Friday, December 31, 2010

Support Take Back the Land TODAY!


In 2010, the housing crisis deepened and politicians continued to serve the interests of the financial industry over the needs of people. Through it all, Take Back the Land has stood tall and fought for what we believe: elevating housing to the level of a human right and community control over land.

As 2010 comes to a close and we walk into 2011, we are asking you to financially support our work with a year end tax-deductible contribution.

In 2010, Take Back the Land made headlines across the country with our May 2010 Month of Action, featuring housing liberations and eviction defenses in numerous cities across the US, including Portland, OR; Madison, WI; Toledo, OH; New Orleans, LA; Washington, DC; and Miami, FL. 

We provide movement support- such as training, messaging and strategic campaign planning- to local organizations fighting for the human right to housing and for community control over land. We can intensify our efforts in 2011, but only with your help, so we are asking you to make a contribution today. If you make a contribution today, your gift is tax deductible for 2010. This could be your only chance to get the government to help in this fight.

So, please give generously and stay in touch at


Max Rameau

In case you missed them, here are some of the newsworthy highlights from just the second half of 2010:

Monica Adams of Take Back the Land- Madison talks about the connections between Take Back the Land and the Landless Peoples' Movement (MST) in Brazil

Take Back the Land- Rochester liberates a home in New York

Take Back the Land on Pop & Politics with Farai Chideya

Friday, October 22, 2010

Foreclosure crisis puts Wall Stree reform legislation to the test

Foreclosure crisis puts Wall Street reform legislation to the test
Ryan Sees U.S. Foreclosure Moratorium as `Catastrophic'

Oct. 21 (Bloomberg) -- Tim Ryan, president of the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association, talks about a possible mortgage foreclosure moratorium in the U.S. and its effect on banks. He speaks with Andrea Catherwood on Bloomberg Television's "The Pulse."

By Neil Irwin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, October 21, 2010; 8:40 PM

The foreclosure problems that have unfolded in recent weeks present a test of whether financial regulators can respond more cohesively and aggressively to an emerging problem than they did to the subprime crisis three years ago.
This Story

Foreclosure crisis puts Wall Street reform legislation to the test
Florida activists read between the lines on foreclosure paperwork
Major title insurer insists lenders vouch for foreclosure paperwork
Foreclosure Nation
Ryan Sees U.S. Foreclosure Moratorium as `Catastrophic'
Timeline: Foreclosure debacle
Full coverage: Foreclosure system in chaos

The Wall Street reform legislation that was passed over the summer created new procedures for financial policymakers to coordinate their response to big, overarching risks like this one. So far, officials at the Treasury Department, federal bank regulators and housing-related agencies say they are in frequent contact, swapping information about the crisis that has stemmed from faulty documentation behind many home foreclosures.

The Financial Stability Oversight Council, which brings together the Treasury secretary and heads of major financial regulators to consider such broad potential threats to the financial system, has met only once, just before the current crisis broke out.

But now, several of its members and their deputies are trying to coordinate their efforts to understand the scope of the current problem.

The consensus view among the officials involved is that although the latest problems will probably tie up the big banks in expensive litigation for years and slow down the foreclosure process, the banks should be able to weather the losses and the problems are unlikely to cause a broader crisis for the overall housing market or economy.

But the government failed to foresee the ways the subprime mortgage crisis that began in 2007 would ripple through the economy, and now a Treasury official said there is a concerted push to understand the full potential of the new problem.

The Federal Reserve, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, and other bank regulators have examiners on the ground inside major banks - and the power to force them to improve their procedures. Fed economists are constantly monitoring risks to the economy as a whole. The Federal Housing Finance Agency oversees Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which in turn can lean on mortgage-servicing companies that may not be complying with their obligations in how they deal with borrowers. The Securities and Exchange Commission has responsibilities over disclosure matters in mortgage-backed securities.

"We'll learn something from this mess about how the new coordination structure works," said Douglas Elliott, a fellow at the Brookings Institution.

One major challenge for financial regulators is that even if they accurately identify the risks that the new crisis poses for the broader economy, they may not be able to do much about them. Mistakes by mortgage-servicing companies generally involve state property laws, leaving enforcement in the hands of state attorneys general and judges around the country.

If their decisions end up making it so much harder to foreclose on properties that mortgage-backed securities become more expensive, it could make it harder to get a mortgage loan and thus cause damage to the housing market as a whole. Yet in that scenario, federal economic policymakers would be challenged to find ways to fix the problem.

Bank regulators, including the OCC and the Fed, could have more of a role to play in trying to prevent the foreclosure mistakes from recurring, and have clear tools with which to put pressure on banks to clean up their act.

"The regulators will probably want to send in examiners to assess the situation in very focused examinations, to try to ascertain how much of a problem there is," said Ernest Patrikis, a partner who practices banking law at White & Case and a former general counsel of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. "Then where they find problems, they will say, 'what are your remedial plans, how will you fix it?'"

If the foreclosure process is slowed down too much, it could lead people to hold off on home purchases as they wait for a new, cheaper supply of homes to hit the market. In that sense, it could further delay a recovery in the long-ailing housing market.

"There are very serious issues to be worked through, and there are a wide range of possibilities of how severe the impact will be," said Elliott. "At the same time, it's not a perfect test of the new approach to financial regulation because so many of the issues here are legal ones and lay outside the direct influence of financial regulators."

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Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Conservative Movement Meeting to take power

Secretive Republican Donors Are Planning Ahead
Published: October 19, 2010

A secretive network of Republican donors is heading to the Palm Springs area for a long weekend in January, but it will not be to relax after a hard-fought election — it will be to plan for the next one.
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An invitation to an event in January that is being held by Koch Industries’ network of donors.

Koch Industries, an energy and manufacturing conglomerate run by the billionaire brothers Charles, left, and David Koch operates a foundation that finances political advocacy groups, but is protected from having to disclose much about what they do.

Koch Industries, the longtime underwriter of libertarian causes from the Cato Institute in Washington to the ballot initiative that would suspend California’s landmark law capping greenhouse gases, is planning a confidential meeting at the Rancho Las Palmas Resort and Spa to, as an invitation says, “develop strategies to counter the most severe threats facing our free society and outline a vision of how we can foster a renewal of American free enterprise and prosperity.”

The invitation, sent to potential new participants, offers a rare peek at the Koch network of the ultrawealthy and the politically well-connected, its far-reaching agenda to enlist ordinary Americans to its cause, and its desire for the utmost secrecy.

Koch Industries, a Wichita-based energy and manufacturing conglomerate run by the billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch, operates a foundation that finances political advocacy groups, but tax law protects those groups from having to disclose much about what they do and who contributes.

With a personalized letter signed by Charles Koch, the invitation to the four-day Rancho Mirage meeting opens with a grand call to action: “If not us, who? If not now, when?”

