Why Is New York City Planning to Sell and Shrink Its Libraries?

Defend our libraries, don't defund them. . . . . fund 'em, don't plunder 'em

Mayor Bloomberg defunded New York libraries at a time of increasing public use, population growth and increased city wealth, shrinking our library system to create real estate deals for wealthy real estate developers at a time of cutbacks in education and escalating disparities in opportunity. It’s an unjust and shortsighted plan that will ultimately hurt New York City’s economy and competitiveness.

It should NOT be adopted by those we have now elected to pursue better policies.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Pay-To-Play Library Sale Questions Loom Larger As New York Post Reports Uncovering Emails That Confirm “Probably Inappropriate” de Blasio Administration Communications With Favored Developer And Possible “Violation” Of Bid Process- Post Editorial Calls For Investigation

Deputy Mayor fro Development and de Blasio selling off libraries, our letter to prosecutors calling for investigation. .  just like the New York Post
Questions having been looming, pretty much from the get-go, about the probability of the de Blasio administration’s engagement in pay-to-play activity when it sold, for far below its actual value, Brooklyn’s second biggest library, the Business, Career and Education Federal Depository Brooklyn Heights Library in downtown Brooklyn.

As of last week those questions loom still larger and more starkly as the New York Post reported uncovering emails from 2014 (March & September) confirming that the favored developer who was awarded the library site for a fraction of its value to the public, David Kramer of the Hudson Companies, whose development team channeled money to the de Blasio campaign, was communicating with de Blasio’s Deputy Mayor for development, Alicia Glen, for her assistance before being given the contract.  Kramer thanked Glen for “being the expeditor” saying that “Ever since our call in August, it feels like momentum finally started happening” and that he was “quite pleased with the outcome (how’s that for understatement).”  Kramer had at least two conversations with Glen before being granted the property.  The Post says that such conversations were barred under state law.

Going back in time to put this in context, that August referred to in Kramer’s email to Glen was the same August that Noticing New York laid out the history of the BPL’s systematic marshaling up its library assets, including the Heights Library, for sale as real estate deals, benefitting developers, not the public.  The month before, in July, Noticing New York had written about Spaceworks as just one vehicle for turning New York City Libraries into real estate deals.  September 16th, Citizens Defending Libraries followed up with a press release about its follow-up with its Citizens Audit and Investigation of Brooklyn Public Library- FOIL Requests and held a rally in connection therewith outside the Brooklyn Public Library Trustees meeting as the trustees voted to give the city-owned library to Kramer. 

The Post article quoted “a source familiar with the procurement process” who called the contacts between Glen and Kramer “completely inappropriate, and depending on what happens, probably a violation of the procurement rules.”  The Post article also noted that it had previous reported that Hudson won the contract despite that fact that its bid “was not the highest bid.”  And it noted that “Hudson received $10 million in financing from the same Goldman Sachs division that Glen used to oversee.”

Two days after the Post article ran, it was followed up with by an editorial calling for an investigation again noting that Kramer’s bid was not the highest plus the troubling Alicia Glen-Goldman Sachs connection to Kramer’s financing and adding:
State law bars contacts between firms and officials during bidding competitions to prevent favoritism or even the appearance of it.
    * * *

Worse, the deal fits a pattern of de Blasio donors getting favorable treatment: Who can forget City Hall’s OK for a nursing home to be turned into condos, reaping the developer a $72 million windfall? Or the favors for fat cats and unions that gave handsomely to the mayor’s campaign and his Campaign for One New York slush fund?

Prosecutors have failed to find enough smoking-gun evidence to charge anyone at City Hall. Let’s hope they’re still trying.
Here are links to the article and editorial:
•    Condo developer’s chat with deputy mayor raises questions about bid process, by Yoav Gonen, October 9, 2018

•    Yet another case of de Blasio’s City Hall for sale, By Post Editorial Board, October 11, 2018
We are thankful for the Post article and editorial and for the freedom of information request effort through which the Post obtained this information (even if belatedly). . .  The BPL and de Blasio administration have stonewalled Citizens Defending Libraries' FOIL, never turning over information that would similarly be relevant to discovering more about the library sales. . .

