Archive for the ‘Economy’ Category

This is a reprint of one of my old posts from June 3, 2009.  It has more relevance today, thanks to the exposure that the new documentary film “Battle for Brooklyn” is finally bringing to this horrible tale of eminent domain abuse, after all the years that so many in that community toiled to tell it.

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acorn-ratnerAmidst the coverage of ACORN for allegations of voter registration fraud, the Rathke embezzlement scandal, the ACORN-8 civil lawsuit and Justice Department complaint, controversy over Project Vote and alleged misuse of the Obama donors list, and most recently ACORN’s role in the upcoming Census in 2010, there lies a lesser told tale of controversy, conflict and allegation. Correction: it’s a feverishly told tale, at least in New York, but one largely ignored, perhaps because the very checks and balances that are supposed to be in place to expose allegations of impropriety apparently fall by the wayside when the media itself becomes part of the story (allegedly…).

This is a long, complex story that has many twists and turns, and many angles (angles that, quite frankly, I’d consider more important than the one I’m going to cover here). This is a compartmentalized version of a broader story, and will focus primarily on its relevance to ACORN.

On December 10, 2003, one of the most ambitious real estate development projects in the history of Brooklyn was announced, a project that would later unfold into layers of conflict and speculated corruption, and be considered by many to be “the most controversial project ever in New York.”

The Atlantic Yards project, an endeavor of high-profile real estate developer Bruce Ratner and his Forest City Ratner companies, is a 22-acre mixed-use commercial and residential development project that cuts through the neighborhoods of Prospect Heights and Park Slope in Brooklyn, NY.   To understand how deep the personal impacts would be, you need to understand the area and the development plan.

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In Hastings, Pennsylvania, an old coal mining area, Marcellus Shale is an important component of local commerce.  The  sedimentary rock is in fact a very familiar part of the entire region’s landscape, where you can drive for miles and miles alongside cliff faces that look almost as though someone cut through the mountains with a serrated knife.  Through the slice were all the once thriving coal mining towns that used to scatter the Pennsylvania mountainside.  These alien-looking areas of Pennsylvania, while few of them coal mining spots anymore, are now some of the most promising natural gas resources this side of the country.  With the rising prices of gas, the environmental stronghold over coal, and the recent increase in political hostility toward oil, many are turning to natural gas to fill a void.  In 2008, there were 52 active permits for natural gas drilling in Cambria County alone, as drillers began courting landowners for access.  And in 2011, as towns like Hastings struggle to create jobs in a down economy, some are relying upon natural gas to create those jobs.

Well…not SEIU, apparently.  The union has teamed up with environmentalists in the area to start harassing the natural gas companies.  They’ve scheduled a protest to demand that these evil drillers pay their fair share!  Only – there’s one small problem.  The place that SEIU selected to protest?  Yeah…not actually a Marcellus drilling location.

When union workers and environmental activists picked a Hastings-area site to protest inaction on a Marcellus Shale severance tax, they made one mistake.

Marcellus activity isn’t occurring within miles of it.

Service Employees International Union officials issued an apology Monday, saying they mistakenly set up their protest Thursday – and a makeshift tollbooth asking the industry to pay its fair share – next to a surface well property that has been around for years and isn’t set up for shale drilling.

“There is no Marcellus Shale drilling on that property, and we’ve contacted the property owners and apologized. It was a mistake, and there was no malice intended even when we thought it was a Marcellus well,” said Neil Bhaerman, a SEIU Healthcare spokesman. “It was an honest mistake that we are going to take extra care to ensure never happens again.”

The union, with environmental officials and area parents, set up protests at three western Pennsylvania sites Thursday to urge for the shale drilling industry to pay its fair share.

Bhaerman said local workers from an area nursing home told them about an apparent drilling site near Third Avenue, just outside of Hastings, and the union didn’t do enough homework on it.   Read the full article.

Imagine that.  The union didn’t do their homework.

I seem to recall that when SEIU protested at ESSA Bank & Trust in East Stroudsburg because of their dispute with Pocono Medical Center, they hadn’t done their homework then, either.

