Statement: Commitment to Ending Racism and Capitalism – East Bay DSA

We are committed to the struggle against racism as part of the project of unifying the diverse working class and winning the fight to end capitalism. The deep tradition of anti-racist socialist movements has taught us that racism and capitalism are profoundly intertwined. It is clear to us that the capitalist class profits by dividing, disempowering, and destroying the lives of working people, through tactics of racial scapegoating, disenfranchisement, disinvestment, and direct violence that specifically target people of color. We are working people unified in our commitment to end racism and capitalism in the service of building a socialist society.

We believe in developing the capability of our members to lead the fight for socialism, and we are committed to supporting, developing, and advancing the leadership of members from oppressed groups, whether they be defined by race, gender, national origin, physical ability, sexual identity, or other factors. We are committed to the internal accountability and education necessary to involve, learn from, and support these members at all levels of our organization. We believe in the importance of recruiting and developing organic leaders across a breadth of working-class communities, and thus seek to support and advance members whose particular existing relationships, lived experience, and social capacities will help build a deeper, broader, and more powerful multiracial socialist movement. We are committed to building an organization that is diverse and inclusive of all different kinds of people.

We are committed to fighting for concrete gains in the lives of all working people. We reject racist restrictions in all state and social institutions. We aim to include all segments of the working classes in our fight to win material reforms that improve the lives of working people, and empower those most excluded and targeted under the racist and patriarchal capitalism of our current society.

In keeping with these commitments, the Executive Committee of our chapter endorses the policy platform “A Vision for Black Lives,” issued by the Movement for Black Lives. We especially applaud the commitment of the Movement for Black Lives to fight against the scourge of police terrorism, mass incarceration, and a racist culture of “Law and Order” that disproportionately impacts Black communities and in general harms and divides many working-class people. As the document is not entirely socialist or anti-capitalist, we raise concern with certain provisions. For example, under the Economic Justice segment, the call for state subsidies to unspecified private businesses for the hiring of Black workers. Given the fraught history of state subsidies to private industry, we feel this vaguely-worded provision carries a risk of being implemented in a manner that empowers and profits capitalists. However, beyond this and a few other concerns, we recognize and celebrate the platform’s extensive calls to support worker-owned industry and advance democratic, redistributive politics. As a whole, we support this platform as an important step towards building a unified anti-capitalist movement of, by and for the whole working class.

Source: Statement: Commitment to Ending Racism and Capitalism – East Bay DSA

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The Case for Public Housing | Dissent Magazine

A baseball game in front of St. Louis’s Pruitt-Igoe housing complex, before it was demolished and became an icon of the alleged failure of U.S. public housing

In the face of the racism and disinvestment that have hobbled U.S. public housing, the left should not retreat from the concept but reclaim it.

When people on the left think about solutions to the housing crisis, few of us think about public housing. Faced with the twin problems of overinvestment, leading to gentrification and displacement, and underinvestment, leading to substandard housing and foreclosures, we tend to think about locally based solutions, which makes sense. Many of these problems are caused by the state in collusion with the real estate industry, and it seems impossible to imagine a future in which the government plays a different role. But I’d like to imagine a future in which many of us live in, and thrive in, public housing.

Any discussion of the future of public housing must begin by understanding its origins. Public housing in the United States first emerged in the 1930s as part of the New Deal, when there was an enormous shortage of housing following the Great Depression. The federal government began by making loans to nonprofit corporations to build housing. This program produced very few housing units, due both to the lack of qualified builders and to the inefficiency of channeling public funds through the limited-dividend corporations. As a result, under the Public Works Administration, led by Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes, the government decided to enter the housing business: rather than paying companies to build government-subsidized housing, the state would build and maintain housing through local housing authorities.

As soldiers returned from World War II, their expanding families created a boom in demand for housing, both private and public. The vast public housing programs undertaken in the postwar period, however, suffered from the racism and disinvestment that would become endemic to government housing, and to nearly every other public institution through the present day. Like other provisions of the G.I. Bill, public housing location and construction were left in the hands of local officials all too eager to keep African Americans out of their communities. Meanwhile, families with resources were encouraged by low-interest mortgage loans to leave urban public housing and move to the suburbs. Of the 67,000 mortgages issued under the G.I. Bill, fewer than 100 were taken out by black veterans.

