Saturday, May 28, 2011

Corporate Crime & Benton Harbor

Great article on corporate crime and Benton Harbor

Pinkney Interview 

by Kathy Nathan
As consumers of main stream media “news” and accounts on events in our world and communities, we often see and read reassuring reports about the apprehension of dangerous criminals who commit bank robberies and convenience store heists with the aid of fire arms or threats.  It makes us all feel safer to know the criminal has been detained and will probably be brought to justice.  Sadly, there are  much more ruthless and destructive criminals abroad which the media prefers to ignore as they sack and ruin the once vibrant state of Michigan.  But equally sadly the MSM media remains disturbingly blank about these events.  Specifically I am talking about the heist which has been taking place in the beseiged lake front community of Benton Harbor over a number of years. 
In this case, the robbers and criminals do not wear masks or work under the cover of darkness.  Their plundering and dismemberment of the once-thriving working and middleclass community in Benton Harbor is openly performed in broad daylight. Those who are committing this open heist claim to be “public servants,” legitimate business interests, and  “protectors” of the environment. Their only cover is the indifference of the media and the ignorance of the rest of us.  As a reader of the blog, I have been following these events over the years with increasing consternation.  How can this be happening now in the “era of racial equality” in a country “by and for the people?”
In a recent phone conversation, Reverend Edward Pinkney took some of his valuable time as one of the only active voices standing up for the people against the oppression happening in Benton Harbor to fill me in on some of the details.  Even though I have been somewhat aware of this situation for some time, the facts and figures he quoted tell a story that is beyond appalling and which make the petty bank robberies and break-ins that our media is always highlighting seem like mere little kids stuff.  When we can begin to grasp the truth behind these numbers we see who the real criminals and sociopaths are. The figures he quoted check out with the US 2010 census report.
Pinkney explained to me how the heist taking place isn’t just on paper. The city of Benton Harbor’s elected mayor, Wilce Cooke, has literally been removed from his offices.  He is “allowed” to use a community owned space with telephones which he shares with the other disenfranchised elected officials.  All the real work of governing the town is now performed by Joseph Harris who has the title of Emergency Financial Manager.  He has been given tax supported office space and is answerable to Gov. Rick Snyder.  Thus the citizens of Benton Harbor have been effectively deprived of the right to electing their own government officials. They no longer have a voice and their “vote” is a meaningless gesture to elect a token official who does not even have a real address.
Pinkney believes that the power grab has occurred to consolidate the victory of corporate interests over an oppressed and racially targeted community.  Indeed, the facts do validate his claims.  As Pinkney reports, the population is 94% black and 90% below the poverty level.  Unemployment is anyone’s guess from 60% to 80%.
While asking for and obtaining huge tax breaks as “incentives” for business, Whirlpool Corp. then proceeded to outsource and move all its manufacturing jobs to Mexico and other similar countries outside the US, thus impoverishing the local workers in Benton Harbor and similar towns in the area who had worked for Whirlpool for decades. 

In the meantime, Benton Harbor has been asked to underwrite the Whirlpool Corporation by allowing them reduced fees for operating their offices here.  This corporation has taken the offered goods and services and given nothing in return on a state, local, and national level.  For example, the US government gave Whirlpool over $500 million dollars in tax breaks and Whirlpool has taken 19.3 million  from the state of Michigan Economic Growth Authority.  Apparently, judging from the horrific statistics, none of these incentives, benefits or tax supported handouts have trickled down to the people who remain in a dire state.

Now, with the help of US congressman Fred Upton (one of the principle heirs to the Whirlpool fortune), Whirlpool is attempting to grab the remaining park land belonging to the city of Benton Harbor and the homes that border it from the legitimate owners. In the place of the public parks, Whirlpool hopes to construct condos, golf courses and playgrounds for the very wealthy elite who people their offices—all of which will be off limits to those who currently own and use this land.
Because the victims are all poor (by design) and black these blatant robberies and crimes continue seemingly invisible to our media--and the rest of us as well.  I agree with Reverend Pinkney.  It is time to end the era of the corporate robber barons personified by Whirlpool and its minion Fred Upton.  We need a federal grand jury investigation into their theft and dismemberment of an entire town and their use of public funds and resources to further personal wealth.  It is the ugliest of heists and those participating should feel the force of the laws which protect us.
But how can this be accomplished?  Pinkney has the following observations on that point:
“We the people must change the system; it is broken. The time is now. In the end, we will conserve only what we love.  We will love only what we understand ….”
“Our pathway must be through the soil up...through swamps, forests, streams and rocks...up through commerce, education, and religion.  We cannot begin at the top to build a house...if we try to do this we shall reap folly as our reward. We must start at the grassroots. The time is now.“

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

EFM Joseph Harris and some commissioners:
90% of Benton Harbor residents are in favor
of EFM total control [NOT!]