Because while they thought they were intimidating the bank president Gary Olson, who also happens to be chairman of the hospital’s board of directors, they weren’t aware of the fact that Olson has zero authority over any labor issues at the medical center.  He himself has said,  “the union members wouldn’t benefit by targeting me. I’m a volunteer director who was elected chair of the board and am not involved in any union negotiations.”   They didn’t exactly do their homework then, either.  And they still continue to harass the same individual.

The union has  been embroiled in a dispute with the hospital over the issue of a prior vote to make union membership voluntary and  the “closed shop” clause in workers’ contracts, a detail the union vehemently opposes.  SEIU wants to continue to force workers to join their union.

“…local workers from an area nursing home told them about an apparent drilling site near Third Avenue.”

Chances are the bad tip mentioned above came from other workers at the nearby Golden LivingCenter-Haida (GLC-Haida), a nursing home on Third Avenue represented by SEIU Healthcare PA, though this hasn’t been confirmed.  The nursing home is part of a well-known chain of facilities in Cambria County, statewide across Pennsylvania, and nationwide.  GLC workers on the eastern side of the state in East Stroudsburg, PA have participating in the actions against Pocono Medical Center.

Funny how all these supposedly random little occurrences all seem to be connected all the time, isn’t it?

by Liberty Chick

On his Wednesday show, Adam Carolla interviewed Andrew Breitbart to discuss Andrew’s new book, Righteous Indignation.  Let me assure you, you’ll LOVE this duo. Andrew’s been a guest on Carolla’s show before, but this was hands down the most entertaining so far.

Click for Audio:  http://www.mrctv.org/embed/101762

Check out some of the comments from Carolla’s regular listeners – not surprisingly, some aren’t exactly Breitbart fans (which makes it that much more enjoyable for me, at least).

Carolla tackled topics with Andrew on just about everything – from Righteous Indignation to Communism, the Left’s Racist meme, the racket of building permits and greenwashing, and unions, just to name a few.  And a whole lotta LA, which, as Andrew illustrates for us, ain’t what is used to be.  The two were on such a rant roll over our waning freedoms, Carolla, who has described himself as having libertarian leanings, almost sounded like another grassroots activist.  Who knows? Sounds like he may just have a bit of Presidential appeal.  Andrew certainly thought so!

“By the way, are you aware that the Republican Party has nobody running for the presidency right now, and if you had put that out there by mistake and people heard that, and that was your spiel, you would have gone up to Donald Trump level, you would have gone up to 17%?”

Oh yeah – Carolla’s also not a big fan of Maxine Waters.  Not. At. All.  Which reminds me, this audio is NSFW.

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Apparently, the Big Labor-related death threats aren’t limited to Wisconsin.  Or to lawmakers.

This following email is just in from our friends at The Mackinac Center for Public Policy:

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“The Mackinac Center for Public Policy received numerous death threats and bomb threats in the aftermath of national publicity about a Freedom of Information Act request it sent to three public universities.

The messages were left on the Center’s voice mail Thursday night and early Friday morning, but it is unclear at this point if one or two women were responsible for the threats.

Mackinac Center President Joseph Lehman said the Mackinac Center has contacted law enforcement about the threats.

“We, along with the authorities, are doing everything necessary to protect ourselves,” Lehman said. “No threats will prevent us from showing the public how universities spend tax dollars.”

There were five messages left containing death or bomb threats. Four of them appear to be from the same caller. A fifth message was from a woman who left a death threat and, unlike the previous caller, left her name and indicated she lived in a neighboring state. It was unclear if the second caller was the same as the first caller.

A female voice said:

“Scotty Walker is dead. So are you. We know where you live.” The woman then recited the Mackinac Center’s address and said, “We are coming up to destroy you.”

