Saturday, November 29, 2008

Violence in India: Why?

The doldrums of these lame-duck days were rudely interrupted by the ten terrorist attacks in the Indian city of Mumbai. At hotels, a café, a hospital, the railway station and other locations, innocent people were shot, bombs and grenades exploded, fires set and hostages taken. Nearly 200 are dead, nearly 400 injured.

But why? Why?

In time, we may learn the political aims of the terrorists who undertook this carnage. But, no political goal can justify this intentional attack with the intent to kill hundreds of innocent human beings.

How can a human being become so devoid of his own humanity to undertake such horrible deeds?

During World War II, Hitler killed millions. And the world cried “Never again!”

But these abhorred crimes against humanity go on, not only in Mumbai, but in Pakistan and the Middle East, Africa, Asia, America……….

Why? Why?

Sunday, November 23, 2008

The Doldrums of These Lame-Duck Days

It’s all over, and now we wait. Over are the long campaign, the high of Election Day, and the afterglow of the historic victory of Barack Obama.

Now we sit and wait. And wait. And wait.

Like a long, boring half-time, when will it end? This is the “hot stove league” of politics. We can only speculate about the next political season. Who will be in the cabinet? What will be the first issues that Pres. Obama will work on?

Back in the horse and buggy days, they needed 3 or 4 months to make the presidential transition. Communications took days. Travel to Washington, DC might have taken a week or so. That’s how we ended up with a 3-month power vacuum.

We still may have the biggest financial crises since the Depression plus a couple of wars, not much will happen until January.

Yep, there’s just not much going on.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

The Real Work of Community Organizers

At their National Convention, Republicans such as Mayor Giuliani and Gov. Palin belittled Sen. Obama’s experience as a community organizer. Sneering, Giuliani seemed to say it wasn’t a real job.

But this does not only injustice to the real work of community organizers; it flies in the face of their own smaller government platform!

By way of an example in Boston, Massachusetts, let me show how community organizers have accomplished a significant renewal of a depressed urban neighborhood, all at little to no cost to the taxpayers! Think about it, this:
  • Republicans and Libertarians should applaud how urban renewal can be accomplished by the private sector: no expansion of government and little to no taxpayer support. And by neighborhood literally picking up itself (as they say) by its bootstraps.

  • Democrats and Liberals should applaud how the process empowers the neighborhood, giving the people a direct hand in decisions impacting their neighborhood and its renewal.
My example: The Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative. This community-founded non-profit is involved in a range of activities from urban renewal (taking empty lots and designing/funding/constructing new housing and commercial space) to activities for kids and teens. Many of its leaders grew up in the neighborhood when things were at its worst and now witness the revitailzation, rising like the phoenix from the ashes.

Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative

The Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiate's website ( sums it up as follows:

“The Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative (DSNI) is a nonprofit community-based planning and organizing entity rooted in the Roxbury/North Dorchester neighborhoods of Boston. DSNI's approach to neighborhood revitalization is comprehensive including economic, human, physical, and environmental growth. It was formed in 1984 when residents of the Dudley Street area came together out of fear and anger to revive their neighborhood that was devastated by arson, disinvestment, neglect and redlining practices, and protect it from outside speculators.”

What the Neighborhood Looked Like

By the 1980s, urban decay hit heavily in the Dudley Street area. Disinvestment by land owners lead to deteriorating housing and commercial properties. Fires, many the result of arson, gutted many structures. The area was home to illegal businesses including chop shops (where stolen cars are dismantled and sold as parts to avoid identification), illegal drug traffic, and gangs.

The result of decades of decay was a “a staggering amount of vacant land (21% or 1,300 parcels) in the 1980s” (quote from website). This was the condition of the neighborhood when DSNI was formed in 1984.

So how does DSNI accomplish redevelopment?

Again, quoting the DSNI website:

“DSNI works to implement resident-driven plans partnering with nonprofit organizations, community development corporations (CDCs), businesses and religious institutions serving the neighborhood, as well as banks, government agencies, corporations and foundations. The Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative has grown into a collaborative effort of over 3,000 residents, businesses, non-profits and religious institutions members committed to revitalizing this culturally diverse neighborhood of 24,000 people and maintaining its character and affordability. DSNI is the only community-based nonprofit in the country which has been granted eminent domain authority over abandoned and within its boundaries.”

So, rather then the City’s redevelopment agency performing the planning and contracting out the construction work, all that is performed by the CDCs. All of this is accomplished by community organizers!

Check this out:

“DSNI's major accomplishment has been, and continues to be, organizing and empowering the residents of the Dudley Street neighborhood to create a shared vision of the neighborhood prioritizing development without displacement and bringing it to reality by creating strategic partnerships with individuals and organizations in the private, government, and nonprofit sectors. That shared vision first emerged from a community-wide process conducted initially in 1987 that resulted in a resident-developed, comprehensive revitalization plan.”