Rev. Pinkney is often asked to speak on
radio programs. Monday morning he was on
in Detroit. It was reported that
Benton Harbor EFM Joseph Harris and
several BH city commissioners stated or
agreed that 90% of BH residents are in favor
of EFM Harris's one-man control of their town.

With close to 90% of BH residents
in poverty, we doubt their

It has been said that poverty is a full-time job.
Anxiety about where meals and housing will
come from is all-consuming. Anxiety about
how to find employment and provide for a family
take up 24 hours each day. It's an existence
that no human being should ever have to bear,
but in the US, pulling oneself up by bootstraps
is the revered way of life.

In Berrien County, destroying Benton Harbor
is a major goal of Whirlpool, Rep. Fred Upton,
and the rest of the power players.

People living in poverty rarely have time to
follow news or current events. 90% of BH residents
are not lucky enough to have the leisure time to
acquaint themselves with the sordid politics imposed
on their town by Whirlpool, the St. Joseph rich
folks, or state government.

EFM Joseph Harris actually works for the Whirlpool Corp.
He spent part of at least one morning this week
at Cornerstone Alliance - Whirlpool's real estate arm.
His is an agenda which we will never see reported
in mainstream media. It's not hard to guess...

Monday, May 16, 2011

Comment by Paula, a St. Joe resident, from a
Friday, October 08, 2010 post:

"It is very evident that political neglect, oppression, racism and discrimination are alive, well and thriving in St. Joseph/Berrien County"

The comment: "My respect and sympathies to Mr. Peeks family. I am so sorry this happened. For the record I am a white St. Joseph resident who believes fully
that the sentencing for Paige Karsten would have had a very different outcome if the situation had been reversed. I am abhorred at this conviction and believe it is very unfair to Mr. Peek's family. I do believe if Mr. Peek had been drinking and driving a vehicle and ran into the back of Karsten's vehicle killing her, all hell would be breaking loose in St. Joe. I am sick of this double standard and it does make St. Joseph, residents look racist. (which we are not all that way.)
I would have liked to have seen this woman get more time, the Mi laws are for 15 yrs. for OWI and causing a death. I believe people who drink and drive should get the maximum penalty, and I don't care if there is a baby at home, whether she is a blond or not or if her parents live in an affluent neighborhood or not. Again my sympathies to you and your family may the Lord help you heal. God Bless."

Saturday, May 14, 2011

When reading the following brief report on Whirlpool activities keep in mind:

--Rep. Fred Upton, heir to Whirlpool, was a sponsor of NAFTA.

--Upton is one of the wealthiest reps. in congress and therefore has a lot of power (to influence the 5 to 0 vote reported in this article.)

--Antitrust law was out the window while Whirlpool gobbled 72% of the domestic market through product and brand acquisition. Now they're demanding protection FROM the law via tariffs on foreign manufacturers to protect domestic jobs? The majority of which they continue to EXPORT?

--The motivation here is to tax these two companies so prices of their products are driven up in the US - Whirlpool products will have less competition as a result.

--Of course, Whirlpool can still sell appliances world-wide without tariffs (taxes).

US rules imports harm Whirlpool’s business

Bloomberg News / May 14, 2011

WASHINGTON — Whirlpool Corp., the world’s largest appliance maker, is being harmed by low-cost refrigerators from Mexico and South Korea, a US trade panel ruled, paving the way for tariffs on those imports.

The US International Trade Commission voted 5 to 0 in Washington yesterday in a preliminary ruling on the petition by Whirlpool to get antidumping and countervailing duties imposed on so-called bottom-mount refrigerators made by Samsung Electronics Co. or LG Electronics Inc. in the two nations.

LG said it will “aggressively contest’’ the decision.

The decision is the first of four the US company must win before tariffs of as much as 183 percent are imposed.

A spokeswoman for Samsung didn’t respond to an e-mail seeking a response.

