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.

Friday, May 31, 2019

A Flourish of Stories About So-Called Philanthropy Being Used As A Guise For Diminishing The Public Commons– That Includes Libraries

There’s a bouquet of new stories blossoming about how what wealthy and powerful individuals and corporations would have us accept as `generous philanthropy’ is actually money deployed as a force to seize influence, diminish the public commons, control public discourse, and supplant the narratives in our culture about what is truly for the public good, who is doing good and who isn’t.

If this sounds familiar to fellow library defenders, it could be because of information we have previously supplied about, for instance, who is one the boards of our NYC libraries and their private sector conflicts of interest (Brooklyn Public Library Trustees- Identified + Biographical and Other Information Supplied), and how readily the board of “charitable” institutions like libraries are getting off track (Why Nonprofit Boards May Stray From Their Core Missions And Obligations To the Public- Considered Generally And Particularly With Respect To Libraries).

It might also be because you recall what we have written recently respecting these themes talking about Anand Giridharadas, author of  “The Elite Charade of Changing the World” (we've written about him before).  Now, in yet one more very valuable interview by “On The Media” you can hear Giridharadas (who says “that “giving has become the wingman of taking. Generosity has become the wingman of injustice. Changing the world has become the wingman of rigging the system”) address these theme again.  See: On The Media-  How Philanthropy Lets Rich People Off the Hook.

The “On The Media” story was generated after “philanthropic” pledges from wealthy individuals in France for repair of Notre Dame Cathedral.  It’s quickly been noted that these same individuals who were seeking acclaim for their “charity” as they readily unearthed cash for the cathedral have been saying they can’t afford to pay taxes and claim that they currently pay too much in taxes.  There was even a synchronous effort made to get their taxes lowered still further: In effect, through the treatment of their ‘charitable’ deductions, to have the government pay for restoration of the cathedral while the wealthy got credit and naming rights.  (There is fear that in order that this can be done more ostentatiously, those jostling into the limelight might even restore the cathedral with an anachronistic glass ceiling via, perhaps, Norman Foster who was involved in the NYPL's Central Library Plan.)

Giridharadas seems to be getting better and better at his interviews, sharpening his expression of the issues if not his analysis itself.  In his “On The Media” interview he speaks about what people should be skeptical about when the wealthy “give” enumerating three concerns:
    . . . One, is this giving single individuals or companies way too much power over public life? Number two, are these problems better solved by government? Where you have accountability, where you can throw people out in an election if they don't solve the problem and the right way. Number three, is the money that is being used to solve these social problems also culpable in the creation of these social problems?
On the subject of why Mark Zuckerberg’s “philanthropy” is problematic Giridharadas says:
I actually think journalists and regulators would have had way more aggressive scrutiny on Zuckerberg over the last 10 years [absent Zukerberg's `philanthropy']. So I'd be willing to lose whatever schools and disease programs Facebook has funded in exchange for having a healthier democracy where Facebook is in check. And I really do think in so many cases there's a link between these things. And a lot of these billionaires really understand that doing this giving buys you reputational space to keep doing the things you need to do to make money.
“Reputational space to keep doing the things you need to do to make money”: That obviously applies to the NYPL awkwardly renaming the 42nd Street Central Reference Library and putting on it the name of Stephen A. Schwarzman (as we have written before). . .                                              
. . .  Stephen A. Schwarzman is the head of the Blackstone Group (and the highest paid CEO in the country- the first $1 billion CEO).  Many are familiar with the fact that the 42nd Street Central Reference Library has awkwardly been renamed after Schwarzman, who, is not exactly about spreading the wealth or being magnanimous to the common man or general population.  He wants the poor to pay more taxes, while he pays, along with others in the hedge fund industry, an exceptionally low rate in taxes due to the carried-interest tax loophole, from which he personally benefits.  He has opposed that loophole's repeal saying repeal would be akin to the German invasion of Poland. And Mr. Schwarzman has also been leading the Trump administration’s initiative to privatize America’s public infrastructure. Mr. Schwarzman is a trustee of the NYPL.  
The “On the Media” story also mentions, for context, the Sacklers, the family that controls Purdue Pharmaceuticals.  Like Schwarzman they like their name up all over the place.  "On The Media" mentions how “in the face of mounting public pressure,” including dramatic protest demonstrations at the Guggenheim Museum, “Britain's National Portrait Gallery, New York's Guggenheim and the UK'S Tate Galleries have announced that they will no longer accept their money.”

That brings us to a recent FAIR Counterspin radio segment about activist work to reclaim our museums and public institutions from so-called wealthy philanthropists creating “reputational space” for the questionable things they continue to do while influencing public discourse narratives.  See: Amin Husain on Decolonizing Museums, Nikole Hannah-Jones on School Resegregation, May 10, 2019.

FAIR’s Counterspin text describing the show's segment reads:
This week on CounterSpin: If someone makes lots of money by, say, knowingly and cynically exacerbating opioid addiction, is it OK as long as they give some of that money to an art museum? Cultural institutions are important sites of public conversation, but the public doesn’t have much say in who gets to lead that conversation, or the stories they tell. Activists are asking us to talk about what that means, and what it would mean to change it. We’ll talk about accountability for cultural institutions with Amin Husain, core organizer with the group Decolonize This Place.
The Counterspin segment begins with a quick reference to the New York Museum of Natural History not allowing its museum space (its Hall of Ocean Life) to be used for a gala event by the Amazon ecosystem-destroying Jair Bolsonaro, the fascist president of Brazil (newly in charge in that country after a soft coup that imprisoned the former president and popular candidate Lula during the election and still holds Lula incommunicado).  The segment then proceeds to its central topic: Protests being organized concerning who is allowed to be in command of the resources of public cultural institutions like museums.  The Counterspin discussion with Amin Husain, of Decolonize This Place cites as a prime example, how Warren B. Kanders is on the board and vice-chair of the Whitney Museum.