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State public employees protested today in Wisconsin against Governor Scott Walker’s proposal to help close an immediate $137 million budget shortfall and a two-year budget at $3.6 billion beginning on July 1st.  Under Walker’s plan, state employees would:

  • Contribute 5.8% toward pension funds
  • Contribute 12.6% to health care premiums
  • See pay increases capped at the rate of inflation; however, larger increases may be voted upon via voluntary referendum
  • No longer have union dues automatically deducted from their paychecks, as they’ll gain the ability to opt out of paying union dues (once current contracts expire)
  • Lose some collective bargaining rights:  State government cannot currently touch any elements of the public sector union contracts in an effort to make budget adjustments; therefore, reducing some elements of collective bargaining such as hours and expanded benefits (those outside of health/pension) will give the state more flexibility in the future to reduce spending without being forced to cut jobs or enforce any furloughs.   Police, fire and various emergency/safety workers would be exempt from this provision.

Apparently, that triggered the Myan Apocalypse.  Or maybe Woodstock.  I can’t really tell the difference.

As you can imagine, Democratic allies flipped out.  Organizing for America and the Democratic National Party got right to work, ginning up the rhetoric beyond what the plan really entails and organizing the protests for this week, including many that closed schools all across the state.

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[original post 11/21/2010]

It’s one of the most beautiful times of the year in the lovely Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania, when the trees are gorgeous hues of crimson and gold, and the sweet smell of hot apple cider is in the brisk autumn air.  As you walk in and out of little village colonials and saltbox houses donning  fall mums and pumpkins on their porches, you’re hit with that waft of burning fireplace aroma – the sort of scene that gives you that comfy feeling of peace and contentment.

But turn the corner and that picturesque scene is disrupted by a tiny sea of purple t-shirts and angry faces.  Yep, you got it – it’s the SEIU!   And they’re not in the holiday spirit, apparently.

Pocono Medical Center, a mid-sized, not-for-profit community hospital nestled in the Pocono Mountains near East Stroudsburg University, has been in SEIU’s crosshairs for months.  The union has been demanding a closed shop at the hospital, despite the desires of other workers, and has since made it the crux of its contract negotiations. They were out protesting last week, making their demands known.  (Not many from Pocono Medical Center participated in the protest, so they resorted to recruiting some nearby friends to join them).

For those not familiar with what a “closed shop” is in union terms, this means that all of those employees would be required to be a member of the union and to pay union dues as a condition of employment.

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[original post 9/11/2010]

In the six days that followed the attacks on September 11th, the New York Stock Exchange was closed for the first and longest time ever since the Great Depression and World War I.  The markets would reopen on September 17th, but to quite a rocky start.  During the immediate aftermath of the attacks, the heartbeat of our nation’s economy stopped, suspended in time.  And a forgotten class of Wall Street workers faced the difficult decision of whether or not to return to work. Those who did would return to a completely different world, one that had already changed them forever.  And today, nine years later, many of them are still there.  In a polarized political environment where the bad behavior of a few has unfairly demonized all of Wall Street’s workers, their contributions to our post-9/11 recovery have been largely ignored.  But had these workers made the choice back in 2001 never to return again, what might have happened?  This is one story, out of many, of the courage, determination and dignity of an entire class of forgotten patriots who stood by their country in the aftermath of September 11th, 2001 when it would have been so easy to simply walk away.

 

Nine years ago, my brother Will was working for a Wall Street brokerage firm just steps away from what is now known as Ground Zero.  His office building overlooked Trinity Church on one side and the World Trade Center on the other.  Just on the other side of the river, near his home in Hoboken, NJ, he boarded the PATH train every day, bound for the bustling station at the World Trade Center.  Like so many others, he went to work on September 11th thinking that day would be just like any other.

Just before 8:46 am as Will was settling into his day with his co-workers, a loud, screeching sound of shearing metal boomed just outside their building.  He looked up at the trading desk manager, and both were stunned.  Will thought it might be a high rise construction accident; the desk manager suspected an explosion.

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[original post 4/28/2010]

I’m thinking SEIU may need to hire itself a new communications consulting firm.  Am I the only one confused by this messaging conflict?

To protest Illinois state budget cuts, thousands (which in lefty stats must mean 10, as in ten people) took to the steps of Illinois’ state capitol building, demanding the Governor shut down the state house.  They chanted, “Shut it Down Now. Shut it Down Now”.

Then, at the same protest, they marched and chanted outside, “Save Our State.  Save Our Schools.”