We are thankful, but we have to point out that there is more of this story to be told, more dots to be connected.

The Post article could have made much more clear that what was being sold off was not the “site of the Brooklyn Heights library branch” the article mentions, or the “Brooklyn library site” the editorial mentions, but the actual, still standing library itself.  Furthermore, the Post is incorrect in referring to the site as merely the site of a “branch” library: It was the site of a huge central destination library, the Business, Career and Education Federal Depository Library.  Neither the article nor the editorial says that this was the second biggest library in Brooklyn.  We had nothing else close either in terms of size or its valuable location.

Yes, the Post does make clear that Kramer, the low bidder, paid less for the site than the city would have gotten if it had given the site to another developer bidding to take the site, thus making clear its implication that in return for campaign contributions the de Blasio administration was willing sell a city asset for less than its value. . .  It is probably not a surprise that the de Blasio administration in such an exchange would sell a city asset for less than its worth as indicated by the Post, but the only way to truly realize how much was squandered by the de Blasio administration selling this central destination library off to the low bidder is to realize the value that this still-standing library had to the public.

Developers bidding for the library “site” (not the library) were bidding only for the tear-down value of the property, to them that was less valuable than the value of a vacant lot.  But this central destination library had recently been greatly expanded and fully ungraded in 1993.  It was one of the most technologically advanced in the system with more computers and access internet access at exactly the time when library administration officials said this was what they needed much more of.   It was one of the most solidly built libraries in the system. The Post describes David Kramer as paying “$52 million” for the site, but after all is reckoned and the many expenses and losses of selling the library are subtracted out, it is likely the sale will perhaps net not much more than $20 million— We’ll one day learn more about this from future FOIL requests, we hope . .  

The Brooklyn Heights Central destination library would cost at least $120 million to replace.  But we are not getting back our Business, Career and Education Federal Depository library.  Its books are disappearing, so are the librarians.  It’s a huge public loss.

The Post editorial incorrectly says that the Brooklyn Public Library “owned the site” of the library.  It didn’t; the city did.  That’s an example of the bureaucratic fuzz behind which city and library officials are trying to hide and to baffle the public with.  (However, the BPL, as the library tenant in the property, could have easily fought the sale.)  But, because of quotes offered by David Kramer defending his contacts with Alicia Glen in the original Post article we can strip away the illusion that the Brooklyn Public Library board is somehow politically independent enough to represent the public interest rather than just taking orders from City Hall.  Kramer explained about his calling Glen about the library sale told the Post (emphasis supplied):
Eight months into the new administration, we kept on hearing that EDC and [Brooklyn Public Library] were awaiting direction from City Hall    
Carolee Fink appointed to BPL board
If the Post wanted an addition to its reporting to make more ominous the de Blasio threat to our libraries when contributing developers `lurk,' it could have gone on to report that this April  Carolee Fink, Alicia Glen’s Chief of Staff, was appointed to BPL board by Mayor Bill de Blasio.  Ms. Fink’s status as Glen’s Chief of Staff can be explained by her deep involvement in pushing through real estate development projects.

More about Ms. Glen who, as noted, came from Goldman Sachs to the city to do development. In December 2015 when BPL president Linda Johnson told the BPL board of trustees how the sale of that library sale went down, a shrink-and-sink deal replacing the central destination library with a luxury tower, Johnson told the BPL board of trustees that Ms. Glen had adopted the library sale and shrinkage deal as “her own” to “push it across the finish line.”  The secretive final negotiations at City Hall included raiding Department of Education funds for space in the luxury building to help the developer. 

Not mentioned by the Post is that Glen’s push “across the finish line” also involved a raid on Department of Education Funds to help push the deal through with the manipulative and cockeyed idea of writing a black check to the developer to put a “STEM” or “STEAM” facility in the building.
Moreover, the trustees were told that this sale was a “huge turning point for the library system” and “across the city in general” with Johnson `pioneering’ the future of libraries.  And previously Ms. Johnson had told the city council that the shrink-and-sink sale would be a model for all three of the city’s library systems.

