Monday, January 30, 2012

Updating Information Bar To Have Occupy The PGA


Full story by Rev. Pinkney's attorney, Buck Davis.
* More information in speech excerpts by Atty. Davis.
* Article by Pastor who testified at trial
* Sign the petition


Occupy The PGA
May 23-27 (big day: Sat. May 26)
Benton Harbor, Michigan
Demonstrate in protest of
land stolen by Whirlpool Corp.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Stephen W. Thomas, the highest profile suspect in a child sex networking sting, to be hosted by Harbor Shores, PGA tournament, May 23-27

The PGA is coming to Benton Harbor, Michigan in May - hosted by Whirlpool, largest appliance corporation in the world. PGA golfer Stephen Thomas is among 40 arrested in a Florida sex sting and is the highest profile suspect in the case. Thomas told authorities he thought he was corresponding with a woman about arranging sex with a 13 year old girl. He planned to have sex with her.

Charges include travel to seduce and commit sex acts, transmitting harmful images of a minor, and use of a computer to solicit a child sex.

Whirlpool's Harbor Shores golf course was chosen to host the Senior PGA because it can finance it. Easily. Without even noticing a blip in the balance sheets. WP is even going to host the 2014 Senior Championship. We must be ready to deal with one of the greediest corporations in existence. We must be ready to Occupy the PGA. May 23-27, 2012. Pick a day or days to come to BH and occupy the PGA.

Contact Rev. Edward Pinkney

From the Huffington Post:

A pro golfer, a swim coach, and an eighth grade teacher are among 40 suspects arrested by Florida officials conducting an undercover child sex networking sting.
Officials with the Osceola County Sheriff took down the Internet-based string of sex crimes during a Jan. 8-16 investigation dubbed "Operation Red Cheeks," a press release from the Osceola County Sheriff states.
Stephen Wesley Thomas, a professional golfer with 44 appearances on the PGA tour, is the highest profile suspect in the case. Thomas told authorities that he thought he was corresponding with a woman about arranging sex with her 13-year-old daughter, the Orlando Sentinel reports...

OCCUPY THE PGA May 23-27, 2012

Thursday, January 12, 2012

[An extremely well researched article on Whirlpool - are more people finally beginning to catch on?]

Whirlpool Corp—A Michigan Job Creation “Success Story”: Dodging Taxes & Profiting from Poverty

by Chris Savage

I have been following and writing about Public Act 4, the Emergency Manager law, since it was passed in March of 2011. The first impacts of the changes made by this law hit in Benton Harbor, Michigan. A tiny town on the shores of Lake Michigan, it has only 10,000 residents according to the 2010 census with over half of the people living below the poverty line.

Yet in the middle of this desperate town sits the world headquarters of Whirlpool Corporation. Even through the recent recession, the company consistently posted profits north of $200 million per quarter. Though they once employed a significant number of Benton Harborites, this is no longer true — manufacturing there ended in early 2011. The headquarters, however, is growing and construction is in progress.

How is it that a successful company like Whirlpool remains in a place like Benton Harbor, with all of its poverty and despair? The answer is that it has been and continues to be highly profitable for the company to do so. Though the company employs few locals, Whirlpool has much to gain from exploiting the poverty of Benton Harbor as the gentrification of the city rushes forward.

Jonathan Mahler of the New York Times Magazine recently wrote a comprehensive piece about the plight of Benton Harbor. I gave his piece a good review, and was able to guest-post a piece on the Times Magazine’s The 6th Floor Blog, where I talked more broadly about the impact of P.A. 4 on Benton Harbor and our state. Mahler concludes that although Whirlpool isn’t necessarily the “good guy,” it would like everyone to believe it is; the company may, in fact, be the only answer for Benton Harbor.

In an essay for In These Times, Roger Bybee takes strong exception to this conclusion:

"Despite Mahler’s moving and insightful description of a de-industrialized city being re-shaped by those who destroyed the economic base, with the victims being deprived of any voice, he fails to point out several fundamental features:

* Those harmed most by past corporate decisions are treated as disposable people standing in the way of corporate-defined reconstruction.
* Democracy and public participation are early victims to this process.
* With corporate elites having shrunken government’s public-interest role in planning and economic development, major “job-creation projects” must be shaped around generating profit with the needs of the majority a negligible concern.