How can any Libertarian, Liberal, Socialist – or even Republican – not applaud this process? It is accomplished with little government intervention or expenditure; it engages residents in helping themselves revitalize their neighborhood!

And it has been successful – consider these accomplishments as noted on the DSNI website:
  • "Over half of 1,300 vacant lots rehabilitated for homes, gardens, parks, orchard, playgrounds, schools, community centers and a Town Common
  • Over 400 new homes built and over 500 housing units rehabbed since DSNI formed
  • Business and investment are growing
  • Visitors come from around the world
  • Residents who were children when DSNI began have become leaders throughout the community"
Tour of the Neighborhood

Some aerial photos and photos from the 2008 Walk for Dudley illustrate some of the successes.

New commercial and residential buildings:

1. Recently open for business, the mixed use building at Dudley and East Cottage Streets houses Project Hope (a non-profit organization focused on community health) in commercial space with 50 rental units on the upper floors. The Dorchester Bay EDC is responsible for

2. Almost ready for construciton are other mixed use buildings along Dudley Street near Brook Ave. Each has commercial space on the 1st floor and family-sized apartments upstairs.

This aerial photo shows the empty lots before the groundbreaking for these buildings:

On the left below is one of the mixed residential and commercial buildings near Brook Ave. On the right is the new home of Project Hope with 50 rental units on the upper floors.

Community Gardens:

Many of the abandoned lots have been turned into community gardens, growing a great varitey of vegetables and fruits. Below are photos of one of the gardens, this one run by the non-profit The Food Project (

Deen Street

The aerial photo below shows both a community garden location and some in-fill housing lots.

The picture below shows a six-family house under construction on Dean Street at the corner of Victor Street.

For more about the DSNI, see:

Other articles about the Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative:

---New Village, “The Wisdom That Builds Community Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative, Boston” by Greg Watson:

---YES! Magazine, Winter 2009: Sustainable Happiness, “No Foreclosures Here,” by Holly Sklar:

Friday, November 14, 2008

A new Dawn Part 2: The Return of Liberties and the Rule of Law

I was encouraged by evidence of a New Dawn reading about the groundswell within the US Senate to restore lost liberties and bring back the rule of law.

Adam Cohen, writing on the editorial page of today’s New York Times, reports of progress made by US Senators, even before the new President takes office. Lead by Democratic Senator Russ Feingold of Wisconsin, the effort has included a Senate hearing back in September – long before Barack Obama won the election – when law professors, lawyers and civil libertarians outlined the challenges.

Senator Feingold prepared a list of key actions. Quoting from Mr. Cohen’s article, these include:
  • “… amending the Patriot Act”
  • “… giving detainees greater legal protection”
  • “… banning torture, cruelty and degrading treatment”
  • “…amending the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act to restore limits on domestic spying”
  • rolling “back the Bush Administration’s dedication to classifying government documents.”
Senator Feingold concedes that it will not be easy to restore the rule of law. As Mr. Cohen reports: “Many programs, like domestic spying and extraordinary rendition – the secrete transfer of detainees to foreign countries where they are harshly interrogated – have operated in the shadows.” (In actuality, the practice of extraordinary rendition started in the Clinton Administration.)

The time to act is early in the Obama Administration. The Bush Administration distorted the intent of the Constitution through the unlawful expansion of the powers of the executive. Through the practices of torture, detention without trial, and extraordinary rendition, it defamed the reputation of the US as a beacon of freedom and defender of human rights throughout the world.
When it comes to President-Elect Obama restoring liberties and the rule of law, I’m hoping: “Yes, he can!”

Reference: Cohen, Adam, "Democratic Pressure on Obama to Restore the Rule of Law," New York Times, Nov. 14, 2008, p. A28;

Monday, November 10, 2008

A New Dawn

A new day has dawned -- for the people of the US and for the world. The election of Barack Obama represents an opportunity to restore lost freedoms here in the US and to improve relations around the world.

Our hope is that an Obama Administration will oppose the reauthorization of the repressive provisions of the US Patriot Act and the unconstitutional expansion of executive powers.

Our hope is that the new Administration reverses the repressive policies of the Bush Administration, ending such policies as extraordinary rendition, detention at Guantanamo Bay, and other violations of international human rights conventions.

Our hope is that this marks a new beginning of relations with the nations of Europe, the Middle East, Asia and Africa. The fruits of this new beginning may include a multi-national plan for US disengagement in Iraq, the containment of Al Qaeda in Afghanistan, and a negotiated end to nuclear proliferation in the Middle East.

As President-Elect Obama stated, there will be false steps and setbacks. Still the hope is bes stated in the words of his acceptance speach in Grant Park in Chicago:

"Tonight we proved once more that the true strength of our nation comes not from the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals: democracy, liberty, opportunity and unyielding hope. "

My hope is that we do return to these ideals.