The New Economic Colonialism

Urban renewal, or economic imperialism? In Corsica, some residents resorted to dynamiting empty mansions to intimidate the wealthy from taking over their neighborhoods and homes. In San Francisco, we see increasing unrest among the poor and middle classes, for it is no longer a city where the poor and middle classes are permitted to live, let alone welcome…

FRANCE: STRIFE WITH SPECULATORS – Real estate prices on the Mediterranean island of Corsica are extortionate. A little cottage can set you back 400,000 euros. The Corsican authorities have passed a law requiring anyone who wants to buy a house there to have lived on the island for at least 5 years. The move is a response to people from mainland France and abroad buying up properties as holiday homes, causing prices to spiral. As a result, many Corsicans can no longer afford to buy property there. But now a few communities are fighting back, and threatening to enforce pre-emption rights – including the village of Cuttoli near Ajaccio, the birthplace of Napoleon.

: The Tenderloin is the seediest, highest-crime district in The City. Arrests do little to curb assaults, robbery and drug trafficking. Yet a 1 bedroom studio, a 475 square feet apartment, lists for $2295 monthly. Residents protest being evicted and displaced as wealthy yuppies renovate whole districts at bargain prices.

In the Middle Ages, when wealthy power elite wanted a piece of property, they simply used armies to take it.

Today, they use “perfectly legal” economic strong-arm tactics to force existing residents out. Landlords, police and sheriffs handle all that messy, unseemly business of serving eviction notices, warrants and arrests. In the end, the wealthy get what they want, and displaced residents are forced to try to find someplace else to live, else join the growing ranks of homeless.

I don’t have the answers. But we are going to have to find them. It seems obvious that improving a neighborhood and simply taking it over are two different things. Increasingly, this problem is going to become a problem of good government – and governance. We’re being pushed back closer and closer to the feudal economy.

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Banned Books Week

By George Orwell, 1949: "Too Political".

Remember “1984”? It’s banned in some American schools. In fact, a partial listing includes most of my required reading for our high school classes in the early 1960’s.

I’d heard about Harry Potter being banned by some religious groups for being too irreligious. You can see more complete lists on the web. Just do a Google search on “Banned Books Week“. If this is “to much information”, try the easy-to-scroll list at the Wikipedia link. It’s a real eye-opener.

I found out about the scope of this problem  from an AARP bulletin. The American Library Association has proclaimed September 25 – October 2 “Banned Books Week”.

Below is a partial list of banned books that I’ve read at some point in my life. Can you spot any patterns?
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We’re back in the Bay Area. We do welcome its 40 degree temperature differential from current Phoenix weather. Somehow I arose at 7AM even though we’re still on vacation. While waiting for my coffee I looked out the window, down across the Boulevard. The pavement was wet with drizzle. At the moment, there was not a car in sight.

It brought me back in time, to the early ’70’s in Weimar, the little town north of Auburn on 80. In Weimar, you could hear any car coming through the morning mist from a mile away. In the morning, before the occasional highway travelers started pulling off for gas, any car coming down the frontage road was an event, and, if you were a local, you usually knew the other driver. I was a guest. Locals would begin to associate you as a friend of Keith and Darlene, that nice family who lived across from Charlie’s.
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Parade in Castro Valley

Tales of The Hill …

We first noticed it when the California Highway Patrol set up the traffic diversion cones on Lake Chabot Road. In unincorporated areas, the CHP shares local law enforcement and traffic duties with the County Sheriffs. Now, traffic could not turn up Castro Valley Boulevard. We can see it all, from the balcony on our perch on The Hill.

And we overheard our neighbor in the downstairs apartment telling her friends, “They’re blocking it off. Something’s going on! They’re having a f***ing fair!”

Soon we heard the beat of what we took to be the high school band: the rattle of drums, and, once in a while, the toot of a trombone or french horn. Some nondescript floats inched down the boulevard, shining 18-wheeler Kenworth flatbeds decorated with crepe paper and banners and girls in cheerleader uniforms waving pompoms.

I have never seen an 18-wheeler used in a civic parade before, but those compound low gears sure make a heap o’ sense for a parade’s stately pace. Mighty diesel air horns and towering heights of chrome must surely impress the tots more than those phony motorized floats seen in the Macys Parade on the TV.

There was a big modern red fire engine, a parade of 1950’s Nash Ramblers and Cosmopolitans, a bevy of your obligatory Model A Fords, and a big ol’ time coupe roadster that, Hey Mom, looked like an oversized PT Cruiser! And there were people on horseback, and a horse-drawn carriage.

Some men marched in white uniforms, but they didn’t march like military personnel. They just ambled down the Boulevard. There were several shiny new pickup trucks, tailgates down, toting collections of teens and tots. A couple of parents walked behind every pickup truck. Safety first, you know. Otherwise, everybody who didn’t have to march, rode down all four blocks of the boulevard if they could possibly do so.

Castro Valley is a biker town, but we didn’t hear one Harley. Thousands of us hear enough of them when the bars close at 2AM. I guess they weren’t invited.

We got a few telephoto pictures, without ever leaving the comfort of our balcony, and our C.Bear got a peek at the parade through the 7×50 binoculars, and, let me tell you, HE was impressed.

We looked through last Sunday’s S.F. Chronicle “Datebook” for the all-critical community announcement. But we found none.

And we saw not one protest sign, nor so much as one person trashing shopkeepers’ windows. As far as we could tell, no one was trying to poison the town pump, or blow up our Boulevard. The valley walls around us are a lush and vibrant green, and a few clouds float across an incredibly blue sky. The flowers are beginning to bloom.

It is a great day to go for a stroll. I guess John Ashcroft and Tom what’s-his-face just aren’t needed here today.

From what we saw from our balcony vista, people here had a good time. If Governor Gray Davis and a couple of Senators and TV crews couldn’t make an appearance today, so much the better. But, you know what? I bet SF’s Mayor Willie Brown would have been here — if somebody had only taken the time to tell him.

Alex Forbes
© May 10, 2003

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School Voucher Program: As reported by the ACLU Online

The Court rejected an Establishment Clause challenge to Cleveland’s school voucher program. This marks the first time in history that the Court has approved the transfer of millions of dollars in taxpayer money to parochial schools where it will be used for religious education.

That’s not the way we heard it.
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Pledge declared Unconstitutional

Yes, I knew it was wrong back in 1954 when we were more or less forced to insert those two extraneous words. I recall that our teacher was uncomfortable with it, too. In my family, we were not brought up in the practice of any particular religion, so I would just mumble the words, or substitute an extra “indivisible” because who would notice?

I always thought it was a stupid sop to the few people who were trying to prove a point that there’s no room here for folks who don’t attend their particular church. Suffice it to say, the world is full of more evil and much bigger stupid sops – the kinds that kill and maim.

I know that this phrase has been cited as justification for any manner of bigoted schemes and cabals, but honestly, these have never flown because they have the Constitution to reckon with yet.

So of course it figures that this has to come to a head almost 50 years later precisely when we need our solons focused on controversies like the Mideast, Al Qaeda, the economy and oops, here you go, WorldCom. This will give the movers and shakers something comparatively meaningless to soapbox about, instead of getting back to work and generating negative spin.

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