Kanders is the owner of the Safariland Group that sells what it calls “non-lethal solutions,” which means that it supplies tear gas used against asylum seekers at the U.S. boarder, against the Furguson protestors, in Baltimore, by the repressive governments in Egypt and Turkey, plus the Safariland Group supplies lethal bullets used against Palestinians.  Mr. Husain points out that, at the same time Kanders is on the board, the Whitney is putting on exhibitions that “define what protest is” and what our art is.  Husain discusses how there is a “whole other economy going on” in museums and similar institutions based on the “one-percenters” determining what “aesthetics and culture” are, but notes that with people like Kander on the boards of such institutions they are not accountable to the communities they “claim to serve,” which raises questions about what these environments are “hospitable” to, even, as the Whitney, for instance, self-promotes and self-defines itself as a “progressive” institution.

Program host Janine Jackson commented about the “confused view of wealth” when people “make their money off misery,” while it is expected to somehow “all balance out” if they use that money for things like museum thus making these institutions “in some sense money launderers.”  Husain noted something else ingrained and related that the defines culture in the art world: How wealth finds a “home” as the art world creates a parking place, a repository for wealth, plus it creates a medium of exchange for great, often stolen, wealth (e.g. the $91 million Jeff Koons rabbit) while furnishing the wealthy with the benefit of tax write-offs.  Money is often being hidden this way.  Meanwhile, Husain notes these institutions are supposed to make rich people look better while they are engaged in ‘philanthropy that’s not really philanthropy.’  He said these institutions need to stop getting a pass on “pretending to be something good, but actually advancing something bad.”

Husain and his protestors are targeting the leadership of these institutions, not the employees, who often share these same criticism and concerns– Over 100 staff members of the Whitney joined in signing a letter calling for the removal of Kanders.

Fittingly, given that Counterspin is a media watchdog program, there was some discussion about the too frequently skewed, somewhat “containing” reporting of these protests by news media– An analogy was also made to how corporately-owned news media, like institutions such as museums, often purports to be serving the public, when it actually isn’t.   

Husain spoke about how these culture-defining excursions can be exclusionary and biased, saying it is important to be conscious how these institution are “not neutral” in ongoing public justice fights and dialogues.  He rhetorically asked how can you summon people in to spaces at the Whitney to speak out against fascism when there is someone like Warren Kanders on the board.  Husain concluded saying that challenging such leadership at these institutions was part of changing the nature of the conversation.  The public, he said, needs to reclaim these institutions.

Now, let’s progress more directly to the subject of libraries, starting with a Carnegie library.  Would the Whitney be better of if, rather than having to deal with Safariland Group associations, Apple just slapped its logos on the Whitney property?. . .

. . .  A new article up in the Boston Review makes the point that Andrew Carnegie’s style of giving, for instance, when he donated libraries all over this country (whatever questions his style raised), was far less problematic than what is going on now with the modern style of “philanthropy.”  The article’s case in point is Apple’s takeover of the Carnegie donated Washington Public Library.  See: The Boston Review: Apple's Newest Store and the Perverse Logic of Philanthro-Capitalism- The Apple Carnegie Library embodies recent developments in philanthropy that should trouble us: the uncritical valorization of philanthro-capitalism and the privatization of public goods and public spaces. Benjamin Soskis, May 21, 2019.

Benjamin Soskis, the article’s author, says: “The Apple Carnegie Library betrays the core goal of Carnegie's giving: to create fully public institutions. . .” and that Apple’s approach to an expensive physical restoration of the building “was not merely architectural.”  (“The library’s marble façade now glows, as do the two Apple logos that flank the entrance like totemic laptops.”)

Soskis observes:
It is true that plenty of knowledge will be diffused on the screens sold there. But in two fundamental respects, the Apple Carnegie Library embodies recent developments that betray the principles that animated Carnegie’s giving: the uncritical valorization of philanthro-capitalism and the privatization of public goods and public spaces. Carnegie’s philanthropy was certainly not unimpeachable—it was often warped by his own ego and eccentricity—but we don’t need to idealize it in order to admire elements of it, especially his library campaign. Indeed, reexamining that campaign should help us appreciate the problem with using Carnegie’s philanthropic legacy to promote the opening of an Apple store in the shell of Washington’s old public library.
He contrasts the Tech industry’s self-promotional furnishing of benefits with Carnegie’s ideal of truly public institutions:
    . .   Apple, and the tech industry more generally, has embraced a particular approach to philanthro-capitalism, one in which the products and services they profit from are presented as powerful forces for good themselves—today’s tech products forge social networks and connections, offer ladders for the aspiring to rise, and, yes, diffuse knowledge.

    . . . . Fundamental to Carnegie’s library campaign was the idea that they be fully public institutions—that is, democratically supported and tax-funded. In order for a town to receive funding to construct a Carnegie library, it needed to provide the site of the building, as well as an annual appropriation of 10 percent of the construction costs, in order to cover maintenance and upkeep, staff salaries, and books. . . .
Soskis’ analysis, citing Carnegie own words, that a man of wealth must consider himself “a mere trustee and agent for his poorer brethren, bringing to their service his superior wisdom, experience, and ability to administer” tracks that of Carnegie biographer David Nasaw.

