The thrust [of the Berrien county courthouse] is to physically remove and destroy families through the use
of the criminal justice system. Every person they can put in jail; every person whose voting rights they can
revoke with a felony conviction; every person they can cause to lose their job by putting them on probation;
every person they can cause to lose the ability to pay for basic necessities through imposing ruinous court
costs and probation is all part of the process. In the 1960s, it was called Negro removal. In Bosnia, it was
called ethnic cleansing. It could be called genocide, the removal of the minority population for the purpose
of redevelopment of the land. That’s what’s happening in Benton Harbor and the foremost leader
of the resistance is Rev. Edward Pinkney. --Civil rights attorney, Hugh "Buck" Davis
Wednesday, February 27, 2008
Expediency asks the question, 'Is it politic?'
Vanity asks the question, 'Is it popular?'
But, conscience asks the question, 'Is it right?'
And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular but one must take it because one's conscience tells one that it is right." -Martin Luther
Saturday, February 23, 2008
Kalamazoo City Commissioner and Battle Creek Activist Convene Community Forum to Address Citizens’ Rights
Monday, February 25, 2008, from 5:30-7:30 pm at Macedonia Baptist Church, 636 W. Van Buren, Battle Creek, Michigan. The Forum is free and open to the community.
Panelist include: The Honorable Deborah Thomas, Wayne County Circuit Judge; Mark Fancher, Attorney ACLU Michigan; Bill Knapp, Director of Tri-County Labor Agency; E. Dorphine Payne , Criminal Defense Attorney; Wilson P. Tanner PLC of Ann Arbor, Michigan; and Brian H. White, Chair Power in the Hood Campaign, Detroit Michigan.
“This forum is not intended to solve or address any one particular case. This forum is designed to offer general principles so citizens can better know their rights to encourage more positive interactions with law enforcement officers that may avoid confrontation, minimize problems and lessen the likelihood of arrest,” says Commissioner Stephanie Moore.
Moderated by Battle Creek native and community activist Ms. Dorothy Young ; the goal of the Forum is to ensure accountability and increase trust and understanding between police and the community. The panel of experts will assist in sharing with the community the dos and the don’ts when it comes to dealing with law enforcement.
“I’m aware that a lot of good people are doing a lot of great things to make our community a safe, prosperous and productive community. This forum is just one way of building stronger bridges between citizens and police,” says Ms. Dorothy Young .
The Forum is co-sponsored by Phenix Concepts, the Battle Creek A. Philip Randolph Institute, ACLU of Michigan, the Power in the Hood Campaign and Commissioner Stephanie Moore.
Contact: Commissioner Stephanie Moore, 269 998-0336 / Stephny4@yahoo.com
Ms. Dorothy Young, 269 274-6129 / firstname.lastname@example.org
"Let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a mighty stream! Amos 5:24 niv
Wednesday, February 20, 2008
Pinkney saw another officer, deputy Hooks, carrying away his new mattress.....Why are these white jailers depriving him of his needed rest and taking away his reading material...a single source of great solace that enabled him to keep his spirits high despite sub standard conditions, poor food and minimal sanitation? Show us the law stating that inmates not be allowed to even read. These outrages must end. Racially motivated harassment must end. When will the federal gov. step in?
Berrien County Sheriff Paul Bailey (269) 983-7141
Jail (269) 983-7111 x7231
Gov. Granholm (517) 373-3400 (517) 335-7858
EXCELLENT 5 MIN. VIDEO: This video about the travails of a community fighting off a huge golf course is extremely interesting and very relevant to the current shenanigans in Berrien County: http://www.linktv.org/programs/golf
Tuesday, February 19, 2008
And once again, into the breach.
Or if Shakespeare (misquoted, yes, I know) is not your cup of tea, maybe you’ll accept Michael Corleone: “Just when I thought I was out . . . they pull me back in!”
Either would serve as an adequate battle cry as I, for the third time in recent weeks, embark upon a discussion of the relationship between African Americans and social conservatives. And for the third time, I do this at the request of a reader.
This one’s name is David and he’s in West Palm Beach. He’s read my reasoning on why black voters tend not to support social conservatives (social conservatives have never supported them) and he has a follow up question.