The Post fits the de Blasio gift of the library to Kramer in the “pattern of de Blasio donors getting favorable treatment” referring to Kramer as “a donor and longtime pal of Mayor de Blasio.”  We would have loved the Post to use the images we obtained of a de Blasio fund-raising event Kramer’s development team held for him, that they bragged about.  Their bragging was posted online just weeks after de Blasio held a big campaign event with Citizens Defending Libraries telling people he opposed the library sales and that there were, lurking right behind the curtain, real estate developers who are very anxious to get their hands on these valuable properties.”

Kramer team de Blasio fund raiser picture taken down hastily by Marvel Architects as pay-to-play investigation heated up.
As the pay-to-play scandal escalated Marvel Architects, working for Kramer on the sale took down the images and their posted brags hoping no one would remember, but we have the images already, and they won’t go away.  See:
As Feeding Frenzy Elevates NY1 Covers De Blasio “Pay To Play” Violation: Taking Campaign Contributions From Kramer’s Hudson Companies While Handing Out Brooklyn Heights Library Deal- Marvel Architects Runs But Can’t Hide
The Post editorial ‘hoped’ that “prosecutors” were “still trying” to “find smoking-gun evidence to charge” people in City Hall.  We would have loved it if the Post had mentioned our open letter to those potential “prosecutors” requesting the exact same thing. See:
Open Letter to US Attorney Preet Bharara, NYS Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman, NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer, et al: Use Your Staggering Powers as Law Enforcers & Public Guardians To Immediately Halt the Corrupt Sale & Shrinking of Brooklyn Heights Library
One of the addressees we beseeched in our letter was Letitia James, currently Public Advocate for the City of New York, who with her likely step up to New York State Attorney General given her Democratic primary victory will have a lot more power to pursue this. . . if only she will.  We hope the Post will put pressure on Attorney General James to do so.

In February 2015, when the scandal about the facts pointing to a pay-to-play sale of the library were already getting press, Citizens Defending Libraries implored the Brooklyn Heights Association at its annual meeting to withdraw support for the library sale and back investigation of the sale, but the BHA refused.  See:
Annual Meeting of Brooklyn Heights Association- The BHA President Patrick Killackey Insists That BHA Will Continue To Betray Community By Supporting The Brooklyn Heights Library Sale & Shrinkage Notwithstanding Recent Scandals
The Post story and editorial about these emails breaks just as Kramer is about to market the luxury condos in the tower replacing the library sold for such a small fraction of its actual value to the public. See:
As Condo Apartments Set Brooklyn Heights Sales Records (You Heard About Matt Damon’s $16.645 Million Penthouse?) Central Library Sold To Build (Now About To be Marketed) Luxury Condos Nets Mere Pittance
Quoted in the above post, the Brooklyn Heights Association speaking through its executive director Peter Bray reiterated all over again its continuing support for the sale of the library saying, “We’ve taken a very close look at this project from day one.” 

The sale of the library could never have been pushed through without the BHA’s support.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

List of Journalists Fired or Self-exiled From Mainstream Media Outlets Because They Expressed or Wanted to Express Views (Like Being Critical of U.S. Wars) Unacceptable to the Outlets They Were Working For

We just updated [and updated here again on December 3, 2018] our list of journalists exiled or fired from mainstream media for expressing views that were unacceptable to their employers.  As you'll note, it was frequently because they expressed views that were critical of U.S. waged war.   We started this list in connection with our forums on where to get reliable news.  See our page here: Coming June 1st - Forum (The second) Where Do You Get Your News? What Are The Channels of Public Information Communication You Can Plug Into?

We are pretty sure we need to make additions to the this list and invite your suggestions. . . 

List of journalists fired or self-exiled from mainstream media outlets because they expressed or wanted to express views unacceptable to the outlets they were working for:

•        Phil Donahue- Legendary television host fired from his top-rated program by the “supposedly liberal” MSNC in 2003 during the run up to the Iraq War because he was expressing anti-war views.

    •    Bill Maher- Fired by ABC from his “Politically Incorrect” program for not saying exactly the right things about 9/11 in its aftermath.  He said that terrorists “staying in the airplane” that was to hit a building could not described as “cowardly.”  Since that time Maher has been has been doing Real Time With Bill Maher on HBO where he has always been careful not to be anti-corporate and has, as well, been careful about what he says about 9/11.