Nasaw at BPL
Speaking at the Brooklyn Public Library (of all places!) Mr. Nasaw made this point precisely, that Mr. Carnegie was actually very different from many of the wealthy today.  Saying that Carnegie had a lot in common with Senator Elizabeth Warren, Nasaw said that Carnegie was a  proponent of the “dangerous but cogent belief” that the wealthy hold their wealth “in trust for the benefit of the public.”  Carnegie did not believe that he should die possessed of wealth that he had not directed toward the public benefit (he actually failed to give his money away fast enough because of the rate at which it was coming in).  Nasaw said that, although, Carnegie considered himself to have a superior ability to administer and direct wealth, he viewed his ascendance to wealth as somewhat accidental, the luck of his being where two rivers converged at Pittsburgh where iron ore and coal for smelting were also plentiful.

We should mention that David Nasaw was also a co-plaintiff with Citizens Defending Libraries in two lawsuits seeking to stop the NYPL “Central Library Plan” selling and shrinking libraries and getting rid of books and librarians.  That plan was being funded in part, by Mr. Schwarzman, the ostensible reason his name was put on the 42nd Street library that it put in jeopardy.

Using Apple’s ambitions as example, Soskis’ speaks about the erosion of the public commons as private sector branding takes over:
    The Apple Carnegie Library is one of thirteen that the company has recently opened and introduced as “town squares,” shifting attention from the stores’ commercial purposes to their civic ones. . . .

    . . .  The “town square” label is an impressive branding effort, but no amount of rhetorical silting can hide the erosion of public space that has taken place on Mount Vernon Square. The Carnegie Library Apple store—let us call it that—is fundamentally a commercial venue, run by a corporation accountable to its shareholders. And it arrives on the scene when actual public libraries are both starved for resources and dramatically expanding their own civic functions . .
Soskis is thus echoing concerns raised by two prescient librarian authors of books we have written about before: John E. Buschman “Dismantling the Public Sphere– Librarianship In the Age of the New Public Philosophy” (2003) and Ed D’Angelo  “Barbarians at the gate of the Public Library: How Postmodern Consumer Capitalism Threatens Democracy, Civil Education and the Public Good” (2006). Each of those authors cite back to the concerns of Henry Giroux, who in a cover blurb endorsed D’Angelo’s book.  (One source to hear interviews with Giroux is the Project Censored Radio Show, a recent segment of which was an interview with Citizens Defending Libraries co-founder Michael D. D. White about the dismantlement of libraries.)

Our near final stop on this series of stories about so-called philanthropy as a guise for diminishing the public commons, including libraries, is our report on the Brooklyn Public Library’s May 22nd `charity’ gala honoring the private Ratner/Prokhorov Barclays basketball arena and the Nets basketball team.  See:  As The Brooklyn Public Library Holds Gala At The Barclays Arena Honoring Nets And Barclay’s Arena, Citizens Defending Libraries Is There With A Message: End Faux Philanthropy; Take Less And Don’t Sell Our libraries!

Citizens Defending Libraries was leafleting outside the gala.  Our chant (borrowing a bit from Mr. Giridharadas) was: “Put a stake in faux philanthropy: Take less and don’t sell our libraries!”

There was much that was especially troubling about the gala.  Linda Johnson, the president on the Brooklyn Public Library said when she arrived in her position at the BPL that turning libraries into real estate deals was her biggest priority. Topping the list for those deals: Two libraries next to Forest City Ratner property, including Brooklyn’s second biggest library.  The Ratner organization headed by mega-subsidy collector Bruce Ratner created the “Barclays” arena as part of the ill-famed Atlantic Yards eminent domain project.  The dots to be connected concerning library sales, the real estate industry and Ratner are myriad.  The latest connection: BPL president Linda Johnson has literally shacked up (in a Brooklyn Bridge Park apartment) with Bruce Ratner.

Yes, that, indeed, is the background for the BPL “honoring” (i.e. advertising) the private basketball arena.

The BPL’s press release for the event made several points about how this public commons is  “partnering” with arena.

In our flyer that we handed out we made the point that a huge amount of tax dollars had been diverted into subsidies for the private Barclays area while city public libraries were simultaneously starved.  Specifically, what was spent on the Barclays and sports arenas was “a sum more than one-third greater” than “the city committed for capital improvements to the its 206 branch libraries and four research centers” even though those libraries serve “roughly seven times as many people a year as attend baseball games.” (That’s not to mention that the teams are getting an additional $680 million in subsidies spread over 40 years.)

A basic point of the flyer that we handed out that evening is that we the taxpayers pay for our libraries, that "NYC Public Libraries Are Mostly Public Tax Dollar Funded," and that when taxpayer money is diverted into huge subsidies for projects like the private Barclays arena and then the BPL is induced to use our publicly funded libraries to advertise that private arena, it's not charity, and our public tax dollars are being stolen to support private interests. . .

Plus, as essentially all of the stories above observed, this amounts to a dismantlement and privatization of the public commons.

This `philanthropically' funded dismantling of the public commons is not the way it has to be: We make these rules up.

In a May 2017 interview, Jane Mayer, author of  “Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right,” (it’s on another “On The Media Segment,” recently reprised) said that a lot of what we are looking at today in terms of the working of modern day politics is “set up as sort of an arm of `philanthropy.’”   That includes, as noted at the beginning of the interview segment, a general deployment of philanthropy to support the “preservation of capital for rich people.”  That includes, for example, concerted and well funded efforts to ensure we keep polluting the atmosphere with fossil fuels creating climate catastrophe.

It's all the result of rules created in 1916 to allow the wealthy to get tax breaks for giving money to charities.  It's money that is supposedly to serve the `public good.'  See: Dark Money and the Rise of Conservative Orthodoxy, May 31, 2019.