But despite all the rhetoric about corporations rushing to the rescue of troubled cities–whether New Orleans, Benton Harbor, or Racine—massive public subsidies to CEOs advocating “free enterprise” are an essential element.

It’s a formula for private benefit with public funding, for a distorted form of “development” devoid of democracy or public benefit."

Bybee’s piece is compelling and suggests a closer look at the role that Whirlpool has played (and is playing) is warranted.

Whirlpool’s exploitation of the situation in Benton Harbor likely goes back more than a decade, but we can start with the turn of the millenium. A former official with the Southwest Michigan (SWM) Airport board recently told me that Whirlpool benefited significantly from a connection with U.S. Congressman Fred Upton:

"I am a former elected and appointed official from Stevensville who was on the SWM airport board. While I appreciate that you expanded the facts for Rachel Maddow’s show, there is much more. During the time I was serving, I had a considerable number of flights in and out of that airport. It is not well known that Northwest airlines received a ticket subsidy for every seat in and out of the airport. That lasted for two years, which is just the time the airport serviced the public commercially. It was required to service commercially in order to receive federal funding for the airport’s runway extensions and electronic navigation aid updates. Of course, this coincided with Whirlpool’s purchase of a new jet which required a longer runway and new navigation electronics. The person who supported the bill to subsidize the tickets? Fred Upton.

You mention the upgrade of local property values, and do not mention the Upton’s property in close proximity (2 blocks).

While nothing is illegal about these things, I just felt that the focus has been on benefiting Whirlpool and Whirlpool’s heirs, and not the general population. I [have connections] with the Uptons in northern Virginia, so this is not a personal attack, just an observation. For so long in Congress, I am really surprised at the fiscal conservatism applied to the constituents and not the person or the corporate beneficiary."

[A2P Notes: According to campaign finance information, Whirlpool's PAC has donated $84,170 to Upton's campaigns, putting Whirlpool's PAC at number four on the list of the Congressman's top donors, behind AT&T ($99,600) and the Ford Motor Company ($86,900).]

Indeed, in addition to the ticket subsidies, the SWM Airport received an earmark for fiscal year 2011 as part of a nearly $1 billion allocation in discretionary grants, which coincides with the expansion of the runway.

Whirlpool is also an integral part of a development group in Benton Harbor known as the Cornerstone Alliance. In fact, many would argue that Cornerstone Alliance is Whirlpool. Non-profit, investigative reporting site reported in May 2011: “To keep a clean public image, Whirlpool funds and largely controls a nonprofit in Benton Harbor called the Cornerstone Alliance, which has a revolving door with Whirlpool and the Whirlpool Foundation for its staff members and employees. Cornerstone has long served the interests of Whirlpool in Benton Harbor, creating a fa├žade through which the company can pass off its actions as being in the interests of ‘the community.’”

Cornerstone Alliance has been aggressively developing whatever property it can procure in Benton Harbor. The company is the developer of the Harbor Shores luxury golf community that has received a great deal of attention, in part because developers convinced city officials to lease part of Jean Klock Park to them.

Jean Klock Park was deeded to the city in perpetuity but with the help of a city attorney who later went to work for Cornerstone, they secured a decades-long lease for three holes of their Jack Nicklaus Signature golf course. In the process, acres of shoreline dunes were deforested for a golf course where the annual fee exceeds the average annual income of Benton Harbor residents. An interactive panoramic of the area affected can be seen HERE. Before and after pictures can be seen HERE (courtesy of Protect Jean Klock Park.)

In exchange for this precious piece of public land (which is the primary reason Harbor Shores can be called “Shores”) the city exchanged land later found to be highly contaminated with industrial waste:

To compensate for the project’s reduction of public parkland, developers have promised to create a new bike path and trail system on a string of parcels along the Paw Paw River and around Benton Harbor. A good bargain if you can get it.

But these properties contain unsafe levels of industrial waste, according to documents recently released by the state in response to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests by project opponents. Critics of the Harbor Shores project say that details of the contamination raise new questions about the propriety of the deal — the land was represented by developers as of equal value to the lakefront park, they say, and creating a construction zone on contaminated land could spread pollution and endanger wetlands.

An April 2, 2007, letter from a hydrologist with the company Earth Tech — stamped “received” by the Department of Environmental Quality on April 5 — states that pollution on the parcels exceeds levels considered safe by the state. The pollutants identified include lead and arsenic, volatile organic compounds and polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons.