    •    James Risen- Risen was a reporter for the New York Times.  He and another Times reporter, Eric Lichtblau, wrote a story about the  secret illegal and unconstitutional surveillance of the American public by the George W. Bush administration that won the New York Times a Pulitzer Prize in 2006, but the Times originally suppressed that story.  Risen now works for the Intercept.

    •    Robert Parry- An award-wining American investigative journalist (and finalist for the 1985 Pulitzer Prize) best known for his role in covering the Iran-Contra affair for the Associated Press (AP) and Newsweek.  In 1995, Parry self-exiled himself from mainstream media to found Consortium News (the Consortium for Independent Journalism Inc.)

    •    Ed Schultz- Fired from the position if MSNBC in the spring of 2014 host after bridling about things such as directions he received from MSNBC management concerning what to cover and not to cover, including directions not to cover the Bernie Sanders campaign, including Sanders’ announcement that he was going to run for president.  Schultz now works for RT where he says he has far more freedom to cover what he wants how he wants.

•        Gary Webb- A journalist forced to resign from the San Jose Mercury News in 1997 and subsequently railroaded out of journalism with the CIA working at it in the background after Webb wrote a 1996 series uncovering the CIA's role in importing cocaine into the U.S. to secretly fund the Nicaraguan Contra rebels through the manufacture and sale of drugs in the U.S.  Pressured to drop pursuit of his story Webb published his evidence in the series "Dark Alliance" for which the national Society of Professional Journalists voted Webb "Journalist of the Year" for 1996.  Webb had earlier contributed Pulitzer Prize winning work at the paper.   He subsequently experienced a vicious smear campaign during which he found himself defending his integrity, his career, his family that ended in his unfortunate death.  Later revelations about CIA involvement in illegal drugs coming into the United States validated and amplified what Webb was the first to report.

    •    Seymour Hersh- It is observed that Hersh has been “increasingly marginalised and his work denigrated” although he once worked for the New York Times Washington Bureau to report such stories as the Watergate scandal, and exposed the My Lai Massacre and the US military’s abuses of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib.  Hersh has been forced from one outlet to another, each outlet more remote from where U.S. citizens are likely to learn what he is reporting: Publication of Hersh's work has moved from the New Yorker, to the London Review of Books to the German publication, Welt am Sonntag.  Thus the American public is unlikely to learn about Hersh's most recent reporting that although a sarin gas chemical weapons attack in Syria was used as an excuse for Trump's recent order of a “retaliatory” strike against the country, there was zero evidence of such an attack.  Similarly, previously reporting, based on what Hersh's contacts within the security and intelligence establishments, revealed that Assad's alleged use of sarin gas in Ghouta, outside Damascus in 2013 also failed to stand up to scrutiny.  In between the Hersh's reporting on these alleged sarin attacks mainstream media reacted in a suspectly ostracizing way to Hersh's scoop about ways in which the public was misled respecting the reported killing of Osama bin Laden in Pakistan.  Even in the London Review of Books the bin laden story immediately attracted so much attention it reportedly crashed the LRB servers. (In the fascinating Netflix "Wormwood" documentary by Errol Morris, which is about the still mysterious 1953 death, subsequent coverup and probable assassination by our government of an American scientist and Central Intelligence Agency employee participating in a secret government biological warfare program, Mr. Hersh explains what he is and isn't willing to report about events within the very secret intelligence community without sufficient sourcing.)

    •    Peter Arnett (and Producers April Oliver & Jack Smith)- Arnet, a Pulitzer Price who worked for CNN for 18 years and was famous for reporting from Baghdad during the Gulf War was, he said “muzzled,” and then fired by CNN, like his producers April Oliver and Jack Smith they did entitled "Valley of Death," (and a more senior producer resigned), because of an investigative report (a joint production of CNN and Time magazine), presenting evidence about how Army special forces venturing into Laos in September of 1970 used sarin gas in an operation to kill American soldiers who had defected into Laos from Vietnam.