From the very beginning the danger of this was understood, in a way that it too little spoken about today.  Mayer says that when the Rockefeller family wanted to set up the first of these big philanthropies, the Rockefeller Foundation:
 it was incredibly controversial. There was bipartisan opposition from across the board. All of these congressmen and senators said, this is an undemocratic thing, to have a rich family be able to spend its money on public policy and get a tax deduction. They saw foundations as unaccountable to anybody but the super rich and playing a undemocratic role in the midst of our democratic society.
Stephen A. Schwarzman in Jane Mayer's book
The previously mentioned Stephen A. Schwarzman makes an appearance as one of the powerful billionaires in Mayer’s “Dark Money” book as a class warrior agitating to have the poor pay more in taxes and for the wealthy, like himself, to pay less, including through tax loopholes that make his own real estate exceptionally low.  Schwarzman, of course is the man who hopes to get a pass on “pretending to be something good, but actually advancing something bad” by having his name on the NYPL’s 42nd Street Central Reference Library.
(PS: For more about how money is being used to so that the public doesn't get what it wants, but should, see- Everybody’s Realizing It Now: The Political Establishment Is Not Willing To Give The Public The Things The Vast Majority Of Americans Want And That We Could Easily Have)

Candidate Films For Social Justice Film Series (by Brooklyn’s First Unitarian Universalist Weaving Social Justice Committee)

The following is a list of candidate social justice films that is being aggregated for discussion and consideration to create a Social Justice Film series to be sponsored by the Weaving social justice committee of Brooklyn's First Unitarian Universalist congregation in Brooklyn Heights.  The list is a work in progress and will be added to as people make suggestions of other films.  The series is expected to start, some time in the fall of 2019 or a little later and to be preceded by open discussion of films that might possibly be selected.   Information about the time and place will be furnished when determined.  (Note: It is possible to comment on this post as a way of participating.)

Citizens Defending Libraries and CDL co-founder Michael D. D. White are participating in the formulation of his series.

This list will be modified to include links to trailers for films that may be available.

Are some of films more valuable or less valuable for this series if they are potentially more controversial than others?
•    13th - (2016) by director Ava DuVernay.  Nominated for Academy Award, this film is about the mass incarceration of people of color in the Unites States as a perpetuation of slavery.  One consequence is the loss of the right to vote thus changing the shape of politics and who puts who into power. (100 minutes)

•    The Corporation - (2003) A Canadian documentary about how the structure of corporations (according to the rules we made up for them- and we do make up those rules) makes corporations antisocial in their behavior.  (145 minutes)

•     Ain’t I A Woman? - About the grueling work conditions of underpaid medicare paid 24/7 home health care workers.  The film, which has already been shown, is being refined in the process of being finalized.

•    The Lobby - (2017) This four-part documentary was censored and was not shown as a condition for Saudi Arabia agreeing not to launch its threatened militarily attack (in 2017/2018) against Qatar.  Following a young reporter who went undercover with hidden cameras and recording equipment to infiltrate AIPAC, it is about AIPAC’s hardball tactics to influence British and American politics and elections, including passage of laws against criticism the Israeli state’s conduct, equating such criticism with antisemitism.  The film also serves as primer on the working of politics and the ways that subsidies circle round to come back as lobbying for more speacila treatment. (Four one-hour episodes)

•    The Best Democracy That Money Can Buy - (2016 and often updated) A film about U.S. voter suppression by reporter Greg Palast told with a comic film noir solve-the-mystery style that focuses particularly on the contrived purge of minority voters from the voting roles in multiple states accross the country by Crosscheck and Koch-funded Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach who was later brought into the Trump administration to continue working in a similar vein in Washington D.C.. Does this affect election outcome?: A reason to see the film.  (115 minutes)

•    Roadmap To Apartheid - (2012) Alice Walker narrates, comparing and looking at the connection between apartheid in Israel and South Africa.  (95 minutes)

•    Wormwood - (2016) A six-part documentary by Errol Morris (“Thin Blue Line”)  unfolding, in peal the onion fashion, the mystery of the 1953 likely murder of a United States employee scientist by the U.S. government.  The film fascinating explores how what the public and the scientists family think they have known about the death has kept changing over the years due to the misdirection of clever cover stories structured in their engaging sensationalism (think LSD and psychedelics) so as to ensure distraction from some things the film ultimately explores such as bio-warfare research during the Korean War. (Six one-hour episodes)
•    Three Identical Strangers - (2018) A fun film that turns dark in its last segment when it goes from what you think you know and remember concerning the headline-grabbing pop culture fun of events concerning the discovery of identical triplets to segue to a history of secret experiments.  (96 minutes)

•    Where To Invade Next - (2015) Michael Moore’s most joyous and fun film about the solutions and better lives we could have as found in other countries around the world.  (120 minutes)

•    Wal-Town the Film - (2006) This film about Walmart follows six student activists and a journalist as they visit 36 Canadian towns over the course of two summers to raise public awareness about Wal-Mart's business practices, and how, with its increasing dominance, it is affecting cities and towns across Canada. (66 minutes)

•    Requiem For The American Dream  - (2015) In this documentary (with a corresponding book) the academic and activist Noam Chomsky describes the systems that have led to financial inequality, and the current concentration of wealth and power. The films deals with the deliberate concentration of wealth and power in the hands of a select few, the death of the middle class, and the idea of a functioning democracy in America. (73 minutes)       

•    The Black Panthers- Vanguard of the Revolution - (2015) A documentary film by Stanley Nelson Jr. that tells the story of the revolutionary black organization Black Panther Party using archival footage and interviews with surviving Panthers and FBI agents.  The film deals with the strengths and appeal that caused the party to grow, how it was perceived a threat to the establishment, and the COINTELPRO behind the scenes measures that government took to divide, hobble and dismantle the movement, including the execution of an emerging charismatic and eloquent leader, Fred Hampton.  (115 minutes)

