, notes The Economist, is now the most heavily concentrated of all large economic sectors, with four firms accounting for close to 50 percent of all revenues. Although the tech boom has created some very good jobs for skilled workers, half of all jobs being created today are in low-wage services like retail and restaurants—at least until they are replaced by iPads and robots.
What kind of world do these disrupters see for us? One vision, from Singularity University, co-founded by Google’s genius technologist Ray Kurzweil, envisionsrobots running everything; humans, outside the programmers, would become somewhat irrelevant. I saw this mentality for myself at a Wall Street Journal conference on the environment when a prominent venture capitalist did not see any problem with diminishing birthrates among middle-class Americans since the Valley planned to make the hoi polloi redundant.
Once somewhat inept about politics, the oligarchs now know how to press their agenda. Much of the Valley’s elite–venture capitalist John Doerr, Kleiner Perkins, Vinod Khosla, and Google—routinely use the political system to cash in on subsidies, particularly for renewable energy, including such dodgy projects as California’s Ivanpah solar energy plant. Arguably the most visionary of the oligarchs, Elon Musk, has built his business empire largely through subsidies and grants.
Musk also has allegedly skirted labor laws to fill out his expanded car factory in Fremont, with $5-an-hour Eastern European labor; even when blue-collar opportunities do arise, rarely enough, the oligarchs seem ready to fill them with foreigners, either abroad or under dodgy visa schemes. Progressive rhetoric once used to attack oil or agribusiness firms does not seem to work against the tech elite. They can exploit labor laws and engage in monopoly practices with little threat of investigation by progressive Obama regulators.
In the short term, the oligarchs can expect an even more pliable regime under our likely next president, Hillary Clinton. The fundraiser extraordinaire has been raising money from the oligarchs like Musk and companies such as Facebook. Each may vie to supplantGoogle, the company with the best access to the Obama administration, over the past seven years.
What can we expect from the next tech-dominated administration? We can expect moves, backed also by corporate Republicans, to expand H-1B visas, and increased mandates and subsidies for favored sectors like electric cars and renewable energy. Little will be done to protect our privacy—firms like Facebook are determined to limit restrictions on their profitable “sharing” of personal information. But with regard to efforts to break down encryption systems key to corporate sovereignty, they will defend privacy, as seen in Apple’s resistance to sharing information on terrorist iPhones. Not cooperating against murderers of Americans is something of fashion now among the entire hoodie-wearing programmer culture.
One can certainly make the case that tech firms are upping the national game; certain cab companies have failed by being less efficient and responsive as well as more costly. Not so, however, the decision of the oligarchs–desperate to appease their progressive constituents–to periodically censor and curate information flows, as we have seen atTwitter and Facebook. Much of this has been directed against politically incorrect conservatives, such as the sometimes outrageous gay provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos.
There is a rising tide of concern, including from such progressive icons as former Labor Secretary Robert Reich, about the extraordinary market, political, and culture power of the tech oligarchy. But so far, the oligarchs have played a brilliant double game. They have bought off the progressives with contributions and by endorsing their social liberal and environmental agenda. As for the establishment right, they are too accustomed to genuflecting at mammon to push back against anyone with a 10-digit net worth. This has left much of the opposition at the extremes of right and left, greatly weakening it.
Yet over time grassroots Americans may lose their childish awe of the tech establishment. They could recognize that, without some restrictions, they are signing away control of their culture, politics, and economic prospects to the empowered “tools.” They might understand that technology itself is no panacea; it is either a tool to be used to benefit society, increase opportunity, and expand human freedom, or it is nothing more than a new means of oppression.

Editor's Note:  Also, one could include NextDoor Neighborhoods,  who regularly censor people from utilizing the community forum in complete contempt of true neighborly democratic values.  Yours truly was expelled from nextdoor because of manipulations by a small but very vocal intolerant group of people with an authoritarian impulse.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Mark Levin: HUD mandates 'affordable housing' in affluent Baltimore suburbs.

How HUD is attempting to take over Westchester County

Astorino Explains HUD Takeover in Westchester

ASTORINO TOWN HALL--Rob Astorino explains how the federal government is attempting to take over housing in Westchester County.--Greenlawn, New York. July 13, 2014

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Happy Monday!

Count finds 40 percent increase in Marin homeless population

Count finds 40 percent increase in Marin homeless population

By Richard Halstead, Marin Independent Journal

POSTED: 08/15/15, 2:01 PM PDT | UPDATED: ON 08/15/201510 COMMENTS

A one-day count of Marin County’s homeless population in January found 1,309 homeless people ­— a 40 percent increase from the 933 homeless reported in 2013.

The federal government requires all jurisdictions receiving funding to aid the homeless to conduct a count every two years.

“I think it’s very telling,” said Cia Byrnes, director of Ritter Center in San Rafael, which provides services to the homeless and working poor. “Our affordable housing is shrinking and for a whole variety of reasons people are unable to afford housing. It’s a really tough situation out there.”

Heather Ravani, Marin County’s assistant director of Health and Human Services, said, “The lack of available housing and the astronomically rising rents in this county are not allowing even people with Section 8 vouchers to get housing. Rents are being increased, and people who are on fixed income are being pushed out.”

See story in the Marin IJ HERE

Neighbors of Low Barrier Homeless Shelter are sick of Drug Use, Prostitution and Crime in B.C.