•        Dan Rather (and his producer Mary Mapes)-  Dan Rather and others including his "60 Minutes" program producer Mary Mapes were fired by CBS (Rather's was a slow-burn firing) when covering the 2004 presidential election campaign they were subject to criticism for alleged liberal bias in reporting a basically true story about preferential treatment of George W. Bush in the National Guard (1968 to 1973 during which time Bush did not show up for a medical exam and stopped fulfilling his flying commitments).  The criticism leading up to the firing focused on the fact that documents with which the newspeople had been supplied to support their story were likely faked in whole or in part by somebody, possibly in a dirty trick intended to sucker them.  When a 2015 feature film, "Truth," starring Cate Blanchett and Robert Redford was made dramatizing the issues and events with respect to the firing CBS refused to run advertisements for it.

 •        Chris Hedges- Hedges was another award winning journalist working with a team to win a Pulitzer Prize for the New York Times in 2002.  Amnesty International gave him an award that year for international journalism.  He’s worked for Christian Science Monitor, NPR and was a foreign correspondent for the Times for fifteen years.  Hedges, under pressure from the Times, was forced to leave the Times in 2003 (listen at 14 minutes) because he had been denouncing the those urging the U.S. forward to its invasion of Iraq.  (Hedges was an early critic of the war.- We invaded in March of 2003.)  Hedges now writes for Truthdig and is a host of “On Contact” for RT.          

 •        Ashleigh Banfield-  NBC fired news journalist Ashleigh Banfield, host of “MSNBC Investigates,” from MSNBC in 2004 after officially scolding her in the spring of 2003, and thereupon banishing her, because she criticized her TV news colleagues for “sugarcoating Iraq war coverage with patriotism and not showing the reality of the conflict.”  She had criticized  “cable news operators who wrap themselves in the American flag and go after a certain target demographic.”

 •        Marc Lamont Hill- In November, 2018, Mr. Hill, an American academic, author, activist, and television personality, a Professor of Media Studies and Urban Education at Temple University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, was fired from his position as a commentator for CNN twenty-four hours after he expressed his opinion on the Arab–Israeli conflict before the U.N. saying that Palestinians have a right to resist their occupation by Israel through international boycotts of Israel and to defend themselves from the Israeli military.  This point of view was considered unacceptably anti-Israel (while some tried to cast his view as being antisemitic). The coverage by FAIR, Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting, is especially insightful and detailed, plus it includes a call to action.

 •         William M. Arkin- (Added after January 2019 resignation)- We will see whether William M. Arkin who resigned NBC with his 2,228-word farewell “blistering critique” of what he calls “perpetual war” and the “creeping fascism of homeland security” stays self-exiled from NBC and the rest of the mainstream, corporately-owned media.  He may not have a choice.  Arkin was clear his critique “applies to all of the mainstream networks,” CNN, Fox, etc, not just NBC.  And Arkin said he wanted to “step back” and “think about how we can end this era of perpetual war and how we can build some real security, both in the United States and abroad.”  Arkin pointed out that, in the prior year, the United States has been bombing (listing them) nine countries (ten if we include, as we should, the U.S. participation in the bombing of Yemen).

 •        Tareq Haddad- (added December 2019)- Tareq Haddad resigned from Newsweek at the end of 2019 because Newsweek and its senior editors were burying a scandal.  The scandal was about the covering up of evidence, now with an every greater number of whistleblowers from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons coming forward, that a supposed chemical attack in Duoma, Syria, supposedly by the Assad regime, was faked to provoke the United States to escalate military actions in the country.  Haddad’s furnished a very detailed account, complete with screen shots of emails from his senior editors, of how his story was suppressed and how Newsweek mobilized with not so subtle efforts to communicate that he was out of line to think these kinds of stories should get published.  Haddad said about suppression of information by mainstream corporate media (providing evidence he cited) that "The U.S. government, in an ugly alliance with those the profit the most from war, has its tentacles in every part of the media — imposters, with ties to the U.S. State Department . .  filter out what can or cannot be reported. Inconvenient stories are completely blocked."