”Okay,” he writes, “I get it. But conservatives need to bridge the gap and wouldn’t it benefit African Americans to have two parties, not one, competing for their votes? So here’s my question: Assuming there is an emerging group of conservatives who sincerely want to embrace the importance of civil rights and equal opportunity, what are the five things conservatives would need to do to begin to break down those barriers and build bridges?”
It’s a deceptively easy question. After all, it’s no secret what sort of things would be on black America’s wish list:
• Reform the criminal injustice system, whose well-documented biases destroy African-American lives every day.
• Support initiatives that help ensure stable, father-present families.
• Support job training for the poor.
• Support early childhood education.
• Crack down on discriminatory lending.
• Crack down on discriminatory hiring, crack down on discriminatory housing.
• Listen to black voters’ concerns and offer solutions instead of rationalization, justification and condemnation.
I’m over my five, but you get the idea. Still, the most important thing isn’t specific policy prescriptions. It is, rather, that social conservatives (I use the term to distinguish them from the conservatives of low taxes, small government and strong national defense) are never on time. Historically, whenever people have been oppressed, whenever people have cried out for help, social conservatives have been late. This is true whether we’re talking Native Americans, Jewish Americans, woman Americans or African Americans. They seem blind to the distress of all Americans except Fetal Americans.
Consider Richard Stearns of the Christian relief group World Vision lobbying President Bush for money to fight AIDS in Africa in 2003. Don’t get me wrong; it was a noble thing. But even Stearns and his fellow evangelicals admitted they had come late to a battle other Americans had been fighting for 25 years. They were slow to respond, he said, because AIDS initially afflicted only gays and drug users, and conservatives ”had less compassion” for those victims.
Or, consider the apologies Baptist groups issued in the ’90s for their support of slavery and of the racism of the Jim Crow era. Another noble gesture. But noble gestures decades after the argument has been settled are of limited value. If social conservatives are truly the champions of morality, then where are they in the moment of moral crisis? When the rubber meets the road, when the fat sizzles in the fire, when standing up for the humanity of some despised group would mean something and cost something, our would-be moral leaders are never to be found. They are always late.
I agree with David about the need for competition for black votes. And I hope he’s right about a new generation of conservatives willing to compete. But I don’t need five bullet points to tell you what that generation should do. I need just one: Be on time for a change.
Do that, and the rest will take care of itself.
Monday, February 11, 2008
Community Activist, Obama and the Few Bad Apples on the Night Shift Represent our Resistance by Dr. Lenore J. Daniels
Here's the end of it:
"Obama profited from his “community activism” in ways that the Rev. Edward Pinkney in Benton Harbor, Michigan certainly hasn’t and can’t anyway in America, since his “perspective” remains focused Black, working class, and poor. Can’t find foundation positions fixated on Black folk! Obama would never find himself in the position the Rev. Pinkney is in now unless he starts talking about the treatment of Black Americans and the need for reparations! White America loves Obama because he “gets along” with white America and even the worst of criminals in America! He will never find himself like the Rev. Pinkney, sitting in the Berrien County Jail for almost two months. The Rev. Pinkney’s reward for his community activism is to endure, as his wife, Dr. Dorothy Pinkney told me, “very filthy” conditions, where he’s lost twelve pounds and where the authorities won’t even allow his wife to see or speak to him. The Rev. Pinkney is “insolent,” according to the authorities at Berrien County Jail. Black activists like the Rev. Pinkney are “insolent.” And let’s remember that being “insolent” was a crime for which newly freed Blacks were punished and incarcerated during Reconstruction (see Eric Foner’s Reconstruction, America's Unfinished Revolution, 1863-1877: (New American Nation Series)).
The Rev. Pinkney’s activism represents the historical struggle against institutionalized oppression. He isn’t one of “a few bad apples on the night shift,” as liberals like to tell themselves and others in Latin America, Europe, Africa, and Asia. He just isn’t about getting along with the cabal of liberals or criminals!