The Koch network meets twice a year to plan and expand its efforts — as the letter says, “to review strategies for combating the multitude of public policies that threaten to destroy America as we know it.”

Those efforts, the letter makes clear, include countering “climate change alarmism and the move to socialized health care,” as well as “the regulatory assault on energy,” and making donations to higher education and philanthropic organizations to advance the Koch agenda.

The Kochs also seek to cultivate Americans’ growing concern about the growth of government: at the most recent meeting, in Aspen, Colo., in June, some of the wealthiest people in America listened to a presentation on “a vision of how we can retain the moral high ground and make the new case for liberty and smaller government that appeals to all Americans, rich and poor.”

The goals for the twice-yearly meetings, the brochure says, include attracting more investors to the cause, but also building institutions “to identify, educate and mobilize citizens” and “fashioning the message and building the education channels to re-establish widespread belief in the benefits of a free and prosperous society.”

Charles Koch, whose wealth Forbes magazine calculates at about $21.5 billion, argues in his letter that “prosperity is under attack by the current administration and many of our elected officials.” He repeatedly warns about the “internal assault” and “unrelenting attacks” on freedom and prosperity. A brochure with the invitation underscores that to the Koch network, “freedom” means freedom from taxes and government regulation. Mr. Koch warns of policies that “threaten to erode our economic freedom and transfer vast sums of money to the state.”

The Kochs insist on strict confidentiality surrounding the California meetings, which are entitled “Understanding and Addressing Threats to American Free Enterprise and Prosperity.” The letter advises participants that it is closed to the public, including the news media, and admonishes them not to post updates or information about the meeting on the Web, blogs, social media or traditional media, and to “be mindful of the security and confidentiality of your meeting notes and materials.”

Invited participants are told they must wear nametags for all meeting functions. And, ensuring that no one tries to gain access by posing as a participant, the invitation says that reservations will be handled through Koch Industries’ office in Washington: “Please do not contact the Rancho Las Palmas directly to place a reservation.”

To give prospective participants a sense of what to expect, Mr. Koch’s letter enclosed a brochure from the group’s meeting at the St. Regis Resort in Aspen, including a list of the roughly 200 participants — a confab of hedge fund executives, Republican donors, free-market evangelists and prominent members of the New York social circuit.

They listened to a presentations on “microtargeting” to identify like-minded voters, as well as a discussion about voter mobilization featuring Tim Phillips of Americans for Prosperity, the political action group founded by the Kochs in 2004, which campaigned against the health care legislation passed in March and is helping Tea Party groups set up get-out-the-vote operations.

Other sessions discussed the opportunities in the presidential election of 2012 to address threats to free enterprise and “how supporters of economic freedom might start planning today.”

Impressed by the Koch efforts for the midterms, the invitation cover letter says, Aspen participants “committed to an unprecedented level of support.”

“However,” it adds, “even if these efforts succeed, other serious threats demand action.”

The participants in Aspen dined under the stars at the top of the gondola run on Aspen Mountain, and listened to Glenn Beck of Fox News in a session titled, “Is America on the Road to Serfdom?” (The title refers to a classic of Austrian economic thought that informs libertarian ideology, popularized by Mr. Beck on his show.)The participants included some of the nation’s wealthiest families and biggest names in finance: private equity and hedge fund executives like John Childs, Cliff Asness, Steve Schwarzman and Ken Griffin; Phil Anschutz, the entertainment and media mogul ranked by Forbes as the 34th-richest person in the country; Rich DeVos, the co-founder of Amway; Steve Bechtel of the giant construction firm; and Kenneth Langone of Home Depot.

The group also included longtime Republican donors and officials, including Foster Friess, Fred Malek and former Attorney General Edwin Meese III.

Participants listened to presentations from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, as well as people who played leading roles in John McCain’s presidential campaign in 2008, like Nancy Pfotenhauer and Annie Dickerson, who also runs a foundation for Paul Singer, a hedge fund executive who like the Kochs is active in promoting libertarian causes.

To encourage new participants, Mr. Koch offers to waive the $1,500 registration fee. And he notes that previous guests have included Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas of the Supreme Court, Gov. Haley Barbour and Gov. Bobby Jindal, Senators Jim DeMint and Tom Coburn, and Representatives Mike Pence, Tom Price and Paul D. Ryan.

Mr. Koch also notes the beautiful setting. But he advises against thinking of this as a vacation.

“Our ultimate goal is not ‘fun in the sun,’ ” he concludes. “This is a gathering of doers who are willing to engage in the hard work necessary to advance our shared principles. Success in this endeavor will require all the help we can muster.”

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Housing crisis hits Blacks the hardest

CNN's Soledad O'Brien looks at how some are fighting debt from the pulpit in "Almighty Debt: A Black in America Special," premiering at 9 p.m. ET on October 21.

( -- The foreclosure crisis has hit blacks harder than any other group in America and it will be tough for them to regain their footing in the housing market.

Blacks' homeownership rate has plummeted nearly 6 percent to 46.2 percent since its peak in 2004. That's more than twice that of any other racial or ethnic group, as well as the nation's rate as a whole, which fell only 2.3 percent, according to U.S. Census data.

Also, among recent borrowers, nearly 8 percent of blacks have lost their homes to foreclosure, compared to 4.5 percent of whites, according to the Center for Responsible Lending. Latinos, who have also been pummeled by the mortgage meltdown, came in a close second behind blacks in foreclosure losses.

The consequences are devastating. Fewer blacks own their home now than any other racial or ethnic group and that makes it even more difficult for them to achieve financial security and attain wealth.

"We built the middle class on homeownership," said Marc Morial, head of the National Urban League, which works to empower the black community. "How many people have built their business with the equity in their home? How many people have sent their kids to college with the equity in their home?"

The loss of homeownership is more than the difference between a mortgage payment and a rent check, experts say. Purchasing property is the key to building wealth, which not only allows people to improve their quality of life and provide more for their children, but also gives them a cushion during tough economic times.

CNNMoney: Foreclosures: Next to hit banks?

"Billions and billions of dollars were stripped away from a community that already had lower levels of wealth than white communities," said Debbie Bocian, senior researcher at the Center for Responsible Lending, which estimates blacks will lose $194 billion in wealth through 2012 due to the mortgage meltdown. "It exacerbates all the socio-economic divides. The consequences are intergenerational."

Subprime lending and unemployment

During the housing boom, nearly seven in 10 Americans owned their home, a gain of 7.8 percent from a decade earlier. Black Americans saw their home ownership rates rise twice as fast to 49.1 percent, thanks in large part to easy credit.

But many of those new mortgages -- which often came with low teaser rates that would adjust upward after two or three years -- would prove unaffordable.