Friday, October 5, 2018

Michael Moore (Who Says The Attacks On Libraries Are An Effort To Dumb Down The Public and That Librarians Saved His Book From Censorship) Has A Terrific New “Must See” Film: Fahrenheit 11/9

Michael Moore, who we met and chatted with about libraries and about whom we've put up two previous posts, has a new "mus see" film in the theaters, "Fahrenheit 11/9" 
Michael Moore has a new film out: Fahrenheit 11/9.  We recommend that everyone see it.

First, before we go on to say a few words about the film, let us remind you about Michael More and libraries and librarians (also that Citizens Defending Libraries co-founders Carolyn McIntyre and Michael D. D. White had a chance to have a few words with Mr. Moore about libraries).

Here are our two Citizens Defending Libraries previous posts about Mr. Moore and the libraries and librarians:
    •    How Did Trump Get Elected?: Michael Moore In “Terms of My Surrender” Envisions That It Was A Dumbing Down of the Country That Involved Closing Libraries
In this post we brag about meeting Michael Moore to have a few words with him (and his informed bodyguard) after his Broadway show where her surmised that part of the way that Trump got elected (and, presciently, that control of the Supreme Court is being lost) is that we  started “closing libraries” (plus shutting down news outlets) to “dumb down this country.”
    •    Michael Moore’s Anti-George Bush Book Was Saved From The Censorious 9/11 Tyranny by A Courageous Librarian Mobilizing Comrades
This our post about the amazing story told by Moore during his Broadway Play one night about how librarians, including one librarian there in the audience that night, saved his book from censorship and non-release so that it able to go on top become a bestseller.
Now to Moore’s film-

Moore’s film is a beautiful, skillful film put together in a way that allows even veterans experienced in lots of political engagement and activism to have new insights about the big picture.

We also learned a few things-  We didn't know about the bombing of Flint by our military!  (Moore keeps returning to his hometown of Flint, Michigan with heartrending effectiveness–  including its ongoing water crisis–  as a lens to frame and more perfectly understand the structural problems that beset our nation's democracy as a whole.)

We know that Moore said in some interviews he had a tough time balancing as he navigated through some difficult territory as he made his film.  Yes, that’s absolutely certain, given that people with a variety of pre-formulated view political points will be watching it.  He does an extraordinary job.

Don’t expect Moore to play favorites letting anyone off the hook.  That includes Democrats Moore says he likes and has worked hard supporting even within the film’s time frame.  Moore also takes on the New York Times: Is that the reason that the New York Times gave Moore's film the teenyist little review?  Fly-specking a review of Moore's film in the back pages of its entertainment section is unlikely to encourage attendance or public consciousness of it.

Buried in the back pages of the Times entertainment section, a brief review of Moore's Fahrenheit 11/9 get short shrift compared to the eye-catching space devoted to Keira Knightley's period costume drama picture biopic about Colette.
On a few things, exceptionally thorny subjects (watch to identify them), we think Moore did a great job of filling in the dots big and bold, putting them up on the screen plain as day, while refraining from actually connecting those dots himself when he was too close to saying the verboten.  He leaves it to the intelligent audience to figure it out and connect the dots, or not. . .  immediately, or in time.

What do we mean?  See the film and we expect you will likely piece it together.

One slight on-target criticism: Moore covered a lot of territory, but he didn’t get to the subject of climate change.

Is the film about Trump?  You’ll probably hear that it is, but Moore has explained that Trump is only on screen for about twenty minutes of the film.  More importantly, the film is about the conditions fostering Trumpism and why, unless we change them, we can’t expect something different even post-Trump.  The film speaks about the extreme danger to our democracy and its existence that must be fended off . . .  Yeah, who would have thought that we would be selling off and shrinking libraries, eliminating books when that is not what the public wants and libraries cost a relative pittance to fund?

Perhaps we can stay in that vein to conclude by telling you this . . . .  To illustrate how unaccountable the nation’s elected officials are to the public, the film at one point briefly runs through a long list where the government has gone off in directions quite contrary to what a significant majority of the public (often about 2/3 or more) wants.