•    The Murder of Fred Hampton - (1971) - Emerging Black Panther leader Fred Hampton was assassinated by the Chicago Police Department during this documentary film’s production.  The film was begun with the intent of being a portrayal Hampton and the Illinois Black Panther Party.  One part of the finished film is the a portrait of Fred Hampton, another part of the film is an investigative report of his death that makes the case that Hampton’s killing by the Chicago police was murder.  (88 minutes)

•    Let the Fire Burn - (2013) The story of the Philadelphia Police bombing of a liberation group black liberation group living in a communal setting in West Philadelphia.  The bombing killed eleven members of the group, including five children aged 7 to 13 and destroyed 65 houses in the neighborhood.  The survivors later filed a civil suit against the city and the police department, and were awarded $1.5 million in a 1996 settlement.  (95 minutes)

•    How To Survive a Plague - (2012) A finalist for an Oscar, about the history of AIDS activists changing the healthcare system to accelerate the discover of effective treatments for AIDs. (109 minutes)

•    Battle For Brooklyn - (2011) Nominated for an Oscar but too controversial a film about the NYC real estate industry to ever be played on the NYC PBS station- About the mega-subsidized, mega-monopoly Atlantic Yards eminent domain project. (93 minutes)

•    My Brooklyn - (2012) Director Kelly Anderson's film about gentrification and understanding the forces reshaping her neighborhood along lines of race and class. The film reframes the gentrification debate to expose the corporate actors and government policies driving displacement and neighborhood change.  (77 minutes)

•    Park Avenue: Money, Power and the American Dream - (2012) Alex Gibney’s documentary about the increasing wealth gap in the United States that makes is points focusing on 740 Park Avenue where some of the wealthiest and most politically influential billionaires live, including fossil fuel magnate David H. Koch and the library-selling anti-egalitarian, tax loophole advocate, NYPL trustee Stephen A. Schwarzman, the first CEO to make more than $1 billion a year on which he pays especially low taxes and wants to keep it that way.  (70 minutes)

•    Let It Fall: Los Angeles 1982–1992 - (2017) Documentary by John Ridley about the decade preceding and including the 1992 Los Angeles riots (also known as the Rodney King riots).  (144 minutes)

•    Harvest Season - (2018) Bernardo Ruiz focused on the Mexican-American influence on California’s multi-billion-dollar wine industry. Three winemakers navigate the changing situation of their business, affected by climate shifts, new technology, and immigration policies, in the Napa and Sonoma valleys of California. (83 minutes)

•    The Weather Underground - (2002) documentary film based on the rise and fall of the American radical organization Weather Underground. Using archive footage from the time as well as interviews with the Weathermen today, the film constructs a linear narrative of the organization.  (95 minutes)

•    Oliver Stone’s Untold History Of The United States - (2012) A twelve-episode review of the history of the United States (with an accompanying books that has just been updated with an additional 100+ page to cover current history) from the McKinley era through to relatively recent years that is likely provides quite different information and insights than what you were taught from your school textbooks.  Do you know about the attempted “cocktail” military coup to remove FDR from office?  The major factor in defeating the Nazis?  What may have been the most important threat that caused the Japanese surrender?  The differences between FDR vice-presidents Henry Wallace and Truman?  JFK’s purge of top CIA leaders?  (Twelve one-hour episodes)

•    Appalshop Films - A series of completed films to choose from with more films still in the works seeking funding contributions.  The films are intended bring forth and amplify new and often unheard voices and visions from the people of Appalachia and rural communities across America and abroad.  The films seek to support grassroots efforts to achieve justice and equity, meaningful social and economic change, and to celebrate cultural diversity telling stories commercial media doesn’t tell and  challenging stereotypes.  Some films may also appeal to the youngest in the congregation.

•    Wasted! The Story of Food Waste - (2017) - A film about clever cuisine approaches to rethink and reduce what is defined as “food waste.” (85 minutes)

•    Bugs - (2016) Around the world and in many different cultures local insects are consumed as delicacies of the local cuisine and eating insects as a protein sources is a clear answer to solving many challenge of sustainability.   This film, nominated for several awards, is something of a travelogue as explores cultures and the barriers to dietary changes that seem to make a lot of environmental sense.  (74 minutes)

•    Ex Libris - (2017) Although this film about the NYPL (New York Public Library) ventures into various social justice topics through the interface of library events and programs, the film would have to included as a trick film (requiring an external guide), an example of how documentaries should not always be accepted at face value for the (sometimes neutral?) perspective they purport to provide.  The film by revered film maker Frederick Wiseman feels like a meander, a fly-on-the-wall capture of reality with no intrusion of perspective, but Wiseman was actually tightly minded by the NYPL’s top PR officer and the film operates with blinders (even to the extent it actually depicts unaware certain things).  It shuns certain elephants in the room, for instance about the Stephen A. Schwarzman funded NYPL Central Library Plan to sell and shrink libraries and the NYC  real estate industry. (197 minutes)

•    Acid From Heaven, (1983 - 31 minutes) Acid Rain: Requiem or Recovery? (1981 - 27 minutes) and If You Love This Planet (1982- 26 minutes) - This triumvirate of vintage films from by the National Film Board of Canada– two on acid-rain pollution and an antinuclear war film the last of them won an Oscar– are especially relevant for their history of being censored, banned by the Reagan administration as propaganda that should not land on the ears of the American public.  Does this sound like current efforts to scrub out references to climate change and climate chaos from government science sites and corporate media?