Overall, blacks were 150 percent more likely to get high-cost loans, according to the Center for Responsible Lending. Even when they had similar income and credit scores as white borrowers, blacks were about 30 percent more likely to be steered to expensive mortgages.

When home prices started to fall, borrowers found themselves trapped in subprime loans. And since so many people in the black community had these mortgages, they suffered disproportionately in the early stages of the mortgage meltdown.

Now, the foreclosure crisis has now expanded beyond the subprime market. More and more people with stronger credit backgrounds and more stable mortgages are defaulting on their loans because they've lost their jobs.

CNNMoney: Embattled homeowner to bank: You don't own my loan

But here too, blacks are at a disadvantage. Black unemployment stood at 16.1 percent in September, the highest of any group and 6.5 percentage points above the national average.

"The unemployment rate in the African-American community is sky high," said Chris Herbert, research director at the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University. "That's certainly behind their high foreclosure rate."

Tight credit going forward

It's tough for anyone to get a mortgage these days. But it's even more difficult if you are black.

Nearly one-third of blacks were denied loans in 2009, compared to 13.1 percent of whites and 25.6 percent of Latinos, according to federal data released last month. The disparity can't be explained solely by differences in applicants' incomes and loan amount requested. Even when these factors are the same, blacks are still twice as likely to be turned down, a Home Mortgage Disclosure Act report found.

Nearly 49.8 percent of blacks had their refinance applications rejected, compared to 21 percent of whites and 41 percent of Latinos.

These stats mean that many blacks can't shift into lower-cost mortgages in order to save their homes, nor can they purchase their first property and boost homeownership rates.

CNNMoney: After foreclosure: How long until you can buy again?

"Credit constraints are a real concern," Herbert said. "While there is a need for tighter underwriting standards, we have to be careful not to go too far and unnecessarily limit access to credit that helps families manage their finances and build wealth."

One solution that the National Urban League is pushing is more homebuyer education programs. First-time purchasers who go through a course that teaches them about budgets, debt, home maintenance costs and risky, expensive loans are less likely to default, experts say.

"We need a fundamental commitment to housing counseling to prepare people to become homeowners," Morial said.

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Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Russell Means on Capitalism

“For America to Live, Europe Must Die”

Russell Means

Russell Means

Reproduced from Black Hawk Productions.

The following speech was given by Russell Means in July 1980, before several thousand people who had assembled from all over the world for the Black Hills International Survival Gathering, in the Black Hills of South Dakota. It is Russell Means’s most famous speech.

“The only possible opening for a statement of this kind is that I detest writing. The process itself epitomizes the European concept of “legitimate” thinking; what is written has an importance that is denied the spoken. My culture, the Lakota culture, has an oral tradition, so I ordinarily reject writing. It is one of the white world’s ways of destroying the cultures of non-European peoples, the imposing of an abstraction over the spoken relationship of a people.

So what you read here is not what I’ve written. It’s what I’ve said and someone else has written down. I will allow this because it seems that the only way to communicate with the white world is through the dead, dry leaves of a book. I don’t really care whether my words reach whites or not. They have already demonstrated through their history that they cannot hear, cannot see; they can only read (of course, there are exceptions, but the exceptions only prove the rule). I’m more concerned with American Indian people, students and others, who have begun to be absorbed into the white world through universities and other institutions. But even then it’s a marginal sort of concern. It’s very possible to grow into a red face with a white mind; and if that’s a person’s individual choice, so be it, but I have no use for them. This is part of the process of cultural genocide being waged by Europeans against American Indian peoples’ today. My concern is with those American Indians who choose to resist this genocide, but who may be confused as to how to proceed.

(You notice I use the term American Indian rather than Native American or Native indigenous people or Amerindian when referring to my people. There has been some controversy about such terms, and frankly, at this point, I find it absurd. Primarily it seems that American Indian is being rejected as European in origin–which is true. But all the above terms are European in origin; the only non-European way is to speak of Lakota–or, more precisely, of Oglala, Brule, etc.–and of the Dineh, the Miccousukee, and all the rest of the several hundred correct tribal names.

(There is also some confusion about the word Indian, a mistaken belief that it refers somehow to the country, India. When Columbus washed up on the beach in the Caribbean, he was not looking for a country called India. Europeans were calling that country Hindustan in 1492. Look it up on the old maps. Columbus called the tribal people he met “Indio,” from the Italian in dio, meaning “in God.”)

It takes a strong effort on the part of each American Indian not to become Europeanized. The strength for this effort can only come from the traditional ways, the traditional values that our elders retain. It must come from the hoop, the four directions, the relations: it cannot come from the pages of a book or a thousand books. No European can ever teach a Lakota to be Lakota, a Hopi to be Hopi. A master’s degree in “Indian Studies” or in “education” or in anything else cannot make a person into a human being or provide knowledge into traditional ways. It can only make you into a mental European, an outsider.

I should be clear about something here, because there seems to be some confusion about it. When I speak of Europeans or mental Europeans, I’m not allowing for false distinctions. I’m not saying that on the one hand there are the by-products of a few thousand years of genocidal, reactionary, European intellectual development which is bad; and on the other hand there is some new revolutionary intellectual development which is good. I’m referring here to the so-called theories of Marxism and anarchism and “leftism” in general. I don’t believe these theories can be separated from the rest of the of the European intellectual tradition. It’s really just the same old song.

The process began much earlier. Newton, for example, “revolutionized” physics and the so-called natural sciences by reducing the physical universe to a linear mathematical equation. Descartes did the same thing with culture. John Locke did it with politics, and Adam Smith did it with economics. Each one of these “thinkers” took a piece of the spirituality of human existence and converted it into code, an abstraction. They picked up where Christianity ended: they “secularized” Christian religion, as the “scholars” like to say–and in doing so they made Europe more able and ready to act as an expansionist culture. Each of these intellectual revolutions served to abstract the European mentality even further, to remove the wonderful complexity and spirituality from the universe and replace it with a logical sequence: one, two, three. Answer!

This is what has come to be termed “efficiency” in the European mind. Whatever is mechanical is perfect; whatever seems to work at the moment–that is, proves the mechanical model to be the right one–is considered correct, even when it is clearly untrue. This is why “truth” changes so fast in the European mind; the answers which result from such a process are only stopgaps, only temporary, and must be continuously discarded in favor of new stopgaps which support the mechanical models and keep them (the models) alive.

Hegel and Marx were heirs to the thinking of Newton, Descartes, Locke and Smith. Hegel finished the process of secularizing theology–and that is put in his own terms–he secularized the religious thinking through which Europe understood the universe. Then Marx put Hegel’s philosophy in terms of “materialism,” which is to say that Marx despiritualized Hegel’s work altogether. Again, this is in Marx’ own terms. And this is now seen as the future revolutionary potential of Europe. Europeans may see this as revolutionary, but American Indians see it simply as still more of that same old European conflict between being and gaining. The intellectual roots of a new Marxist form of European imperialism lie in Marx’–and his followers’–links to the tradition of Newton, Hegel and the others.