I don’t know which it is they’d like the Governor to do – shut down the state, or save it?

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[original post 4/22/2010]

As you know, we’ve been writing for some time about The Center for Community Self-Help and its financing affiliates Self-Help Credit Union, Self-Help Federal Credit Union, and Self-Help Ventures Fund.  As of late, the organization has been under increased scrutiny for its questionable lobbying activities, its former leader and soon to be CFPA Czar Eric Stein, and  its $15 million donation from disgraced hedge fund billionaire John Paulson.

According to the Self Help website, the organizations “provide financing, technical support, consumer financial services, and advocacy for those left out of the economic mainstream.”  Within that complex web of entities under the Self-Help umbrella exists about forty or so real estate development projects.  I thought it might be a productive exercise to start looking into some of Self-Help’s individual properties.

So, I started with Barr Building, LLC, a Self-Help investment registered under its affiliate Self Help Ventures Fund.  The property is located at 910 17th Street NW, Washington, DC.

And wouldn’t you know, it happens to be home to one of our most frequent subjects:

The Service Employees International Union (SEIU).

SH-seiu-office

This seemed especially curious, because it was only recently I’d discovered that SEIU, together with the AARP, is also the proud funder and agitator for one of the Center for Responsible Lending’s other advocacy projects – its state-specific lobbying websites targeted at regulating short-term loans in an effort to insulate its own predatory practices from any private industry competition.  For example, take a look at this site, from Arizonans for Responsible Lending.  It’s chock filled with all of the usual SEIU corporate campaign elements:  the menacing title and domain name, the array of photos depicting abused consumers who simply could not have known any better, the manufactured headlines, and of course – the staple of their strategy – the studies and the research (all funded and conducted by their own organization allies).

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[original post 4/20/2010]

Last week, in CFPA Czar or Fox in the Hen House? You Decide, I brought you more details about the people and structure of the ACORN-esque Center for Responsible Lending (CRL) and the Center for Community Self Help (CCSH) as part of a series of pieces we’ve been writing about the financial crisis and the proposed Consumer Financial Protection Agency (CFPA).

paulson

The importance of the pieces in this series cannot be understated.  As Congress faces down a massive power-grabbing partisan financial reform bill this week, it seems to have lost sight of many of the causes of the financial crisis in the first place.  While we hear about the exemptions in the bill of institutions like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the stories we’ve been covering on CRL and CCSH further illustrate the dangers of unchecked entities and a government with too much intervention and far too much power.

At the peak of the subprime mortgage boom and the subsequent financial crisis, primary donors to CRL and CCSH basked in billions of dollars in pure profit, thanks in large part to that very intervention and power.

Next, we’re going to introduce you to the questionable lobbying activities of this complex organization.  But before we do, let’s review a few pertinent details from our previous posts about this organization:

  • John Paulson is the largest single donor to the Center for Responsible Lending.  Paulson owns one of the world’s largest hedge funds, and most recently, the SEC has alleged “that Paulson & Co. paid Goldman Sachs to structure a transaction in which Paulson & Co. could take short positions against mortgage securities chosen by Paulson & Co. based on a belief that the securities would experience credit events.”
  • Herb and Marion Sandler are the second largest donors to CRL, and together with Paulson appear to comprise the majority of the organization’s funding.  The couple owned GoldenWest Financial/World Savings bank, before selling it for over $2 billion to Wachovia, which tanked shortly thereafter
  • Eric Stein, who once worked for Fannie Mae (an institution currently exempt from regulation in the financial reform bill), was also the longtime leader of CRL and Sr. Vice President of CCSH.  Today, Stein sits in Obama’s Treasury Department in charge of crafting the current financial reform legislation and the new Consumer Financial Protection Agency (CFPA).

Now, onto the lobbying.

A complaint that was filed with the House, Senate, and the IRS alleges that CRL, CCSH, and its vast network of non-profit and for-profit companies may have committed serious violations of the Lobbying Disclosure Act (LDA) and the Honest Leadership in Open Government Act (HLOGA).  The complaint was filed in the Fall of 2009 by the Consumers Rights League.

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