In its relatively short history, public housing has suffered from rampant corruption in some cities, and from the failure of many local housing authorities to maintain and repair housing projects. But this doesn’t mean public housing is a flawed concept, just as “underperforming” public schools whose students are burdened by poverty don’t serve as proof that public education is a failed endeavor. Public disinvestment is the first step in a now-familiar playbook that leads to privatization.

Since the 1970s, privately funded affordable housing has largely supplanted government-funded public housing. HUD (Department of Housing and Urban Development) programs like Hope VI and Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD) exemplify this increasing reliance on the private market. Many of the units in RAD housing or affordable housing build by community development corporations are paid for with Low-Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTC), with higher income limits than traditional public housing. These higher income limits, along with the overall need for more affordable housing units, pushes many struggling households into overcrowding, homelessness, and public housing waitlists.

In line with this shift toward private ownership of subsidized housing, U.S. public housing authorities have become increasingly reliant on Housing Choice Vouchers, or Section 8. While possession of a mobile Section 8 voucher guarantees subsidized rent, the units where the voucher can be used are privately owned. This allows landlords to discriminate against tenants, whether through outright exclusion or by charging rents that exceed HUD’s fair market cap. Section 8 tenants can easily be forced out by property value increases and rising rents, one facet of the cycle of gentrification and displacement currently affecting many U.S. cities.In a process partially justified by these many challenges, public housing is currently either being killed by neglect or aggressively privatized. Take Chicago’s “Plan for Transformation”—a scheme to demolish the city’s public housing projects and rebuild them as “mixed-income” developments. Economically diverse neighborhoods are a laudable goal. But most of the mixed-income developments built under Mayors Richard Daley and Rahm Emanuel are segregated by class, with low-income residents subject to increased surveillance and discrimination. Those who were allowed to return—that i

Source: The Case for Public Housing | Dissent Magazine

 

A single law is devastating the affordability of housing in California. Repeal Costa-Hawkins

Real estate speculation and price-gouging are driving Californians to impossible commutes, overcrowded housing, and into the streets. According to a 2014 UCLA study, California is the least affordable state and Los Angeles is the least affordable city for renters in the nation. A third of Angelenos spend more than half their income on rent. When housing costs are factored in, one in four of us lives in poverty.

By voting for the Affordable Housing Act ballot measure this November, Californians can restore the rights of cities to use a powerful tool to stop this escalating crisis: rent control.

At a time when shrinking state and federal budgets can’t provide enough government-subsidized housing to meet our needs, rent control doesn’t require government funding. It takes years to build subsidized homes and decades for market-rate ones to become affordable; rent control can be implemented immediately. By keeping rent increases reasonable and protecting tenants from eviction, rent control builds strong and stable communities.

As rents spike and the unhoused population swells, it’s time we return the rights of local governments to control price-gouging and speculating.

Twenty years ago, however, Sacramento legislators took away the rights of local California governments to regulate the cost of rental housing. Passed by one vote in 1994, the Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act froze or undid California’s municipal rent-control laws. Ratifying the Affordable Housing Act would repeal Costa-Hawkins and give those rights back.Republicans and the landlord lobby, which spent $50 million to push Costa-Hawkins, claimed the law would incentivize developers to build more housing, which would cause rents to fall. Yet rents are soaring, and affordable housing is scarce. When Boston lost its rent control laws in 1994, both median rent and the homeless population doubled.Instead of a building spree beneficial to California renters, Costa-Hawkins accomplished four things, each devastating to the affordability of housing in the state.

Costa-Hawkins exempted single-family homes from rent control, encouraging Wall Street speculation.

Before 1995, most municipal rent control laws applied to buildings of all types and sizes, protecting all renters from market whims. Costa-Hawkins mandated that rent control could no longer apply to single-family homes. The law’s designers claimed the exemption would help mom and pop landlords maintain an investment property. Instead, it made the single-family market a playground for corporate gambling.Invitation Homes — managed by Blackstone, one of the world’s biggest financial firms with $450 billion in assets — is now L.A.’s primary landlord of single-family homes. Because of Costa-Hawkins, every one of these homes is exempt from rent protections. Tenants have no options but to pay up or leave when faced with rent increases or run-down conditions.Meanwhile, Blackstone can spend $100 million a week acquiring foreclosed homes — it once bought 3,000 California homes in a day. It even invented a financial instrument to profit from all its rental income: rent-backed securities. Instead of protecting “mom and pops,” Costa-Hawkins has lined the pockets of the biggest corporations in housing.