Being is a spiritual proposition. Gaining is a material act. Traditionally, American Indians have always attempted to be the best people they could. Part of that spiritual process was and is to give away wealth, to discard wealth in order not to gain. Material gain is an indicator of false status among traditional people, while it is “proof that the system works” to Europeans. Clearly, there are two completely opposing views at issue here, and Marxism is very far over to the other side from the American Indian view. But let’s look at a major implication of this; it is not merely an intellectual debate.

The European materialist tradition of despiritualizing the universe is very similar to the mental process which goes into dehumanizing another person. And who seems most expert at dehumanizing other people? And why? Soldiers who have seen a lot of combat learn to do this to the enemy before going back into combat. Murderers do it before going out to commit murder. Nazi SS guards did it to concentration camp inmates. Cops do it. Corporation leaders do it to the workers they send into uranium mines and steel mills. Politicians do it to everyone in sight. And what the process has in common for each group doing the dehumanizing is that it makes it all right to kill and otherwise destroy other people. One of the Christian commandments says, “Thou shalt not kill,” at least not humans, so the trick is to mentally convert the victims into nonhumans. Then you can proclaim violation of your own commandment as a virtue.

In terms of the despiritualization of the universe, the mental process works so that it becomes virtuous to destroy the planet. Terms like progress and development are used as cover words here, the way victory and freedom are used to justify butchery in the dehumanization process. For example, a real-estate speculator may refer to “developing” a parcel of ground by opening a gravel quarry; development here means total, permanent destruction, with the earth itself removed. But European logic has gained a few tons of gravel with which more land can be “developed” through the construction of road beds. Ultimately, the whole universe is open–in the European view–to this sort of insanity.

Most important here, perhaps, is the fact that Europeans feel no sense of loss in all this. After all, their philosophers have despiritualized reality, so there is no satisfaction (for them) to be gained in simply observing the wonder of a mountain or a lake or a people in being. No, satisfaction is measured in terms of gaining material. So the mountain becomes gravel, and the lake becomes coolant for a factory, and the people are rounded up for processing through the indoctrination mills Europeans like to call schools.

But each new piece of that “progress” ups the ante out in the real world. Take fuel for the industrial machine as an example. Little more than two centuries ago, nearly everyone used wood–a replenishable, natural item–as fuel for the very human needs of cooking and staying warm. Along came the Industrial Revolution and coal became the dominant fuel, as production became the social imperative for Europe. Pollution began to become a problem in the cities, and the earth was ripped open to provide coal whereas wood had always simply been gathered or harvested at no great expense to the environment. Later, oil became the major fuel, as the technology of production was perfected through a series of scientific “revolutions.” Pollution increased dramatically, and nobody yet knows what the environmental costs of pumping all that oil out of the ground will really be in the long run. Now there’s an “energy crisis,” and uranium is becoming the dominant fuel.

Capitalists, at least, can be relied upon to develop uranium as fuel only at the rate which they can show a good profit. That’s their ethic, and maybe they will buy some time. Marxists, on the other hand, can be relied upon to develop uranium fuel as rapidly as possible simply because it’s the most “efficient” production fuel available. That’s their ethic, and I fail to see where it’s preferable. Like I said, Marxism is right smack in the middle of European tradition. It’s the same old song.

There’s a rule of thumb which can be applied here. You cannot judge the real nature of a European revolutionary doctrine on the basis of the changes it proposes to make within the European power structure and society. You can only judge it by the effects it will have on non-European peoples. This is because every revolution in European history has served to reinforce Europe’s tendencies and abilities to export destruction to other peoples, other cultures and the environment itself. I defy anyone to point out an example where this is not true.

So now we, as American Indian people, are asked to believe that a “new” European revolutionary doctrine such as Marxism will reverse the negative effects of European history on us. European power relations are to be adjusted once again, and that’s supposed to make things better for all of us. But what does this really mean?

Right now, today, we who live on the Pine Ridge Reservation are living in what white society has designated a “National Sacrifice Area.” What this means is that we have a lot of uranium deposits here, and white culture (not us) needs this uranium as energy production material. The cheapest, most efficient way for industry to extract and deal with the processing of this uranium is to dump the waste by-products right here at the digging sites. Right here where we live. This waste is radioactive and will make the entire region uninhabitable forever. This is considered by the industry, and by the white society that created this industry, to be an “acceptable” price to pay for energy resource development. Along the way they also plan to drain the water table under this part of South Dakota as part of the industrial process, so the region becomes doubly uninhabitable. The same sort of thing is happening down in the land of the Navajo and Hopi, up in the land of the Northern Cheyenne and Crow, and elsewhere. Thirty percent of the coal in the West and half of the uranium deposits in the United States have been found to lie under reservation land, so there is no way this can be called a minor issue.

We are resisting being turned into a National Sacrifice Area. We are resisting being turned into a national sacrifice people. The costs of this industrial process are not acceptable to us. It is genocide to dig uranium here and drain the water table–no more, no less.

Now let’s suppose that in our resistance to extermination we begin to seek allies (we have). Let’s suppose further that we were to take revolutionary Marxism at its word: that it intends nothing less than the complete overthrow of the European capitalists order which has presented this threat to our very existence. This would seem to be a natural alliance for American Indian people to enter into. After all, as the Marxists say, it is the capitalists who set us up to be a national sacrifice. This is true as far as it goes.

But, as I’ve tried to point out, this “truth” is very deceptive. Revolutionary Marxism is committed to even further perpetuation and perfection of the very industrial process which is destroying us all. It offers only to “redistribute” the results–the money, maybe–of this industrialization to a wider section of the population. It offers to take wealth from the capitalists and pass it around; but in order to do so, Marxism must maintain the industrial system. Once again, the power relations within European society will have to be altered, but once again the effects upon American Indian peoples here and non-Europeans elsewhere will remain the same. This is much the same as when power was redistributed from the church to private business during the so-called bourgeois revolution. European society changed a bit, at least superficially, but its conduct toward non-Europeans continued as before. You can see what the American Revolution of 1776 did for American Indians. It’s the same old song.

Revolutionary Marxism, like industrial society in other forms, seeks to “rationalize” all people in relation to industry–maximum industry, maximum production. It is a doctrine that despises the American Indian spiritual tradition, our cultures, our lifeways. Marx himself called us “precapitalists” and “primitive.” Precapitalist simply means that, in his view, we would eventually discover capitalism and become capitalists; we have always been economically retarded in Marxist terms. The only manner in which American Indian people could participate in a Marxist revolution would be to join the industrial system, to become factory workers, or “proletarians,” as Marx called them. The man was very clear about the fact that his revolution could only occur through the struggle of the proletariat, that the existence of a massive industrial system is a precondition of a successful Marxist society.

