Threefer Wednesday: On Foreclosures of Rental Units, Yugoslavia and the SEIU!

The first original article, titled Renters caught in the housing bubble (by Adam Turl) via socialistworker.org:

EVEN THOUGH it was hard, Patricia and Michael Phillips kept up on the monthly $600 rent. Both are disabled–Patricia can’t use her right arm, and Michael is in a wheel chair–and both depend on Social Security payments for their limited income.

So they were shocked when the local sheriff’s department turned up at their front door in July and told them they were to be evicted by the end of the day. Their landlord was being foreclosed on–and even though he hadn’t been paying the mortgage for months, he had been cashing their rent checks. It could be argued that the most he could have done were to notify them of this change, terminate their lease agreement and give them a significant amount of time to find new accommodation. This is why organizations such as the American Apartment Owners Association (AAOA) is so important to both landlord and tenants. It gives both parties some form of protection should circumstances change for the worse.

Oops! And here I am, a renter, thinking that I’d managed by bypass the worst of the housing/financial crunch. So far I have, but as Turl points out, that may not be the case for long. When it comes to renting your apartment, or any other type of property for that matter, the likelihood of you facing a similar sort of situation could be slim. But some of us aren’t that lucky. And if it happens, you will be forced into searching for another property from places similar to THESPACESTATION.CO.UK who have some nice ones available in the hopes that you are able to live a better life in a new place. Renting a property shouldn’t have to involve this much hassle.

In Dayton, Ohio, Jimmy Jackson always paid his rent on time, but ended up homeless after his landlord’s foreclosure.

In Springfield, Ohio, Debbie Sample–out of work because of an on-the-job injury–found out she was going to be evicted. She told local reporters she had no idea how she was going to get money together for a new apartment–as she was out of work and was also about to go to the hospital for surgery.

In Las Vegas, Tresia Chesley has been chased from three apartments in less than three years, as each successive landlord has been foreclosed upon.

In San Diego, the residents at a sober-living facility for recovering alcoholics found out they were going to be evicted and that their landlord had collected $30,000 in rent but hadn’t made a single payment on the mortgage.

Aurea Ortiz got less than two weeks notice that Wells Fargo was evicting her from her $1,100-a-month two-bedroom Bridgeport, Conn., apartment.

In Henderson, Nev., constables entered a hospice and ordered everyone to vacate the premises in 24 hours–including the elderly patients attached to IV drips. Frantic health care workers arranged to move residents by ambulance, hire emergency medical care and find last-minute housing. The out of state landlord had failed to pay the mortgage or notify the hospice of the imminent eviction.

So, the mortgage bumblers not only bumbled homeowners but rental owners as well. Of course, those rental owners were bumblers also. I can only hope that the rental owner of my apartment is not trying the same thing. Well, my rental is done through one of those rental property managers so I’d like to think I’m safe in my current position.

THE FORECLOSURE crisis isn’t just impacting homeowners. Increasingly, renters find themselves put to the curb, discovering they are to be evicted with days’ notice–if that. Banks and mortgage companies are foreclosing on large numbers of rental properties–and, according to the Illinois Mortgage Bankers Association, they do not want to become landlords, as these companies feel they will be able to sell small apartment buildings more quickly if they are empty.

Which, of course, means that the renters, through no fault of their own (in many, if not most cases) get screwed out of their living spaces. It’s quite frightening, really. Maybe it would be helpful to people check out this cash on cash return guide, it could help renters and landlords pick a smarter option to reduce the chance of this happening to themselves.

Although no federal agency keeps track of the figures, if local estimates and statistics bear out nationwide, the number of renters who have faced eviction since the beginning of the housing crisis could number in the hundreds of thousands. David Rothstein of the nonprofit Policy Matters Ohio (PMO) notes that studies in Ohio have shown that renters are forced from homes in 30 percent of foreclosures, and that some studies put the number as high as 60 percent.

Obviously, this is something to keep an eye on should you be a renter.

As Virella aptly describes the situation, “Since the nation’s worse housing foreclosure crisis began two years ago, the octopus-like tentacles of the global mortgage industry have orchestrated the repossession of thousands of small apartment buildings in Cook County, affecting thousands of renters who live there.”

In 2006 and 2007, 3,551 two- to six-unit apartment buildings in Cook County were foreclosed on.

Thankfully, I don’t live in Chicago!

Even where local laws prohibit evicting tenants, banks and mortgage companies try to bully renters into moving. Washington, D.C., prohibits evicting tenants for landlord foreclosure–but banks are known to send tenants “20-day notices” to vacate the property.

Grrrrrr….

Since the general housing crisis is far from over, it is likely that the evictions of renters will continue to rise, and such horror stories will accumulate. Already strapped for cash due to record inflation, lower-income workers who make up the bulk of renters are also among the first to be laid off during a recession.

Despite hard times, inflation and unemployment, most of these workers have managed to pay their rent month after month after month. It is absurd that they would be driven from their homes by the thousands.

It is criminal that the banks and mortgage companies–the people who created the housing crisis in the first place–are the ones doing it.

The second article, titled How Yugoslavia was destroyed, by John Pilger, via socialistworker.org which was first published in the New Statesman:

The secrets of the crushing of Yugoslavia are emerging, telling us more about how the modern world is policed. The former chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for Yugoslavia in the Hague, Carla Del Ponte, this year published her memoir The Hunt: Me and War Criminals. Largely ignored in Britain, the book reveals unpalatable truths about the West’s intervention in Kosovo, which has echoes in the Caucasus.

Note: A quick Google Shopping seach brings up 0 results for buying this book.

Remember the Yugoslavia intervention? It was one of those ‘good’ ‘humanitarian interventions.’ It happened under a Democratic President, under the auspices of the American ‘left’s’ favorite general Wesley Clark. Well, it seems that maybe it wasn’t so good after all. Surprise, surprise!