We don’t have the exact list Moore came up with and used in his film, but we know it overlaps to a fair extent with this list that we have included to make much the same point in connection with the Sunday, Oct. 7th (1:00 PM) Voter Disenfranchisement Forum!  in which we are participating.  (Love to see you there too!)— 
  • medicare for all; •  protection of women’s reproductive rights; •  stricter gun control laws; • stricter regulations on and breaking up of the big banks; • more environmental regulation; • equal pay for women; • easier, less restrictive immigration; • less surveillance of American citizens; • less military spending and a pull back from the U.S.’s endless and ceaseless military interventions (wars); • continued support for traditional public schools, and free college; • more restrictions on money in politics.
Maybe in the “extras,” when Moore's film comes out on DVD, Moore will throw libraries into that list!

Oh, by the way: The subject of libraries and education does come up in the film.

Monday, October 1, 2018

Oct. 7th (1:00 PM) Voter Disenfranchisement Forum!

Preservation of our libraries is a need that's fundamental to the structural underpinnings of our democracy.  Something else that is a structural necessity for a working democracy is whether the public will be able to vote and have their votes counted.  There is also a link between how we get our information and the nano-targeting of voters to disenfranchise them in various ways, including through precision gerrymandering and other forms of voter nullification and suppression.

Citizens Defending Libraries will be participating in the following October 7th forum that may well be of interest to all those interested in defending our libraries, how we get our information and our freedom to vote and have our votes counted.
Click to enlarge flyer

Here is the information (also in a flyer above)- 
Oct. 7th (1:00 PM) Voter Disenfranchisement Forum!

First Unitarian Universalist Congregation Chapel
119-121 Pierrepont Street
Brooklyn, New York  11201
Acting locally in New York we could lead the way for changes nationally to bring important structurally changes to our politics.  Prodded by candidate Cynthia Nixon, Gov. Cuomo restored voting rights to re-enfranchise NY parolees. But New York should go further. It should grab national headlines by joining Maine and Vermont (plus most other countries in the world) in letting prison inmates vote.

Letting all citizens vote, whether or not they are convicted of crimes (often discriminatorily and because they are poor or people of color) would re-enfranchise over 6 million citizens!  It would also spell consistently different results in elections in the key state of Florida, where about 10% of adults, 1 in 5 black adults, 1.5 million people in all are disenfranchised.

The re-enfranchisement of all U.S. citizens voting should also be fought on multiple other fronts. Evidence that electeds don’t follow the popular will is ample, with the majority of Americans wanting but not getting:
     • medicare for all; •  protection of women’s reproductive rights; •  stricter gun control laws; • stricter regulations on and breaking up of the big banks; • more environmental regulation; • equal pay for women; • easier, less restrictive immigration; • less surveillance of American citizens; • less military spending and a pull back from the U.S.’s endless and ceaseless military interventions (wars); • net neutrality; • continued support for traditional public schools, and free college; • more restrictions on money in politics.
Let’s discuss the other ways citizens’ votes are blocked, neutralized or diluted including the following:
    •    Voter suppression surgically targeted against specific groups (including purges by Crosscheck and the Board of Elections).
    •    Voting machines that can be hacked to not count votes (thus not match exits polls)
    •    Democratic party “superdelgates.”
    •    Gerrymandering.
    •    Courts that block or don’t count votes (Bush v. Gore)
    •    The electoral college gives less representation to those in big and urban states.
    •    Rejiggering the census to undercount certain populations.
    •    Money that votes multiple times for multiple candidates, while voters vote once, restricted to those designated to represent them.
As for New York State?  The evidence is that NYS voters feel that (because of corruption, the influence of money and/or other reasons) their vote doesn’t count: Election data experts rank New York state near the bottom of states for voter turnout.  That is even though, as Martin Luther King impressed on us: The right to vote and have our vote counted is the one right that makes all other rights possible!
Click to enlarge (or print)- This is a good size for printing andistribution
Restoring the voting rights of people who are inmates or incarcerated was one of the ten demands of the huge (but under-reported) national prison strike:
The voting rights of all confined citizens serving prison sentences, pretrial detainees, and so-called “ex-felons” must be counted. Representation is demanded. All voices count.
To see all ten of the strike demands, learn more about the strike and learn how to about actions you can take to support these requested reforms see the website of the Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee.  Another thought to put this in context: One seventh of all the people incarcerated in the world, one out of seven individuals incarcerated worldwide, are black people incarcerated in the United States prisons (where with 4.4% of the world's population, our country incarcerates about 22% of all the prisoners in the world)—  Another thought: Shouldn't inmates be entitled to free speech rights, to read what they want and think and communicate the thoughts they want (those rights are in jeopardy too)?  We think so; aren't voting rights just an extension of that?