“This unanimous decision by the ITC validates the action we’ve taken to protect our 23,000 US employees and the communities in which they work,’’ Jill Saletta, a spokeswoman for Whirlpool, said in a statement.

Friday, May 13, 2011

California Teachers Protest Cuts, Gov. Snyder Heckled at Parade Allison Kilkenny, May 9, 2011

--Good article from The Nation, except for the fact that one important word is missing: Whirlpool

...In Michigan, protesters greeted Gov. Rick Snyder during Benton Harbor’s annual parade. The governor has become the center of much controversy lately due to his statewide budget that includes deep cuts in education, while providing billions in tax breaks for businesses, and his proto-fascist use of appointed “emergency manages” to reject, modify, or terminate the terms of any existing contracts or collective bargaining agreements and dissolve local governing bodies of schools and cities.

Activists chanted “Recall Rick” as the governor passed.

Some of the protesters, who were led by the AFL-CIA, came from as far away as Kentucky.

"People are waking up," said Betsy Coffia, who traveled from Traverse City, Mich. to protest the parade. "Michigan didn't have a Wisconsin, things just sneaked in behind us. We're starting to realize that unless we the people start getting engaged, and make our voices heard, we're going to lose what we thought we had."

Michigan Rep. Al Pscholka was also scheduled to appear in the parade, but declined to participate after he heard about the scheduled protest.

Pscholka said he was “deeply disappointed and angered” about the news of the protests, and while the protesters have a right to exercise their First Amendment liberties at the parade, “that doesn’t make it appropriate.”

There may be some sore feelings on the part of Pscholka due to the fact that his own constituents are trying to force him out of office via recall for a variety of offenses, including his role as the author of the Emergency Financial Manager (EFM) legislation.

Conveniently, the new EFM rules could abet Pscholka’s finances.

In addition to being the state Representative from the area that includes Benton Harbor, Pscholka is a former aide to Congressman Fred Upton, a man who has deep ties into shoreline development efforts all along Lake Michigan including in Benton Harbor…

Pscholka himself was the president of the Board of Directors of the Cornerstone Alliance in 2008, the group that developed the Harbor Shores golf course and luxury residential development that snagged some of Benton Harbor's public park for its own use. This is a fact he conveniently left off his campaign site's About page when he ran for Congressman.

The first use of the new EFM law to take over a city's government was right in Benton Harbor, the area that Rep. Pscholka represents and where he has deep financial interests. And the first thing EFM Joseph Harris did after dismissing the City Council was to rejigger the Planning Commission and Brownfield Redevelopment Authority, the two groups who make crucial decisions regarding shoreline development in Benton Harbor. Harris replaced some of their members with new members selected by him.

With that blatant conflict of interest in mind, it’s no surprise residents of Benton Harbor want to recall Pscholka. Here is a representative using, and in some cases changing, the laws to benefit his financial self-interest.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Colbert Report: The Word - Autocratic for the People

via WSJM AM 1400 & FM 94.9

Whirlpool has paid no corporate taxes for 3 years

[Nice work from! Props for digging into some of the dirt on Wpool.]

"You know Whirlpool, the large corporation that is an integral part of the city of Benton Harbor and who received $3.87 million in tax breaks from the city of Benton Harbor last year?

According to Business Week, they haven't paid a dime in corporate taxes in three full years. And, last year, they got a $64 million tax REFUND."

Full post with links:

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Excellent article from

Democracy on Hold in Benton Harbor

Tuesday 3 May 2011, by Ryan Harvey

While the country watched the protests in Wisconsin spill into the State Capitol Building, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder was passing a controversial bill that many consider a direct attack on the constitutional rights of the citizens of Michigan.

Public Acts 4-9, also called The Emergency Financial Management bill, gives already existing "Emergency Financial Managers" (EFMs) sweeping new powers, allowing them to literally suspend the entire elected bodies of municipalities they deem to be failing, and suspend collective bargaining agreements with unions for up to five years.

Immediately after the bill passed, an EFM took complete control over the city of Benton Harbor as well as Detroit's public school system. EFMs are also in power in Pontiac and Ecorse.

As many as 400 [people are studying to become EFM's in Michigan]...

Having studied, these teams are ready to attack the local governments of Michigan to restructure their finances. "A SWAT team is an OK way to look at this," Michigan State University economist Eric Scorsone told Bloomberg last week of the trainees.