Historically, Black Americans have been the face of progressive struggles, progressive activism. Focus on the Rev. Pinkney because he has sacrificed for the marginalized people. Contact the Berrien County Jail at 269-983-7111, ex. 7231 and the Sheriff’s Dept. at 919 Port Street, St. Joseph, MI 49085, (269) 983-7141, email@example.com. You can also express your outrage by sending post cards demanding the Rev. Pinkney be pardon (something I am sure Obama would do with the criminals sitting in the White House) to Gov. Granholm, P.O. Box 30013, Lansing, MI 48909. Real SHOUT your anger at Rep. John Conyers - MICHIGAN!!! Call his office at (202) 225 5126. Ask Rep. Conyers why a real community activist is in jail while the Black Caucus threw a party for Bill Clinton! Get on in the movement - the Reconstruction Party is for now!"
Tuesday, February 05, 2008
Preying on the poor
Whirlpool paid $580 million in punitive damages making it if not the biggest settlement in US history, one of the biggest. The story is indicative of Whirlpool's corrupt culture and why a whistleblower like Pinkney can't be tolerated.
As the movie Casablanca so memorably illustrated, anytime someone expresses "shock, shock," there's a good chance they are full of it.
As are major corporate wrongdoers, who without hesitation or embarrassment, routinely express "shock" any time the people, through the shredded remnants of our democracy, stand up and slap them with a hefty sanction.
Take the case of Whirlpool Corporation. Earlier this year['99], an Alabama jury hit a recently spun off Whirlpool subsidiary, Whirlpool Financial, and one of its dealers with a $581 million verdict for targeting illiterate and poor people in a sales scheme involving satellite television dishes.
Lawyers representing the victims said that Whirlpool had dealers all over the state going door-to-door soliciting poor, unsophisticated and elderly customers to purchase satellite television dishes for $1,100 plus 22 percent interest. The same equipment could be bought at an electronics store for $199.
The purchases were financed on Whirlpool "credit cards," which allowed Whirlpool to avoid having to disclose the actual number of payments that would be required, which Whirlpool then misrepresented to its customers. Some customers were never even issued actual credit cards.
The jury awarded the plaintiffs, Barbara Carlisle, and her parents, George and Velma Merriweather, $975,000 in compensatory damages and $580 million in punitive damages. The finding of liability was based on an allegation that a salesperson for the satellite dish retailer, Gulf Coast Electronics, misled the plaintiffs regarding financing terms of the credit card loans.
One witness who was sold a satellite dish had less than a fifth grade education. One plaintiff in the case had a tenth grade education and had never owned a credit card.
A former agent testified that Whirlpool specifically targeted illiterate and unsophisticated people, and that he had trained others to lie about the terms of the financing.
A juror who spoke with plaintiff's attorney Tom Methvin of Montgomery after the case said the jury was "sick" at how Whirlpool treated poor, uneducated people. The juror also said that the jury was "inflamed" that there are still "thousands of people out there" who are victims of the scheme, but that Whirlpool had not helped these victims. The jurors felt that their verdict was important to "get Whirlpool's attention."
When the verdict hit, the Benton Harbor, Michigan-based Whirlpool Corporation said that its former subsidiary, Whirlpool Financial National Bank, now known as Transamerica Bank, N.A., planned to appeal the verdict.
"The company strongly believes that it did nothing to warrant any finding of liability in this litigation, much less $581 million," Whirlpool said in a statement. "The company is confident that it will ultimately prevail through the post-trial and appeal processes as the verdicts are totally without merit and represent a gross miscarriage of justice. The damage awards in this case are terribly unfair and contrary to sound constitutional protections established by the Alabama Supreme Court and the United States Supreme Court."
So, Whirlpool appealed the verdict.
A couple of months later, an Alabama appeals court denied the Bank's post-trial motion to set aside a $581 million jury verdict and instead reduced the jury's verdict to $301 million.
The company expressed "shock" that the appeals court didn't conform to the corporate agenda and throw out the entire award.
"The fact that the judge reduced the verdict to $301 million in no way corrects this miscarriage of justice," the company said in a statement. "The Bank believes the jury verdict was clearly erroneous and that it will ultimately prevail on appeal."
But Methvin, the attorney representing the victims of the scam, said that the court allowed the verdict to stand because the actions of Whirlpool represent "the worst conduct by corporate America ever to be exposed in the Alabama judicial system."