NOTES:  First, on the list of things that a majority of Americans definitely want, but elected officials are not supplying, we added "net neutrality," which we should have thought to included earlier.

Second, in thinking about the way that the votes of voters are reined in, made less effective in getting voters the representation and results they actually want when they vote, we should probably also think about they way the duopoly of the Republican and the Democratic parties constrains voter choice.  People  fearful of figuratively "wasting" their votes if they vote for third parties (fearful that these candidates may not believe have as good a chance of getting elected), sometimes think of themselves as voting for the "lesser of two evils" for this reason.  This is something that could be addressed, and they wouldn't have to if we had a system of "instant run-off voting" (also known as "ranked choice voting").  This would strengthen third parties (and what they stand for) and ensure there is no "risk" of "wasting" a vote when voting for them.  .  .

And another form of election vote counting that can help in certain environments (like formulating the composition of city councils) to properly represent the wishes of voters and also strengthen additional parties outside the Republican/Democratic party duopoly is proportional representation.   

Orchestrating Another PR-Grabbing Move to Telegraph Supersedence of The Traditional, Curated Library With Distracting Technological Glitz, The NYPL Starts Posting To Instagram Public Domain Books Already Freely Available on The Internet

The story is available from the Wall Street Journal (NYC Library Takes Novel Approach, Posting Books to Instagram The service, dubbed ‘Insta Novels,’ will be available to users of the photo- and video-sharing platform, by Charles Passy, August 22, 2018), but to read it there on the internet you’ll have to get through the Journal’s paywall if you are not already one of its business news oriented subscribers.  The article is, however, also available through Morningstar/Dow-Jones.    

Swaggering fecklessly into the internet to emphasize yet again its asserted faith that technology, represents the future of libraries, supplanting the age old traditions of curated collections and physical books, the NYPL will put what it calls “Insta Novels” on Instagram, the social service network owned by Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook. (That’s the same Facebook now involved in current censorship scandals, the scandal being how Facebook, subject to the wrong sort of influences, is censoring valuable content and free speech that it shouldn’t be censoring).

In a previous and similar highly promoted initiative, library administration officials partnered with Amazon to encourage the reading of digital books, back then it was to be on the subway

Previous digital reading campaign promotion (some of it)

The few works the NYPL is putting up on Facebook's Insatgram are public domain, and hence already readily available.

Library officials told the Wall Street Journal’s Charles Passy that the idea was to promote the  “NYPL brand” communicating in connection with that promotion “that libraries are changing with the times and fully adapting to the digital era.”  (“Fully adapting”: That certainly makes it sound like it's imperative that libraries adapt need to a lot.)   Just in case anyone missed the point about the NYPL’s fixations on a digital future for its libraries vs. what libraries have always done so successfully, Christopher Platt, the NYPL’s chief branch library officer, took the opportunity of this Instagram stunt to synchronistically dismiss the tradition of physical libraries.  He grabbed and combined some adjectives and nouns to say in a denigrating way that (aside from Instagram stunts?) the NYPL wants people to understand that libraries are not only “brick-and-mortar places full of dusty books.”Achoo!  Anyone feel that administrative chill?

The Journal article included this reaction supplied by Citizens Defending Libraries:
Michael D. D. White, co-founder of Citizens Defending Libraries, a New York City-based watchdog group, said the emphasis on online reading works against the idea of libraries as physical spaces where books are curated and knowledge is shared. 
It diminishes the sense of place and purpose,” he said.
When does a library stop being a library?  At the last NYPL meeting in September the trustees during a report about the NYPL’s recent forays into private partnerships (another issue to consider) were told of the NYPL’s expectations that it will go into the film business with HBO to make movies!  Hooray for Hollywood?: That is something we will have to delve into at some later time.