Many Michigan residents, especially those experiencing poverty or hanging on to medium-income jobs, are outraged. Protests, lawsuits from the American Civil Liberties Union and local municipalities and calls for Governor Snyder to be recalled...

"It's a dictatorship," Marian Kramer of the National Welfare Rights Union in Detroit says. "They are restructuring the government to protect the interests of corporations, that's what this is all about. It's not about us."

"They have violated the constitution for the residents of Benton Harbor," says Rev. Pinkney of Benton Harbor. "This is a constitutional issue."

He and hundreds of others have been organizing and participating in demonstrations, lawsuits and other forms of protest against the bill.

Benton Harbor residents say that Whirlpool, the world's leading manufacturer of major home appliances, and which once employed many in Benton Harbor in manufacturing jobs, might have a role in the EFM law as well; State Rep. Al Pscholka, who introduced the bill, formerly sat on the board of a Whirlpool-funded nonprofit in Benton Harbor now behind a controversial development on the town's beach. And his former boss Rep. Fred Upton is a Whirlpool heir who owns property near the development.
(emphasis added)

Sucked Down the Whirlpool

Benton Harbor has long dealt with abject poverty, job loss from outsourcing and low-level corruption. [maybe not so low-level]

...many residents say that appointing an EFM with no legal accountability whatsoever will only make...problems worse.

"You as a citizen have no rights," Marian Kramer says. "The EFM only responds to the governor and his committee, not to the people."

Benton Harbor residents point out the state government's two-faced approach to their community. They see Whirlpool as the real criminal, overshadowing anything a city commissioner could do in a lifetime.

Whirlpool, which has its global headquarters in Benton Harbor, has long controlled the city. In 1986, at the behest of business leaders, Benton Harbor was designated as an "Enterprise Zone" to give tax exemptions to the private sector. Whirlpool quickly ate up the exemptions.

At the same time, the St. Joseph-Benton Harbor area was losing over 5,000 jobs. Whirlpool continued layoffs into the '90s, until in 1996 they laid off half of the workers at their Evansville, Indiana, plant.

Today, less than one-third of Whirlpool's workforce is inside the country.

Full article with photos and footnotes:

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Benton Harbor City Commission defies Emergency Manager

Check out the weblog post over at the Michigan Messenger!

Monday, May 02, 2011

Michigan’s Republicans are creating a legal model for American fascism for the benefit of Wall Street. The state’s new emergency financial management legislation “is the prototype for a host of laws designed to make government – the state – a compliant tool for a dictatorship of the most predatory sections of the ruling class.” Naturally – this being the United States – the first localities targeted for de-democratization are Black.

Michigan’s “Emergency” Financial Regime:
What Fascism Looks Like

“There is nothing to stop the state from abolishing democratic governance in any of Michigan’s cities, if an emergency can be declared or created.”

Fascism is not all about jack-boots and guys with mustaches. It is a system of economic and social control. The particularities of fascism in any given nation grow out of the special dynamics of that country. Fascism in the United States will be blow-dried. And its legal and bureaucratic form will take shape in places like Michigan, where an innocuous sounding piece of legislation called the Local Government and School District Fiscal Accountability Act is the prototype for a host of laws designed to make government – the state – a compliant tool for the dictatorial rule of the most predatory sections of the ruling class. In 2011 America, that’s Wall Street, finance capital.

Michigan’s law allows the state to appoint emergency managers to nullify contracts, including labor agreements – which is what has unions upset. But the scope and intention of the law is much deeper and wider than simply anti-union. The legislation allows emergency managers to nullify the powers and authority of local governments of all kinds. One of its supporters gave the game away when he spoke of the need to impose a kind of “financial martial law” in which all pretense of democracy would be abolished in targeted communities. The community the Republican politician had in mind was Detroit, the Black metropolis, where the public schools were promptly put under emergency state control. But there is nothing to stop the state from abolishing democratic governance in any of Michigan’s cities, if an emergency can be declared or created. On April 15, the mostly Black city of Benton Harbor, the poorest jurisdiction in the state, was placed under total financial martial law, its citizens suddenly made more powerless than Blacks in Selma, Alabama, prior to the civil rights movement.

“Wall Street imposes instant emergencies on the larger society by starving cities and schools and the public sector in general, in order to strip down, privatize and commodify every asset in sight.”