In other words, Whirlpool’s development arm exchanged contaminated land for pristine duneland on the shore of Lake Michigan.

Whirlpool-backed Cornerstone was also able to procure brownfield redevelopment grants from the State of Michigan to redevelop other contaminated areas, shifting the cost of the clean-up to Michigan taxpayers.

Whirlpool-backed Cornerstone is involved in many other development projects in the city, as well. They have benefited tremendously from the fact that Benton Harbor was a Renaissance Zone. This makes development activities virtually tax-free. However, the developments being pursued do not benefit the poor people of Benton Harbor, they benefit the wealthy developers hoping to make a killing from the Harbor Shores development and the boon they count on it creating. Cornerstone’s “non-profit” status is crucial to this.

The siphoning of public monies through the Cornerstone Alliance continues today. In November of 2011, they received stimulus funds to build 17 homes in a downtown area of Benton Harbor—a development they are calling “Harbor Town.” Unlike the luxury vacation homes being built in Harbor Shores, these more modest homes, less than two dozen of them, will be worth in the area of $125,000 — still far too pricey, however, for most of Benton Harbor’s residents.

Taxes, by the way, are something that Whirlpool doesn’t have to contend with much. Through countless efforts to keep them in Michigan, the company has received a multitude of tax breaks. They received a huge tax break under the Granholm administration when they agreed to build a new headquarters. The city itself has given them significant tax breaks. In fact, Whirlpool not only hasn’t paid a dime in taxes in over three years: In May 2011 Think Progress reported that Whirlpool is one of the country’s many corporate tax dodgers paying no federal taxes for the previous three years, and in 2010 receiving a $64 million dollar tax refund.

Even now, with Benton Harbor under the control of an Emergency Manager, Whirlpool and Cornerstone continue to harvest development funds from the destitution of the city. City Commissioner Marcus Muhammad and others are questioning how such a profitable “non-profit” can be using HUD funds for their own benefit while just blocks away are neighborhoods full of poor families, abandoned homes and desolation. From a November Herald-Palladium article (no longer online but excerpted HERE):

The Benton Harbor City Commission wants an investigation into agreements over city property between Cornerstone Alliance and Emergency Manager Joseph Harris.

The commission unanimously passed two resolutions Monday night – one that asked for an investigation of Cornerstone Alliance by the U.S. Attorney General, Michigan Attorney General and the FBI, and a second that asked for an investigation by the Michigan Attorney General, the U.S. Attorney General and the IRS into the city’s water rates. [...]

Harris has said the city’s water rates will increase by 50 percent, and could increase by up to 100 percent.

The commissioners questioned the legality of raising rates by that much.

[Commissioner Marcus] Muhammad read from a list of 87 Cornerstone Alliance-owned properties that he said the organization is not paying taxes on. About 70 of the properties are in Benton Harbor, while the remaining on the list are in Benton Township and St. Joseph. [...]

Muhammad said Cornerstone Alliance has gotten millions of dollars in developer fees for its role in the Neighborhood Stabilization Program 2 while paying $1 for property.

“What kind of corruption and organized crime is that?” Muhammad asked.

Whirlpool/Cornerstone clearly would like to reshape Benton Harbor in the image of its sister city across the river, St. Joseph. The contrast between the cities is stark, with Benton Harbor’s population 89+ percent African American and poor and St. Joseph’s population 88+ percent white and wealthy. Cornerstone had the audacity to make a game out of getting community members to highlight the worst places in Benton Harbor. In the May issue of their newsletter Cornerstone Chamber Insider (pdf) they introduced a project called “75 Viewpoints.”

Click for larger image

The Good, Bad, & Ugly . . .
If you have a camera, an opinion, and a little free time, you can play a critical role as a catalyst for change right here in Michigan’s Great Southwest. Cornerstone Alliance has launched “75 Viewpoints,” a dynamic project designed to point up the good, bad and ugly of our area as we work to maximize the first impressions of golf fans from around the world who will be visiting the 2012 Senior PGA Championship presented by KitchenAid at the Golf Club at Harbor Shores. Volunteers are being asked to take 10 to 25 photos of things in the area that drive you crazy and need to be fixed…and another 10 to 25 photos of things around town that they love and would like to see more of. It’s actually a project that your entire family can take part in. So, what are the amenities that we love, and the eyesores that need to be remedied or eliminated? If you would like to be one of the 75 people offering their viewpoints, please fill out the form that accompanied this newsletter, or contact Jamie at 269-757-0207.