I think there’s a problem with language here. Christians, capitalists, Marxists. All of them have been revolutionary in their own minds, but none of them really means revolution. What they really mean is continuation. They do what they do in order that European culture can continue to exist and develop according to its needs. Like germs, European culture goes through occasional convulsions, even divisions within itself, in order to go on living and growing. This isn’t a revolution we’re talking about, but a means to continue what already exists. An amoeba is still an amoeba after it reproduces. But maybe comparing European culture to an amoeba isn’t really fair to the amoeba. Maybe cancer cells are a more accurate comparison because European culture has historically destroyed everything around it; and it will eventually destroy itself.

So, in order for us to really join forces with Marxism, we American Indians would have to accept the national sacrifice of our homeland; we would have to commit cultural suicide and become industrialized and Europeanized.

At this point, I’ve got to stop and ask myself whether I’m being too harsh. Marxism has something of a history. Does this history bear out my observations? I look to the process of industrialization in the Soviet Union since 1920 and I see that these Marxists have done what it took the English Industrial Revolution 300 years to do; and the Marxists did it in 60 years. I see that the territory of the USSR used to contain a number of tribal peoples and that they have been crushed to make way for the factories. The Soviets refer to this as “the National Question,” the question of whether the tribal peoples had the right to exist as peoples; and they decided the tribal peoples were an acceptable sacrifice to the industrial needs. I look to China and I see the same thing. I look to Vietnam and I see Marxists imposing an industrial order and rooting out the indigenous tribal mountain people.

I hear the leading Soviet scientist saying that when uranium is exhausted, then alternatives will be found. I see the Vietnamese taking over a nuclear power plant abandoned by the U.S. military. Have they dismantled and destroyed it? No, they are using it. I see China exploding nuclear bombs, developing uranium reactors, and preparing a space program in order to colonize and exploit the planets the same as the Europeans colonized and exploited this hemisphere. It’s the same old song, but maybe with a faster tempo this time.

The statement of the Soviet scientist is very interesting. Does he know what this alternative energy source will be? No, he simply has faith. Science will find a way. I hear revolutionary Marxists saying that the destruction of the environment, pollution, and radiation will all be controlled. And I see them act upon their words. Do they know how these things will be controlled? No, they simply have faith. Science will find a way. Industrialization is fine and necessary. How do they know this? Faith. Science will find a way. Faith of this sort has always been known in Europe as religion. Science has become the new European religion for both capitalists and Marxists; they are truly inseparable; they are part and parcel of the same culture. So, in both theory and practice, Marxism demands that non-European peoples give up their values, their traditions, their cultural existence altogether. We will all be industrialized science addicts in a Marxist society.

I do not believe that capitalism itself is really responsible for the situation in which American Indians have been declared a national sacrifice. No, it is the European tradition; European culture itself is responsible. Marxism is just the latest continuation of this tradition, not a solution to it. To ally with Marxism is to ally with the very same forces that declare us an acceptable cost.

There is another way. There is the traditional Lakota way and the ways of the American Indian peoples. It is the way that knows that humans do not have the right to degrade Mother Earth, that there are forces beyond anything the European mind has conceived, that humans must be in harmony with all relations or the relations will eventually eliminate the disharmony. A lopsided emphasis on humans by humans–the Europeans’ arrogance of acting as though they were beyond the nature of all related things–can only result in a total disharmony and a readjustment which cuts arrogant humans down to size, gives them a taste of that reality beyond their grasp or control and restores the harmony. There is no need for a revolutionary theory to bring this about; it’s beyond human control. The nature peoples of this planet know this and so they do not theorize about it. Theory is an abstract; our knowledge is real.

Distilled to its basic terms, European faith–including the new faith in science–equals a belief that man is God. Europe has always sought a Messiah, whether that be the man Jesus Christ or the man Karl Marx or the man Albert Einstein. American Indians know this to be totally absurd. Humans are the weakest of all creatures, so weak that other creatures are willing to give up their flesh that we may live. Humans are able to survive only through the exercise of rationality since they lack the abilities of other creatures to gain food through the use of fang and claw.

But rationality is a curse since it can cause humans to forget the natural order of things in ways other creatures do not. A wolf never forgets his or her place in the natural order. American Indians can. Europeans almost always do. We pray our thanks to the deer, our relations, for allowing us their flesh to eat; Europeans simply take the flesh for granted and consider the deer inferior. After all, Europeans consider themselves godlike in their rationalism and science. God is the Supreme Being; all else must be inferior.

All European tradition, Marxism included, has conspired to defy the natural order of all things. Mother Earth has been abused, the powers have been abused, and this cannot go on forever. No theory can alter that simple fact. Mother Earth will retaliate, the whole environment will retaliate, and the abusers will be eliminated. Things come full circle, back to where they started. That’s revolution. And that’s a prophecy of my people, of the Hopi people and of other correct peoples.

American Indians have been trying to explain this to Europeans for centuries. But, as I said earlier, Europeans have proven themselves unable to hear. The natural order will win out, and the offenders will die out, the way deer die when they offend the harmony by over-populating a given region. It’s only a matter of time until what Europeans call “a major catastrophe of global proportions” will occur. It is the role of American Indian peoples, the role of all natural beings, to survive. A part of our survival is to resist. We resist not to overthrow a government or to take political power, but because it is natural to resist extermination, to survive. We don’t want power over white institutions; we want white institutions to disappear. That’s revolution.

American Indians are still in touch with these realities–the prophecies, the traditions of our ancestors. We learn from the elders, from nature, from the powers. And when the catastrophe is over, we American Indian peoples will still be here to inhabit the hemisphere. I don’t care if it’s only a handful living high in the Andes. American Indian people will survive; harmony will be reestablished. That’s revolution.

At this point, perhaps I should be very clear about another matter, one which should already be clear as a result of what I’ve said. But confusion breeds easily these days, so I want to hammer home this point. When I use the term European, I’m not referring to a skin color or a particular genetic structure. What I’m referring to is a mind-set, a worldview that is a product of the development of European culture. People are not genetically encoded to hold this outlook; they are acculturated to hold it. The same is true for American Indians or for the members of any culture.

It is possible for an American Indian to share European values, a European worldview. We have a term for these people; we call them “apples”–red on the outside (genetics) and white on the inside (their values). Other groups have similar terms: Blacks have their “oreos”; Hispanos have “Coconuts” and so on. And, as I said before, there are exceptions to the white norm: people who are white on the outside, but not white inside. I’m not sure what term should be applied to them other than “human beings.”

What I’m putting out here is not a racial proposition but a cultural proposition. Those who ultimately advocate and defend the realities of European culture and its industrialism are my enemies. Those who resist it, who struggle against it, are my allies, the allies of American Indian people. And I don’t give a damn what their skin color happens to be. Caucasian is the white term for the white race: European is an outlook I oppose.