Costa-Hawkins removed all vacancy controls, making once affordable homes expensive.According to the law, when Californians move out of a rent-controlled apartment, landlords can reset the rent at whatever they want for the next tenant. As rents soar, a target grows on the backs of long-term tenants, whom landlords are incentivized to evict. Harassment, deportation threats and “buyout” scams are some of the means by which landlords accomplish this goal.Before Costa-Hawkins, Santa Monica had what’s called vacancy control – there were limits on how much of an increase the next tenant would get. As a study by Santa Monica’s Rent Board has shown, before Costa Hawkins, 82% of that city’s rent-stabilized apartments were affordable to low-income households. A decade after Costa-Hawkins, only 14% remained affordable.

Municipal rent control on apartments still exists in many cities, but Costa-Hawkins froze these laws at the year of their passage. For L.A., this is 1978. If you live in a building built after 1978, your landlord can raise your rent however much he wants, and at any time. A notification is all that’s required for a rent increase: 30 days for a 10% increase, 60 days for more.Extreme rent hikes have become commonplace. Last fall, Boyle Heights residents were hit with rent increases up to 80%, or $800 a month.

Source: A single law is devastating the affordability of housing in California. Repeal Costa-Hawkins

Laws Punishing Homeless People for Sleeping in Public Are Cruel and Unusual, Court Rules – The New York Times

I wonder how long it will take Boise to overturn this ruling in a higher court. I’m betting it’s around 4 seconds.

In a case stemming from city ordinances in Boise, Idaho, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit said that laws banning sleeping or camping in public places violate the Constitution if no shelter space is available.

Prosecuting homeless people for sleeping on the streets when there is no shelter available is a form of cruel and unusual punishment that violates the Constitution, a federal appeals court said this week.

The case stems from two ordinances in Boise, Idaho, that make it a crime to sleep or camp in buildings, streets and other public places. Six homeless people who had been convicted under the laws sued the city in 2009, saying their constitutional rights had been violated.

After years of legal wrangling, a three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit said in a 32-page opinion on Tuesday that Boise’s ordinances “criminalize the simple act of sleeping outside on public property, whether bare or with a blanket or other basic bedding.” The panel added that “a municipality cannot criminalize such behavior consistently with the Eighth Amendment when no sleeping space is practically available in any shelter.”In their summary of the opinion, the judges wrote, “As long as there is no option of sleeping indoors, the government cannot criminalize indigent, homeless people for sleeping outdoors, on public property, on the false premise they had a choice in the matter.”

The ruling was a victory for homeless advocates, who have long said that laws like the City of Boise’s waste public money, do not alleviate root causes of homelessness like shortages of affordable housing, and punish people simply for being poor.These issues have taken on increased significance as urban neighborhoods gentrify, said Maria Foscarinis, the executive director of the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty, a Washington nonprofit that helped argue the Boise case.

A survey of 187 cities by the group found that from 2006 to 2016, the number of bans on camping in public increased by 69 percent. Bans on sleeping in public places increased by 31 percent.In December, the Department of Housing and Urban Development said that homelessness had increased in 2017 for the first time in seven years, according to an annual count.

“Gentrification means less affordable housing,” Ms. Foscarinis said. “It also means a lot of pressure to remove people who are visibly poor from prominent city areas. These trends are promoting criminalization and promoting these kinds of clashes.”

 

My Fear of Being Touched Is Ruining My Life – VICE

Haphephobia describes the fear of touching, or of being touched. Whether it’s by strangers, close friends, or even a romantic partner, people with haphephobia find touching extremely uncomfortable and in some cases unbearable. It’s usually not about a fear of germs or contamination—known as mysophobia—but rather an obsession with protecting personal space.

How it affects romantic life. It frequently offends people by refusing to touch thet