Whether or not Jonathan Mahler is right about Whirlpool being the salvation of Benton Harbor remains to be seen. What is clear is that, if they are, it will be because they have very deliberately used the city’s desperate situation, in part caused by Whirlpool’s outsourcing of manufacturing jobs to other countries, to direct taxpayer monies into their own bank accounts. If Whirlpool saves Benton Harbor, it will likely because they were able to steal Benton Harbor from the largely black, poor residents who live there—a scam underwritten, in part, by taxpayers.

Maybe they’ll rename the town Upton Harbor.

(Don't miss the comments on the website.)

Sunday, January 08, 2012

Benton Harbor Emergency Manager ends year with sizable deficit

Joseph Harris, Benton Harbor Emergency Manager, has been saying the city budget is now balanced. However, according to an article in the January 7 Herald Palladium, this is not true. The headline is: Auditors: BH still seeing red - Contrary to Harris' prediction, city ends fiscal year with sizable deficit; audit shows accounting mistakes, pension fund. City commissioner Muhammad is quoted in the article: "To spend over a half million dollars that does not exist is bad accounting practices by any standard," Muhammad said in an email to The Herald-Palladium. "The intoxication of Public Act 4 has caused the Emergency Manager to tailspin on the interstate of politics and government."

Saturday, January 07, 2012

BH Emergency Manager Joe Harris has refused
to issue vending licenses to city residents for the PGA

The 2012 Senior PGA Championship in Benton Harbor will be a 6 day event. BH Emergency Manager Joe Harris has refused to issue vending licenses to city residents for the PGA. Now it appears that the Levy Restaurants Golf Division will be the sole vendors using unpaid volunteers as Levy's workers for the event. The will have to (no joke) PAY in order to volunteer. No one will profit from this event. (Except Levy, big time.)

Friday, January 06, 2012

Whirlpool Latest Target In Navy Encryption Patent Blitz
By Django Gold
Law360, New York (January 05, 2012) -- Whirlpool Corp. on Wednesday was hit with the latest patent infringement suit launched by Network Signatures Inc., which accused the home appliance manufacturer of flouting the company's patent for U.S. Navy-developed computer encryption technology.

Whirlpool was sued in California federal court by the Navy's security technology licensee, which claims Whirlpool is infringing Network Signatures' patented encryption methods in its network communications with employees and customers.

The patent-in-suit, U.S. Patent Number 5,511,122, outlines the methodology for a network encryption system that allows secure communications between computers through...

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

How Berrien County is kept in the dark

After a Benton Harbor man was found in St. Joseph floating dead in the river last week, a far from trivial event, it was reported this way to Berrien County, Michigan by WNDU-TV and WSTB-TV:

(close paraphrase) "Timothy Allen was found dead in the St. Joe river; foul play is not suspected. Now the weather..."

It's called propaganda, and Berrien County media are leaders in the field. Truthful, thorough reporting results in citizen action - just what officials and the Whirlpool Corporation don't want.

An immense travesty has just occurred in Berrien. Many in Benton Harbor believe Mr. Allen was murdered, possibly by St. Joe Twnshp. cops, the last to see him alive. Berrien County has a sordid history of African-American "disappearances."

A man turning up dead in the river has a chilling effect on a community. 25 women, at least, have disappeared from Benton Harbor in the last couple decades. Imagine how this impacts the heart and soul of a community. But that's the point. Destroy Benton Harbor by any means necessary for the redevelopment of the land. Physical and mental Hell.

Think of the possibilities of action and community outreach if media, on a daily basis gave us full reporting. You know, Journalism.


Whirlpool's disdain of American workers

The Whirlpool Corporation is proving itself to be hostile toward American workers as they continue to eliminate factories and thousands of jobs from places like Newton, Iowa; Evansville, Ill.; and Ft. Smith, Ark.

Radio & TV personality Ed Schultz has been naming the corporation and it's crimes against American workers recently on his shows.

Geographically isolated Benton Harbor has had it's livelihood withdrawn by the Whirlpool Corporation. In place of jobs, residents are now concerned with survival and avoiding police profiling in their once thriving city. It's a desperate existence of which most in Michigan are unaware.