 •    Sweet Crude - (2009) Before the Deep Water Horizon Gulf of Mexico oil spill disaster, before those of us who were alert started learning through that spill about the poisonousness of the chemical dispersants used to feign alleviation of the spill’s effects, the Nigeria’s Niger Delta was experiencing ongoing oil spill contamination and  poisonings of huge, if unrecognized dimensions (the estimated equivalent of Exxon Valdez spill every year ongoing for decades).  The fossil fuel and oil extraction industry wants to be less regulated in the United States.  This story, according to film director Sandy Cioffi, who won many awards for it, is about what happens when the industry gets what it wants and is subject to no regulation at all.  It includes the Chevron and Shell oil companies militarily arming young men to fight against each other to foment chaos for the benefit of oil prices.  The film makers, who were arrested and imprisoned by the Nigerian government while making the film, had originally set out to make a film about the building of a rural Nigerian library.  (93 minutes)

•    The River and The Wall - (2019) Political ammunition against Trump’s conception of a wall.  A spectacularly photogenic and somewhat treacherously challenging trip down the Rio Grande makes clear how ecologically devastating the construction of a wall would be.  At the same time background personal stories make a pro-immigration case.  (97 minutes)  
Fictional Works
•    In the Time of the Butterflies - (2001) A feature film, produced for the Showtime television network, directed by Mariano Barroso and based on Julia Álvarez's book of the same name. The story is a fictionalized account for the lives of the Mirabal sisters, Dominican revolutionary activists, who opposed the dictatorship of Rafael Trujillo and were assassinated on November 25, 1960. (95 minutes)

•    Micmacs - (2009) French comedy film by French director Jean-Pierre Jeunet, a "satire on the world arms trade."  (105 minutes)

•    No - (2012) A docu-comedy romp that also teaches about political organizing and the kind of clever, hopeful and fun advertising campaigns that can assist, recounting the triumph where in a 1988 referendum in Chile 56 percent voted to oust repressive dictator Augusto Pinochet from power.  The film uses archival footage and fictionalized characters while many of those who worked on the 1988 campaign played themselves or other characters who were involved. (118 minutes)
•    When They See Us - (2019) Director Ava DuVernay’s new docudrama film series about the 1989 media circus (that made up such terms as “wilding”) and the subsequent very flawed prosecution and conviction (vacated in 2002) of five innocent young black men in the case of female jogger attacked, beaten and raped in Central Park. (Four one-hour episodes) There is also a documentary about the case, The Central Park Five (2012), directed by filmmaker Ken Burns, his daughter Sarah Burns, and her husband David McMahon.  (119 minutes.)

•    Dancer in the Dark - (2000) A Danish musical melodrama film directed by Lars von Trier. It stars Icelandic musician Björk as a daydreaming immigrant factory worker who suffers from a degenerative eye condition and is saving up to pay for an operation to prevent her young son from suffering the same fate. (140 minutes)

•    On The Basis of Sex - (2018) A docudrama about the early professional years of future Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in order to explore sex discrimination through the lens of her early cases.  (120 minutes)

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

As The Brooklyn Public Library Holds Gala At The Barclays Arena Honoring Nets And Barclay’s Arena, Citizens Defending Libraries Is There With A Message: End Faux Philanthropy; Take Less And Don’t Sell Our libraries!

The date, May 22nd, finally came and the Brooklyn Brooklyn Public Library held it’s 2019 annual gala at the Barclays basketball arena, of all places, honoring the nets basketball team and the Barclay’s arena itself.

. . .   “Of all places” has several implications.  A weird place to hold the gala?  Yes, but weirder if you know that BPL president Linda Johnson has shacked up (in a Brooklyn Bridge Park apartment) with real estate developer and mega-subsidy collector Bruce Ratner who created the arena as part of the ill-famed Atlantic Yards eminent domain project.   And that weirdness grows more ominous when you realize all the connections that exist between the real estate industry, Mr. Ratner’s Forest City Ratner development company in particular, and the sale and shrinkage of libraries, the elimination of books and the deprofessionalization of librarians.

That weird ominousness continues when you consider how the BPL now likes to focus on “partnering” its public, supposedly democratic commons with private corporate interests such as the Nets and the Prokhorov/Ratner arena.  That, in fact was something that the BPL’s press release made a point about.

Sometimes you just gotta be there- Citizens Defending Libraries was outside the gala leafleting with a message as gala attendees arrived.

Our message which we chanted was “Put a stake in faux philanthropy: Take less and don’t sell our libraries!”   We also sang our library don't sell our libraries song written for us by Judy Gorman.  We displayed this visual:
Admittedly, our chant about eliminating “faux philanthropy” and “taking less” instead of selling libraries was borrowing from the spirit of Anand Giridharadas, author of  “The Elite Charade of Changing the World” (we've written about him before), who has said that “giving has become the wingman of taking. Generosity has become the wingman of injustice. Changing the world has become the wingman of rigging the system.”

Upon hearing our chant one of the developers entering the arena came over to joke with us: “How about if I want to buy a library?”  David Kramer, whose Hudson Companies is replacing the downtown Heights central destination library with a luxury tower in a shrink-and-sink real estate deal, was one of the attendees. Although often quipful himself, Kramer was not the fellow who offered this clever quip.