Fascism always requires an “emergency,” a “crisis,” to justify the surrender of whatever citizen liberties previously existed. Its mass organizing principle revolves the “Other” – the scapegoating of a hated group that can be blamed for the emergency. Historically, in the United States, that “Other” has been Black people – although other “Others” have been added to the list. The U.S. has always been fertile ground for fascist politicking – in fact, I have long maintained that White Terror under southern Jim Crow was a peculiar form of American fascism.

Fascism is also associated with militarism and the national security state, which are certainly famiiar aspects of modern Americana. More importantly, the militarization of the inner cities has been an established fact since the mid-1960s. The proof is in the one million African Americans behind bars.

The “crisis” that justifies the outright abolition of democracy – beginning, of course, in Black America – is the crisis afflicting finance capitalism. Wall Street then imposes instant emergencies on the larger society by starving cities and schools and the public sector in general, in order to strip down, privatize and commodify every asset in sight. Michigan's fascist model will doubtless be duplicated across the nation, as Wall Street moves to rule directly, through its emergency managers, by one name or another. The permanent emergency has begun.

Sunday, May 01, 2011

Rep. Fred Upton, of the family that began Whirlpool, is now in a position to eliminate the Environmental Protection Agency

A comment from

The property that was gifted in perpetuity to the citizens of BH is very valuable as beach front on Lake Michigan. The development of the golf course, water park, hotel, etc. will be built for people who can afford the $5,000 annual fee. BH has suffered from extreme poverty for decades [and also suffered what seems to be unspeakable - monumental injustice metted out by Berrien county law enforcement and the courts: most egregious and numerous illegal convictions and imprisonments of African-American innocents and juveniles in the state - it's how Whirlpool has destroyed humans and families in order to steal land]; and like other towns and cities, especially in urban areas; the lack of employment, the economic crisis in our state and across the nation, and the lose of tax revenues have exacerbated the further ruination of the basic services necessary for a healthy community.

Benton Harbor is important for two main issues; first the loss of self governing by the elected city officials being replaced by the Emergency Manager assigned by the governor of the state which negates our democratic principles. And the second issue has to do with the property itself and specifically the trade of a property that was owned by Whirlpool. Whirlpool is a Fortune 500 corporation that is celebrating its 100 year anniversary; the property exchanged was found to be contaminated and toxic. Removing the toxins will be expensive and prohibitive to a community that is financially crushed.

...Attorney... who has filed a federal suit on behalf of citizens stated that "The concealment is breathtaking." Rep. Fred Upton, of the family that began Whirlpool, is now in a position to eliminate the Environmental Protection Agency and citizens will lose the only watchdog to examine the ongoing war against our environment. For these reasons, what happens in Benton Harbor relates to every citizen in our nation.
A recall petition against Michigan state Congressman Al Pscholka has been filed.

You can view the official letter -

Here's the text:

April 28,2011

Representative Al Pscholka
Michigan State House of Representatives
P.O. Box 30014
Lansing, Ml 48909-7514

Re: Receipt of Recall Wording

Dear Representative Pscholka:

You are hereby notified that pursuant to provisions of Section-168.952 of Public Act
456 of 1982, that presentation of "reasons for recall" from your office of 79th District State Representative was made in this office on this date. The recall wording was filed by Mr. Dennis Knowles and a copy of said wording is attached.

You are further notified that a clarity hearing of the Berrien County Election
Commission has been scheduled for 8:30 A.M. on May 9,2011. This hearing will be
held in the County Clerk's conference room on the first floor of the Berrien County
Courthouse in St. Joseph.

The purpose of this hearing will be to rule on the clarity of the reasons for recall as provided by said Act 456 of 1982. The hearing is open to the public and attendees will be given the opportunity to address the Election Commission if they so wish.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact this office.

Chief Deputy Clerk
Berrien County, MI

Al Pscholka is a former aide to Congressman Fred Upton and now represents the area that includes Benton Harbor. He is also the father of the odious Emergency Financial Manager bill that was signed into law by Governor Rick Snyder and gave sweeping powers to the EFMs including breaking contracts, selling off the assets of a municipality and dismissing the elected officials (as has been done in Benton Harbor.)

Once the wording is approved (similar to what was done this past week for the recall of Governor Rick Snyder), petitions signature collection can begin. This will be a tough effort given that, outside of Benton Harbor, Pscholka's district is VERY conservative.