When someone touches a haphephobe, it sets off unpredictable panic. I can’t explain it much better than that.  Whenever someone gets too close, I become ahaphephobes become anxious. If they do touch me, it almost burns, and I can’t feel their hand I just feel violated until I focus on something else. A friend once pointed out that it’s funny to watch me move through a group of people because I casually contort myself around everyone to make sure we don’t touch.I’ve felt this way my whole life, but it wasn’t until my freshman year of high school when that damn Free Hugs video came out that I realized I had a problem. Back then, when I was doing research for a psychology paper, I came across the term “haphephobia.” When I saw it, I wanted to show everyone and say, “See! It’s a real thing!” So I did exactly that.My parents scoffed. They told me that “human beings need touch,” although they weren’t very physical with their affection either. Interestingly, my maternal great-grandmother was called “the great untouchable” behind her back. Like her, I think my parents have only hugged me a few dozen times in my entire life; we’ve never kissed, not even on the cheek. In fact, when I was little, I once overheard my mom on the phone talking about how disgusting it is that families kiss their children. I’ve never doubted they loved me. It’s just that touching wasn’t their thing.AdvertisementHaphephobia has affected all my relationships, but actually, I think women respond to me much more positively than other guys. I think it’s because they can tell that I have no interest in sex with them. A lot of them also assume I’m gay. I don’t know what it’s like to be a woman, but it seems like they have to walk through life feeling like every guy wants to grope them, and that sounds like hell.But just because I don’t like being touched doesn’t mean that I don’t have a sex drive. It’s just that I’m not going to act on it unless I’m incredibly comfortable. One time, my friends talked me into taking a drunk girl home from the bar because she couldn’t drive. I didn’t realize it at the time, but they were trying to get me laid. Just for those kinds of moments, I wore a protective ring on my wedding finger. I told the girl I was married, and she could sleep on the couch. I didn’t sleep that night because I was afraid she’d come into my room and try to have sex with me anyway.Continued below. For a little something related:There have been a few close friends that I was romantically interested in. When I would attempt to have sex with them, my heart would race, and I’d end up getting absolutely no pleasure out of the experience. Of course, this made the women I slept with very self-conscious about themselves, so I started self-medicating with alcohol to calm down. Then I could also blame my inability to ejaculate on the beer.This is one of the reasons I fell into alcoholism, which is how I met a nurse who helped me through my anxiety surrounding physical contact. She would hold out her hand and tell me it was OK to touch it and it wouldn’t hurt. Then she had me touch her arm, or she’d touch my face and tell me that it wasn’t bad. It was uncomfortable, but she found a way to make it funny. We ended up getting married. I couldn’t have done it without her. Also, my wife has two children. I’ve lived with them for about two years, and I have never touched them. Not even an accidental hand graze.AdvertisementOne time at a bar, I saw my friend put his hand on someone’s shoulder as he walked passed them. I remember thinking, That was suave, I wish I could do that. But I can’t. When I’m going to a crowded place, I usually get drunk, or if that’s not an option, I end up whispering to a dog who isn’t there. I don’t bend over and pet something imaginary; I just start whispering to myself. I don’t know why that makes me feel better, but it does. I’ve been caught talking to an imaginary dog a lot, and I just tell people that I’m singing. I have yet to be asked what the name of the song is.

Source: My Fear of Being Touched Is Ruining My Life – VICE

Black Mormons and the Politics of Identity – The New York Times

The conversion of blacks in this country has been a challenge, given the church’s turbulent history of excluding people of black African descent. Until 1978, black men were not allowed to become priests or bishops; dark skin was considered a biblical curse. During the 1960s, when Mitt Romney’s father, George, made civil rights a personal priority during his time as a Republican governor of Michigan, his progressive views put him at odds with church doctrine.

Newsroom: People v Albert Rich — Alameda County District Attorney’s Office

People v Albert RichOn May 22, 2018 a jury convicted defendant Albert Rich of thirteen felony counts, including human trafficking of a minor, sexual penetration of a minor, human trafficking of adults, torture, rape, sodomy and assault with a deadly weapon.For several weeks in May and June of 2017 defendant Albert Rich sexually assaulted, physically assaulted and tortured three victims, 2 young adult women and one minor girl, making them work as prostitutes for him. They were made to prostitute every day on International Blvd in the City of Oakland until they were able to escape and get help from Oakland police officers. Unfortunately the victims’ prior attempts to get help and to escape were unsuccessful. As a result the defendant who stood at 6 feet 6 inches and weighed 320 pounds punished them by severely beating them causing bloody noses, burning them with heated flat irons, and sadistic torture which caused internal bleeding injuries to the juvenile victim requiring surgery.The case was prosecuted by DDA Sabrina Farrell, with the assistance of DA Inspector Shan Johnson and DA Victim/Witness Advocate Hedy Mitlo.On June 29, 2018 Judge Thompson sentenced the defendant to 159 years to life in prison.Posted on May 29, 2018

Source: Newsroom: People v Albert Rich — Alameda County District Attorney’s Office