This is the flyer we handed out to those entering plus to some passersby:
Here is the text.
Spending Public Library Money To Partner and Party With Private Real Estate Interests Destroying Our Libraries?
 NYC Public Libraries Are Mostly Public Tax Dollar Funded– And The BPL Is Partnering & Partying With Private Interests, Honoring Real Estates Interests Dismantling Libraries?
Our libraries should be a civic commons for public discourse and learning.  Instead, the mantra afoot with our library officials is to “partner” with, advertise, and undeservedly burnish commercial corporate brands and the reputations of companies unraveling our democracy, companies involved in privatizing our public assets and turning our libraries into real estate deals that eliminate the  books, librarians and libraries the public has invested in.   

NY Times columnist Jim Dwyer wrote that NYC libraries “have more users than major professional sports, performing arts, museums, gardens and zoos - combined,” but the city diverted its funds instead into subsidies for the very controversial private Ratner/Prokhorov “Barclays” arena with:
at least $464 million to build new baseball stadiums . .  and $156 million for the Barclays Center. That's $620 million for just those three sports arenas - a sum more than one-third greater than the $453 million that the city committed for capital improvements to the its 206 branch libraries and four research centers, which serve roughly seven times as many people a year as attend baseball games. ( . . the teams are getting an additional $680 million in subsidies spread over 40 years.)
Our presidential-candidate mayor underfunds libraries as an excuse to sell them while the BPL holds a gala to honor the Barclays Center and the Brooklyn Nets, brought to us by subsidy-collection meister Bruce Ratner?  It’s insane and absurd: BPL president Linda Johnson said turning libraries into real estate deals was her biggest priority. Topping the list: Two libraries next to Ratner property, including Brooklyn’s second biggest library.  Ms. Johnson is now literally shacked up with Bruce Ratner.  The dots to be connected are myriad.  See:
The (Ugh) Upshot After Brooklyn Public Library President Linda Johnson Shacks Up With Bruce Ratner?: The BPL Will Hold Gala On May 22nd Honoring The Ratner Barclays Center And Nets!

It Gets Personal, But This Gossip Is, In Fact, Real News About The Business of Selling Libraries- Two From That Constellation of Library-Selling Stars Hook Up As A Couple: Bruce Ratner and Brooklyn Library President Linda Johnson– Guess Where?
Sign our petition on the web: Citizens Defending Libraries
* * *

Note that the two Citizens Defending Libraries posts above contain a ton of information about the almost unbelievable number of dots that connect when it some to library real estate sales, Linda Johnson, her shackmate Bruce Ratner, Forest City Ratner and the Brooklyn Bridge Park Corporation board similarly pushing for development there.   

The BPL issued a press release that day:  Brooklyn Public Library Honors Brooklyn Nets and Barclays Center ..  [plus a few more]

This is some of what it said (emphasis supplied):
Nearly 500 supporters gathered at Barclays Center last night to raise funds for Brooklyn Public Library (BPL) and to recognize Brooklyn’s leaders in business, sports and literature.

“In addition to raising funds for our collections and services, the gala provides Brooklyn Public Library the opportunity to recognize organizations and individuals emblematic of Brooklyn’s innovative and creative spirit,” said Linda E. Johnson, Brooklyn Public Library President and CEO.

“The Barclays Center and Brooklyn Nets have inspired the borough with the power of sports, and in the process supported the Library and local community-based organizations. We are delighted to honor all of their accomplishments.”

* * * *

BSE CEO Brett Yormark—who oversees the business enterprise that manages and controls the Brooklyn Nets, Barclays Center and other sports and entertainment venues—accepted the award on behalf of the Barclays Center. In his remarks, he announced a special initiative to provide two free tickets to a Barclays Center event to every child who completes Brooklyn Public Library’s summer reading challenge.

“We are honored to be recognized by the Brooklyn Public Library, one of our borough’s pre-eminent cultural institutions,” said Yormark. “Hosting the Gala aligns perfectly with Barclays Center’s mission of bolstering other key Brooklyn organizations and we are proud to continue that support by partnering on the summer reading challenge.”

Opened in 2012, Barclays Center hosts an extensive variety of events, including the Brooklyn Nets, premier concerts, major professional boxing cards, top college basketball, family shows and the New York Islanders. The Nets relocated from New Jersey upon the opening of the arena, and have reached the postseason four times since moving to the borough. In all of its community efforts, BSE Global aims to inspire lives through the spirit and the power of sports and entertainment.

* * *

Furthermore, the Brooklyn Nets and Barclays Center have partnered with Brooklyn Public Library on a number of literacy initiatives including Team Up To Read, a program to support children ages 5 to 9 as they work to become strong readers.

* * * *

Special guests included Brooklyn Borough President Eric L. Adams . . .

* * * *
Baratunde Thurston, a trustee of Brooklyn Public Library and Emmy-nominated futurist comedian, writer and cultural critic, served as host for the evening. Thurston helped re-launch The Daily Show with Trevor Noah. . .
(An aside: Does it seem that the Daily Show has gotten increasing flat and corporate in its messages recently?)

As for the "nearly 500 supporters," that's also what the BPL told the police, but our own count was far below that.  We had an idea of the number based on the number of flyers we handed out to those who arrived plus a good sense of the high proportion of people taking them.  Maybe nearly "nearly 500" is the number of people for whom tickets had been bought, rather than people who actually showed up?

It was amazing how many of the people who showed up didn't know about the library sales or dismantlement.   One of the attendees walked over to specifically thank us for handing out the flyer.  At least of the police officers on duty for the even was also very thankful to learn about much that he said he didn't know.