"Whirlpool bilked thousands of vulnerable consumers out of millions of dollars," Methvin said. "Eight other major out-of-state banks were engaged in similar conduct in Alabama. As a result of our lawsuits against them, those banks stopped doing this in Alabama. In spite of the lawsuits, Whirlpool refused to quit their activities. The jury's verdict and the trial judge's very strong ruling should make Whirlpool put a stop to this type of conduct."
"Alabama has the weakest consumer protection laws in the entire country and this is well known by companies such as Whirlpool," Methvin said last week. "Judgments like this one are particularly important in Alabama and are the only form of consumer protection that we have."
Monday, February 04, 2008
Monday, October 29, 2007Ann Arbor News (also on this blog in Oct.)
We urge you to pay attention to the issue of Jean Klock Park on Lake Michigan, Benton Harbor. We are very concerned that this park is being quietly taken from public use by private corporate interest. The park was dedicated and given by the Klock family in 1917 to Benton Harbor and surrounding communities explicitly and forever as a public park and bathing beach and was dedicated "for the children.'' A proposed development that threatens this also threatens wetlands and delicate species.
Perhaps most troubling is that corporate interests can be allowed to take what was given forever to the public because they promise jobs. As the intended use is a golf course - what positions /jobs are they suggesting will be available for the good people of Benton Harbor: caddies? This is an outrage and our great lakes should NEVER be a bargaining point where jobs are concerned. Additionally, our fresh water Great Lakes will become, if they are not already, as or more valuable than oil, and should therefore be carefully managed and protected from any private or corporate encroachment.
The children of Benton Harbor and its surrounding communities deserve to have free and open access to the Lake Michigan shore. An excellent carefully prepared source for information can be found at savejeanklockpark.org.
Barbara A. Neri and Ralph O. Neri, Pinckney
Saturday, February 02, 2008
The Harbor Shores project should never have been allowed to begin and should not con tinue. I am 81, grew up in the city of Benton Harbor, and through my experience have first-hand knowledge of the development area. I have received many blocked calls telling me to keep my mouth shut. I won't because I care about this county and feel the residents are being robbed and deceived.
At age 9, I began trapping muskrats in the marshes and streams of the Paw Paw and St.
Joe rivers. The water was clear and clean and the marshes were loaded with carp, northern pike and pickerels, plus ducks, geese and songbirds. The riverbanks were teaming with perch fingerlings and emerald shiners.
On several occasions I saw trucks loaded with junk and barrels marked "danger-poison!" As they dumped the junk into the Paw Paw, bulldozers pushed the barrels to make room for more. The barrels broke open and released a heavy green liquid. There was also a small creek that ran from Auto Specialties into the Paw Paw River that was yellow green in color. As a kid I didn't have waders and gloves and was unaware of the toxins I was being exposed to. What I did know was that if I didn't get the muskrats out of that creek by noon their hides would slip off!
Through the years I witnessed transformers refrigerators – you name it – being dumped into what are now contamination hot spots. At the end of 50 years of trapping and fishing there was a noticeable reduction of the fish and wildlife that were once so plentiful.
Now the state is prepared to allow this very same land to be used for a golf course, land that is made up of fine sand where dangerous contaminants may be deeply embedded. If the golf course is constructed, the saturation of this ground with 450,000 gallons of water a day for irrigation will cause these contaminants to seep into the river and out into the lake.
I have been a Realtor for 45 years and was a highly qualified appraiser. I am aware of the preposterous, rock-bottom low appraisals for
22 acres of Jean Klock Park and the inflated appraisals of the 40-some acres of the proposed mitigated, disconnected and contaminated swamplands; swamplands that are worth very little, if anything at all. In my opinion the firm that conducted the appraisals is highly incompetent. There are no sales of swampland, therefore there are no comparables for them.
During my career in real estate I have done many planned unit developments and can tell you that you must go through a lengthy and stringent permit approval process. The process involves the county health department and road commis sion, drain commission, power company, etc., and when near water, the Army Corps of Engineers. Why is it I could not proceed with these types of developments unless I had every single duck in a row first but Harbor Shores can?
William Kechkaylo, Berrien Springs