The tribunal was set up and bankrolled principally by the United States. Del Ponte’s role was to investigate the crimes committed as Yugoslavia was dismembered in the 1990s. She insisted that this include NATO’s 78-day bombing of Serbia and Kosovo in 1999, which killed hundreds of people in hospitals, schools, churches, parks and television studios, and destroyed economic infrastructure.

“If I am not willing to [prosecute Nato personnel],” said Del Ponte, “I must give up my mission.” It was a sham. Under pressure from Washington and London, an investigation into NATO war crimes was scrapped.

Makes you proud to be an American, doesn’t it? This is the progressive/’left’ movement’s great failing as far as looking at our government. Dems are just as bad as Repugs: They just have better media skills.

Readers will recall that the justification for the NATO bombing was that the Serbs were committing “genocide” in the secessionist province of Kosovo against ethnic Albanians. David Scheffer, U.S. ambassador-at-large for war crimes, announced that as many as “225,000 ethnic Albanian men aged between 14 and 59” may have been murdered. Tony Blair invoked the Holocaust and “the spirit of the Second World War”. The west’s heroic allies were the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), whose murderous record was set aside. The British foreign secretary, Robin Cook, told them to call him any time on his mobile phone.

With the NATO bombing over, international teams descended upon Kosovo to exhume the “holocaust.” The FBI failed to find a single mass grave and went home. The Spanish forensic team did the same, its leader angrily denouncing “a semantic pirouette by the war propaganda machines.” A year later, Del Ponte’s tribunal announced the final count of the dead in Kosovo: 2,788. This included combatants on both sides and Serbs and Roma murdered by the KLA. There was no genocide in Kosovo. The “holocaust” was a lie. The NATO attack had been fraudulent.

I can hear the birds chirping.

That was not all, says Del Ponte in her book: the KLA kidnapped hundreds of Serbs and transported them to Albania, where their kidneys and other body parts were removed; these were then sold for transplant in other countries. She also says there was sufficient evidence to prosecute the Kosovar Albanians for war crimes, but the investigation “was nipped in the bud” so that the tribunal’s focus would be on “crimes committed by Serbia.” She says the Hague judges were terrified of the Kosovar Albanians–the very people in whose name NATO had attacked Serbia.

Damn, sounds like our friends the Chinese Bureaucratic Capitalist Regime.

Indeed, even as Blair the war leader was on a triumphant tour of “liberated” Kosovo, the KLA was ethnically cleansing more than 200,000 Serbs and Roma from the province. Last February the “international community,” led by the U.S., recognized Kosovo, which has no formal economy and is run, in effect, by criminal gangs that traffic in drugs, contraband and women.

But it has one valuable asset: the U.S. military base Camp Bondsteel, described by the Council of Europe’s human rights commissioner as “a smaller version of Guantánamo.” Del Ponte, a Swiss diplomat, has been told by her own government to stop promoting her book.

Why do we back thugs? Why do we (progressives and lefties) support a party which is every bit imperial as the Repugs?

At a 1999 Kosovo “peace” conference in France, the Serbs were told to accept occupation by NATO forces and a market economy, or be bombed into submission. It was the perfect precursor to the bloodbaths in Afghanistan and Iraq.

A precursor of W’s administration by a Democratic one. Keep that in mind as we head into November.

So, any more good news?

The third article, titled Organizing the Organized? via socialistworker.org:

THERE’S A union drive going on at the Cook County Bureau of Health that aims to get registered nurses to join the Service Employees International Union (SEIU).

Ah, the SEIU. This ought to be interesting!

Ordinarily, a union organizing drive would be cause for celebration. The problem with the SEIU union drive is that the nearly 1,800 nurses who work for Cook County are already represented by the National Nurses Organizing Committee (NNOC), which was founded by the California Nurses Association (CNA) in 2004.

So, is the NNOC a bad union?

The SEIU decertification attempt is problematic however, because the NNOC, has been an effective force for nurses at Stroger. Moreover, the current nurses’ contract expires November 30, 2008. Thus, resources that the NNOC could be spending towards organizing a fight to win a decent contract are wasted on explaining why SEIU is attempting to move in. Moreover, SEIU Healthcare Illinois & Indiana represents almost 2,000 other health care workers at Stroger Hospital, and their contract expires at the same time. The raid on the CNA leaves one to wonder where SEIU’s priorities lie.

Perhaps the SEIU thinks it can get the members a better contract than NNOC.

Underlying this war is a debate about which way forward to organize workers. SEIU has been known to make deals with the bosses in order to facilitate their organizing efforts. In California, SEIU was forced to cancel a “partnership” agreement with nursing home owners after it was revealed that the union had agreed to help the industry lobby for more money from the state legislature in exchange for the right to organize. In return, however, SEIU agreed to impose a gag order on workers who wanted to speak out about the poor quality of patient care, and accepted contracts that limited their pay increases and provided for only weak union representation.

Making deals with the bosses, to me would indicate a union I wouldn’t want representing me.

By contrast, the NNOC uses more militant tactics when it comes to organizing. The union set two strike dates when it negotiated its first contact with the Cook County Board in 2006, and was successful in significantly increasing pay for nurses.

Deal making or fighting for your rights. Which would you prefer, and which would you prefer your union to do?

At the end of the day, the biggest loser in this war between unions has been unorganized nurses. While dues money is senselessly spent on inter-union battles, nurses who have no unions continue to suffer.

Nurses are the single biggest section of health care workers, and for the sake of their health–and the health of their patients–they need to be organized.

Internecine fighting between unions is most likely counterproductive, which is bad in the current less than favorable climate for unions.

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  1. …morphs into a pool of cannibals who eat their own kind.  

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