The Vietnamese Communists are not exactly what you might consider genetic Caucasians, but they are now functioning as mental Europeans. The same holds true for Chinese Communists, for Japanese capitalists or Bantu Catholics or Peter “MacDollar” down at the Navajo Reservation or Dickie Wilson up here at Pine Ridge. There is no racism involved in this, just an acknowledgment of the mind and spirit that make up culture.

In Marxist terms I suppose I’m a “cultural nationalist.” I work first with my people, the traditional Lakota people, because we hold a common worldview and share an immediate struggle. Beyond this, I work with other traditional American Indian peoples, again because of a certain commonality in worldview and form of struggle. Beyond that, I work with anyone who has experienced the colonial oppression of Europe and who resists its cultural and industrial totality. Obviously, this includes genetic Caucasians who struggle to resist the dominant norms of European culture. The Irish and the Basques come immediately to mind, but there are many others.

I work primarily with my own people, with my own community. Other people who hold non-European perspectives should do the same. I believe in the slogan, “Trust your brother’s vision,” although I’d like to add sisters into the bargain. I trust the community and the culturally based vision of all the races that naturally resist industrialization and human extinction. Clearly, individual whites can share in this, given only that they have reached the awareness that continuation of the industrial imperatives of Europe is not a vision, but species suicide. White is one of the sacred colors of the Lakota people–red, yellow, white and black. The four directions. The four seasons. The four periods of life and aging. The four races of humanity. Mix red, yellow, white and black together and you get brown, the color of the fifth race. This is a natural ordering of things. It therefore seems natural to me to work with all races, each with its own special meaning, identity and message.

But there is a peculiar behavior among most Caucasians. As soon as I become critical of Europe and its impact on other cultures, they become defensive. They begin to defend themselves. But I’m not attacking them personally; I’m attacking Europe. In personalizing my observations on Europe they are personalizing European culture, identifying themselves with it. By defending themselves in this context, they are ultimately defending the death culture. This is a confusion which must be overcome, and it must be overcome in a hurry. None of us has energy to waste in such false struggles.

Caucasians have a more positive vision to offer humanity than European culture. I believe this. But in order to attain this vision it is necessary for Caucasians to step outside European culture–alongside the rest of humanity–to see Europe for what it is and what it does.

To cling to capitalism and Marxism and all other “isms” is simply to remain within European culture. There is no avoiding this basic fact. As a fact, this constitutes a choice. Understand that the choice is based on culture, not race. Understand that to choose European culture and industrialism is to choose to be my enemy. And understand that the choice is yours, not mine.

This leads me back to address those American Indians who are drifting through the universities, the city slums, and other European institutions. If you are there to resist the oppressor in accordance with your traditional ways, so be it. I don’t know how you manage to combine the two, but perhaps you will succeed. But retain your sense of reality. Beware of coming to believe the white world now offers solutions to the problems it confronts us with. Beware, too, of allowing the words of native people to be twisted to the advantages of our enemies. Europe invented the practice of turning words around on themselves. You need only look to the treaties between American Indian peoples and various European governments to know that this is true. Draw your strength from who you are.

A culture which regularly confuses revolt with resistance, has nothing helpful to teach you and nothing to offer you as a way of life. Europeans have long since lost all touch with reality, if ever they were in touch with who you are as American Indians.

So, I suppose to conclude this, I should state clearly that leading anyone toward Marxism is the last thing on my mind. Marxism is as alien to my culture as capitalism and Christianity are. In fact, I can say I don’t think I’m trying to lead anyone toward anything. To some extent I tried to be a “leader,” in the sense that the white media like to use that term, when the American Indian Movement was a young organization. This was a result of a confusion I no longer have. You cannot be everything to everyone. I do not propose to be used in such a fashion by my enemies. I am not a leader. I am an Oglala Lakota patriot. That is all I want and all I need to be. And I am very comfortable with who I am.”

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Liberty City Mortgage Meltdown

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House, homeowner caught in a mortgage meltdown

A Liberty City woman is fighting foreclosure, claiming forgery, fraud and bank negligence in a drama that has her family home at stake.
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Ten people spanning three generations share a single bathroom in what's left of Annie Edwards' crumbling home in Liberty City. There are holes in the wood floors and trash bags plastered to the leaking ceiling -- and Deutsche Bank is adamant that it wants this 82-year-old structure.

It has been fighting to repossess the home since 2006 in an ongoing legal battle that involves allegations of forged signatures, a disbarred property appraiser and a family on the brink of homelessness.

The house is indeed a wreck, but because it has a Fannie Mae-backed mortgage, the bank could simply carry out foreclosure proceedings, and then put in a claim to recoup the $102,000 owed on it. Because Fannie Mae was taken over by the federal government in 2008, taxpayers would ultimately pick up the tab.

``It's really a sad case,'' said Jonathan Heller, a lawyer who volunteered to defend Edwards from foreclosure. ``She worked for 30 years, had no mortgage on the property, is in a wheelchair and every night she goes to sleep thinking, `Am I going to have this house when I wake up?' ''

Edwards' predicament represents a confluence of the fraud, document forgery, and suspicious foreclosure practices that have plagued South Florida's housing market from the housing boom after Hurricane Wilma in 2005, through the current ``robo-signing'' scandal. In the midst of a new national foreclosure crisis, Edwards' story stands out as a case study of the housing and banking systems' laundry list of problems.

The 63-year-old retiree says her housing troubles began five years ago when her ex-husband, legally blind and illiterate, was duped into taking out a $102,000 mortgage on the house by his adult son and daughter-in-law. The couple forged Edwards' signature on a document that stripped her possession of the home, and then made off with the money in January 2006, she said.


Four months later, a bank representative came to the shotgun-style house to serve foreclosure papers, surprising Edwards so much that she filed a police report. The retired Jackson Health System nurse's aide had owned the home free and clear for years, and knew nothing about a new mortgage.

``To my knowledge, the house is only worth maybe $30,000 to $40,000,'' she said. ``Why would someone, a bank, loan out $100,000 on a place that's only worth $30,000 or $40,000?''

Valued by Miami-Dade County's property appraiser at $34,883 in 2005, the home's assessment shot up to $234,581 after the loan was made in 2006. By 2010, the property's assessed value had fallen to $112,459, with $97,808 for the building and the rest for the land it sits on.

Another question Edwards is asking is why the bank is fighting so hard to foreclose on her dilapidated home, which nonprofit homebuilder Habitat for Humanity has declared unlivable.

Heller believes the bank doesn't actually want the physical building, which would be a tough sell even in a good market, but is after the government guarantee tied to it.

A spokesman for Deutsche Bank declined to comment on Edwards' case, but said the bank acts as a trustee, and is simply carrying out the intentions of the loan servicer, Argent Mortgage Co. According to court records, the mortgage was transferred to Deutsche Bank in 2006.

Heller said Argent, the original lender, is partially at fault because it did not properly review the paperwork and lent $102,000 on a broken property that was never worth that much.

Another wrinkle in the story: If Edwards can beat this foreclosure, her home will be completely rebuilt by Habitat for Humanity, at no cost to her.

The Greater Miami chapter of Habitat has approved the property for an extreme makeover through a program for homes affected by hurricanes Katrina and Wilma.

``We've done an assessment of the home -- it definitely is a rebuild,'' said Anne Manning, executive director of Habitat for Humanity of Greater Miami . ``We'd knock it down and build it back up.''

In the years since hurricanes lashed her home, Edwards said she has been hesitant to use the little money that she has for repairs, because the bank is looming to take the home away.

``I wanted to fix up the place but I can't do that,'' said Edwards, who lives on Social Security and a retirement check. ``I'm afraid that someone might come in and try to take the place. Then after I put all the money in it, it'll go to waste.''

And Habitat can't remake the home unless Edwards can clear up the foreclosure problem.

``This is a family we really want to make sure we can help,'' said Manning, pointing out that two special needs children live at the house. ``Our hope is that she can straighten everything out with the title, and Ms. Edwards would get a brand new home.''

Meanwhile, Edwards is bearing the consequences of the $102,000 loan through higher property taxes. Her property tax bill, which stood at $638 before the loan, soared to more than $4,300 last year.

Argent Bank's property appraiser, who valued the home at $120,000 shortly after mid-decade hurricanes had their way with the roof and frame, had his license revoked 10 months after filing his appraisal report. That report -- which failed to mention the structural deterioration or storm damage -- stated: ``No physical deficiencies or adverse conditions were noted that would adversely effect [sic] the livability, soundness or structural integrity of the subject property.'' The appraiser's license revocation report from the Florida Real Estate Appraisal Board lists ``knowingly making a false statement,'' and ``engaging in fraud'' among its charges.

Tamika Terry, who grew up in the home and lives there with her two children, said the idea that a bank would loan $102,000 on such a derelict property was ``crazy -- real crazy.''

On a tour through the home, Terry, Edwards' daughter, pointed out deteriorating fixtures while dodging weak sections of the wood floor. Her own daughter's wheelchair leaned against a cracked wall, and flies buzzed in and out of the many holes in the structure.

``This house was built in 1928,'' Terry said. ``It's never been remodeled.''


Using a dishonest property appraiser was only one of many suspicious actions by Argent Mortgage, Heller alleges. The loan approval process was also questionable, he said.

The loan application claims Edwards' ex-husband, Kenneth Edwards, was an ``owner-occupier,'' of the home, though he hadn't lived there for 10 years and public records shows he bought a separate homesteaded property in 1996. The bank never checked and, according to Kenneth Edwards, never asked.

In a sworn affidavit, he states that he never spoke to any bank representatives before the loan was made.

Argent, at one point the nation's largest lender to people with low credit scores, crumbled under the weight of the subprime lending crisis and was sold to Citibank in 2007. A previous Miami Herald review of Argent mortgages found widespread evidence of mortgage fraud, with one-third of Argent loans in Miami-Dade County eventually falling into foreclosure.

According to Annie Edwards' counterclaim, the lender also relied on a forged quit-claim deed that stripped her of her ownership. A police report found her signature on that document was a forgery, the counterclaim states.

If the forgery defense is accepted in court, that would make the loan, and the foreclosure, legally invalid.

For her part, Annie Edwards puts most of the blame on her stepson and his wife, since they obtained a loan without her knowledge and never paid the mortgage. She hasn't heard from either one of them since.

The stepson, David Edwards, lives out of state, and his wife, Dana, lives in Broward County, Heller said. Neither could be reached for comment.


As Deutsche Bank motions for a summary judgment in the case, it suffers from many of the same problems that have led to stalled foreclosures across the country.

After acquiring the loan from the original lender, the bank's representatives profess little knowledge about the details of the home loan, and its lawyers have not been able to close the case for four years.

A Miami-Dade County judge briefly threw out the case in July after a Deutsche Bank attorney failed to show up in court. Another judge reinstated the case a month later.

Heller hopes to take the matter to trial, and eventually have the foreclosure ruled unlawful. He also filed a counterclaim for wrongful foreclosure.

In the meantime, the Edwards family has been looking into other housing options should the bank succeed in foreclosing. The 63-year-old matriarch said she hopes it doesn't come to that.

``The only thing I can do if they continue to try to take this house is to move,'' Annie Edwards said. ``And I have no place to go.''

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Monday, April 05, 2010

May 2010 Month of Action to Take Back the Land

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The housing bust and faulty government policies have immersed the United States in a full blown economic and housing crisis. The cruel irony of this crisis, and what makes it so profoundly immoral, is that the commodity at its root- housing- is not at all in scarcity. To the contrary, sufficient vacant housing stocks exist to accommodate virtually everyone in need, including families forced into overcrowded and substandard conditions as well as the homeless.

In the face of this severe economic crisis, people are rising up. They rail against the bailouts and bonuses, protest the lack of lending, rebel against unfair credit card rate hikes and, most dramatically, fight back against losing their homes.

The Take Back the Land Movement is calling for a May 2010 National Month of Action to assert the fundamental human right to housing and community control over land. Participating organizations, communities and families are asserting this right in two ways: by "liberating" government, foreclosed and warehoused homes, making them available for families with nowhere else to live, and by protecting families, our neighbors, from foreclosure related evictions from houses, apartments and condos as well as income related evictions from public housing.

Every family, indeed every human being, needs and deserves decent and adequate housing that they can afford, regardless of their income. However, instead of facilitating this need, federal, state and municipal governments are instituting policies and enacting legislation protecting the profits of corporations at the expense and exclusion of families. These policies serve only to compound, rather than end, the crisis. For example, the same financial institutions which caused the crisis, are both bailed out for their "toxic assets," and allowed to evict families and keep those assets vacant. In addition, federal and local governments are actively vacating, boarding up and demolishing public housing and underfunding rent subsidy programs in order to free up monies for bank bailouts and sports facilities.

This series of policies and laws not only allow human beings to live on the street while hundreds of thousands of houses sit vacant, but the bailouts effectively compel struggling families to finance their own evictions and then subsidize hefty bonuses to the executives evicting them.

In the context of a severe housing crisis, policies and laws which impede the human right to housing are morally indefensible and, as such, must be directly challenged until they are changed. The May Month of Action will challenge those laws which prioritize corporate profits over human needs. This is an historic crisis, one which merits an historic response.

On February 1, 1960, four North Carolina A&T students sat-in at a Greensboro Woolworths lunch counter and stepped into history, sparking a movement and changing this society forever. The "sit-in" campaigns were predicated on the notion that legal equality was a human right and, as such, laws violating those rights were morally wrong, and, therefore, must be directly challenged- and broken- in order to be changed.

Inspired by the 50th anniversary of the first sit-ins, the Take Back the Land Movement asserts that housing is a human right and, as such, the policies which violate that right are morally wrong and, therefore, must be directly challenged. As such, this May, organizations across the US are engaging in "live-in" campaigns designed to house human beings and directly challenge those policies and laws that promote vacant housing during this housing crisis.

Civil disobedience campaigns directly challenge unjust laws by breaking them until they change. The Take Back the Land Movement and the live-in campaigns, however, encompass more than merely disobeying immoral laws: it is fundamentally about empowering communities to take control of their land and implementing the moral imperative of housing human beings. More than simple civil disobedience, the live-in campaign is, in fact, a movement of moral obedience.

Organizations in no less than ten (10) US cities will help their family, friends and neighbors "live-in" vacant government owned or foreclosed homes, buildings or land by either moving them in or preventing their eviction. Organizations in cities like Boston, New York, Philadelphia and Washington, DC, will be joined by others in Chicago, Miami, Sacramento and New Orleans. Smaller cities include Toledo, Ohio, Madison, Wisconsin, St. Petersburg, Florida and Portland, Oregon.

Of course, no social justice movement has ever been won in a single month or by utilizing a single tactic or strategy. As such, May 2010 is not the totality, but rather the dawn of a movement whose aims are to elevate housing to the level of a human right and to win community control over land.

The solution to the housing crisis lies in your community, even on your block, and in your hands. The time has come to Take Back the Land.


Max Rameau

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Monday, March 01, 2010

Take Back the Land in South Africa

Take Back the Land is going to South Africa.

As a part of building our national Take Back the Land Movement, we asked the famed Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR- to act as our legal Strategic Partner. As part of that responsibility, CCR invited me to join them on a trip to South Africa to research learn from organizations engaged in anti-eviction and land reform work.

This trip is particularly exciting for me both because of my Pan-African ideological perspective and because the Western Cape Anti-Eviction Campaign is one of the two organizations Take Back the Land Miami is modeled after (the other one is the MST in Brazil).

Our party of five will spend three days in Cape Town with the Anti-Eviction Campaign and Abahlali baseMjondolo (ABM) and three days in Durban with ABM. CCR will examine legal issues and responses there as well as look at how legal organizations provide support to social justice movements. For Take Back the Land, this trip has four (4) objectives:

Build an International Movement. We seek to realize housing as a human right for every person on this planet. As such, we seek to establish formal relationships with organizations fighting for those rights, thereby building an international movement for community control over land and housing as a human right.

Campaign Modeling. The WCAEC and ABM have executed mass campaigns to stop bulldozers and evictions. We in the US have much to learn from our sisters and brothers across the globe.

Network Modeling. South Africans have built a national anti-eviction and land reform movement. Take Back the Land strives to learn from their model and replicate their successes.

For the next week, I will post, email, blog, facebook, buzz and tweet from South Africa to share the experiences of Take Back the Land and the Center for Constitutional Rights.

This email is being sent from the airport in Johannesburg, South Africa.


Max Rameau


Thursday, July 23, 2009

Picture the Homeless Liberates Land in Manhattan, NYC!


Picture the Homeless, a New York City based homeless rights organization, has liberated a vacant lot in the Manhattan Borough of New York City and is currently building a Tent City there. I just spoke to Picture the Homeless leader and organizer Rob Robinson ( and he informed me they are erecting tents and moving homeless people into them. The land, located on the 115th St., between Madison and 5th Ave., is owned by JP Morgan/Chase, but it is not controlled by Picture the Homeless for the benefit of human beings, not corporations.

The movement to liberate land and elevate housing to the level of a human right is growing. Take Back the Land supports Picture the Homeless ( and other organization working for the right to housing. Updates, including pictures of the liberation, are coming this afternoon.

What can you do to support?
  • If you are in NYC, go to 115th St., between Madison and 5th Ave. in Manhattan and show your support. A press conference is scheduled for 1:00pm.
  • Email your support to Picture the Homeless from their website (
  • Call Mayor Bloomberg's office and tell him to allow Picture the Homeless to house people on that lot. Hands Off Picture the Homeless! You must leave a message with 311-NYC by calling 212-639-9675.
  • Talk to people and organizations in your community about liberating land.
Housing is a human right!
Liberate land!
Land for people not for profit!


Max Rameau
Take Back the Land

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Tej Nagaraja <>
Date: Thu, Jul 23, 2009 at 11:06 AM
Subject: [PTH friends] *breaking news* Homeless 'tent city' occupation in NYC [press release, July 23]
To: Tej Nagaraja <>

** Breaking News: FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE **        Thursday, July 23, 2009

Contact: Tej Nagaraja (646) 302-5769    
Updates:  &  #tentcitynyc

Location—come!: 115th Street between Madison and 5th Avenues, Manhattan
First on-site press conference scheduled for 1pm—on-site PTH members and neighborhood residents available for interview at all times.

Homeless New Yorkers Occupy Vacant Lot, Create Tent City, Demand Change

Call for city government to meet need of low-income residents, not greed of big banks

MANHATTAN—On Thursday at 11:00 AM, members of Picture the Homeless orchestrated a spirited occupation of a warehoused (vacant) lot, currently owned by the firm JPMorgan Chase, a recent beneficiary of billions in taxpayer bailout money.

Homeless New Yorkers and their allies turned a fenced-off grassy lot in El Barrio/East Harlem into a vibrant Tent City, creatively adorned with makeshift dwellings, colorful art and banners. Under the slogan "NYC: A Place to Call Home," they demanded that warehoused lots and buildings be accounted for by the city, and transformed into housing for poor and homeless people.

Jean Rice, a homeless New Yorker: "Today, Picture the Homeless sends a message that land use must take into account the common good—as housing for the needy, not warehoused assets for the greedy."

Hundreds rallied in support of the bold action. The organizers have invited local musicians to perform, faith leaders and community activists to engage the crowd—and community members to feast on barbecue, and discuss and debate the challenges and struggles all low-income New Yorkers face.

Picture the Homeless members note that more families are homeless now than when Mayor Bloomberg took office. When confronted with his policy failures earlier this month, the Mayor could only say that so many remain homeless because he's made shelters "more attractive." For Chase's part, New York Times quoted an executive during the October bailout: "Twenty-five billion dollars is obviously going to help the folks who are struggling more than Chase."

Picture the Homeless member Sophia Bryant: "The government and banks have failed miserably. Homeless people know what the problems are, and we have ideas for the solutions. Since they won't listen, the time is now for people to take action. We don't want shelters—we want decent housing. We will build what we need!"


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