There seems to have been virtually no coverage of the gala.  The BPL, itself, put up pictures here:
Join the crowd?
On the right it's Bruce Ratner
Ratner girlfriend BPL president Linda Johnson, glad to have her arms around two local politicians who want to become mayor, City Councilman Corey Johnson on left, and Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams on right.  Borough President Adams has been a regular attending BPL galas.
Early September 2015: Borough President Adams ponders over 2000+ signed and individualized petitions opposing the sale of the second biggest library in Brooklyn that were collected by Citizens Defending Libraries in August.  The petitions impressed him, and he surprised the real estate industry by refusing to approve the deal selling the library that had been brought to him.  After the City Planning Commission and the City Council ignored his opposition, Borough President Adams eventually fell in line behind everyone else giving a last approval of the shrink-and-sink sale that converted the library site to a luxury tower project. 
Here is a link to must read from National Notice how on issue after major issue, a robust system of NYC libraries being an excellent example, elected officials, succumbing to the influence of money  are not giving the public what it wants and could easily have (plus how the corporate press is complicit):
Everybody’s Realizing It Now: The Political Establishment Is Not Willing To Give The Public The Things The Vast Majority Of Americans Want And That We Could Easily Have, May 11, 2019.
Outside the gala we took some of our own photos.

A guest of honor, Bruce Ratner, the BPL president's Brooklyn Bridge Park development shackmate, arrives.

David Giles who now works for the BPL after writing to endorse library sales working at the Center for an Urban Future
Library trustee and Brooklyn Bridge Park Corporation board member Hank Gutman.
In addition to our own posts, there was pre-coverage of the event by Norman Oder of Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park Report:   Ball for Brooklyn: Barclays Center site of Brooklyn library gala, where arena is honored; Bruce Ratner and BPL's Linda Johnson buy a Pierhouse condo, May 03, 2019.

Here is some of what Mr. Oder wrote:
It's unsurprising that the library, like the Brooklyn Academy of Music and the Brooklyn Museum and the Brooklyn Children's Museum [which itself is involved with a BPL library real estate deal] and the Brooklyn Historical Society, would enmesh itself with a major company. Still, it remains unfortunate that such nonprofit institutions, which are supposed to act in the public interest, ally themselves with big-money sponsors whose interests are not necessarily in sync.

* * *

I don't think--I don't like to think--that the need to keep warm relations with potential sponsors affects Brooklyn Public Library programming decisions or materials selection.

Let's see. The library, during the height of the project controversy (and before Johnson's time), faced charges of censorship for culling certain politically charged pieces of art when re-mounting an art exhibit called Footprints. (It was unwise caution, but I thought other omissions were even more meaningful.)
About library real estate deals (which have been in the works since about 2004 or earlier, at first mostly in secret) Mr. Oder said:
The devil is in the deal, and the details: clearly the New York Public Library's Donnell Library deal in Manhattan was a disaster. I'm reserving judgment on the Brooklyn Public Library's Brooklyn Heights Branch.
As comments to Mr. Oder’s article Citizens Defending Libraries co-founder Michael D. D. White wrote:
One might reserve judgement about the sale of the central downtown Heights library, a central destination library that was the second biggest in Brooklyn and hope that it will be a good deal for library patrons in the end, but that hope must factor in what we know now:

It will no longer be a Business Library.
It will no longer be a Career Library.
It will no longer be an Education Library.
It will no longer be a federal depository library.
It was all of these things until recently.
It will be approximately 40% the previous size.
The proportion of space the public visits will be pushed underground: Previously there was almost 38,000 square feet of space above ground (plus two underground stories kept books at the ready). The new library will have just 15,000 square feet above ground. [More of the comment at the site.]
For those interested in the Curriculum Vitae for BPL president and Ratner apartment mate Linda Johnson, her work as an environmental lawyer (on the wrong side) and her “rise” via her father’s company, we have it posted here:

Brooklyn Public Library Trustees- Identified + Biographical and Other Information Supplied.
A few days after the gala, BPL trustee (also Brooklyn Bridge Park Corporation board member) Hank Gutman, dressed for tennis out side the Brooklyn Casino on Montague Street, ran into CDL co-founder Michael D. D. White.  Gutman attended the gala, while White was outside with other leafleting library defenders.  Gutman told White that White should have come to gala and `why not contribute to the library to do so.'  He asked White why White wasn't busy donating to the library--  But that sort of missed the basic point of the flyer that was handed out that evening, that we the taxpayers do pay for our libraries, that "NYC Public Libraries Are Mostly Public Tax Dollar Funded," and that when taxpayer money is diverted into huge subsidies for projects like the private Barclays arena and then the BPL is induced to use our publicly funded libraries to advertise that private arena, it's not charity, and our public tax dollars are being stolen to support private interests.

There is now available a brand new Project Censored Radio Show radio interview with CDL co-founder Michael D. D. White that provides, in one-half hour, a superb up-to-date comprehensive overview about what is going on with respect to the dismantlement of NYC libraries and issues related thereto.
(PS: To catch up with several other recent commentaries about the thereat to the public commons and democracy posed by "philanthropic" wealth that puts this event in a larger context see: A Flourish of Stories About So-Called Philanthropy Being Used As A Guise For Diminishing The Public Commons– That Includes Libraries.)

Latest Project Censored Radio Show Features Interview With CDL Co-Founder Michael D. D. White On Dismantlement of Libraries- (And Another Interview With Investigative Reporter Dave Lindorff)

Here’s something we don’t think you’ll want to pass by–   The latest Project Censored Radio Show Features Interview With CDL Co-Found Michael D. D. White (And Another With Investigative Reporter Dave Lindorff).  See:
Latest Project Censored Show:- Dave Lindorff and Michael D. D. White, May 21, 2019
The weekly Project Censored Radio Show, just part of the work Project Censored produces (also including an annual book and annual identification of top-censored stories), is a Pacifica network public radio show, a quintessential Pacifica network show fulfilling the mission of Pacifica by pointing out on a weekly basis the huge doughnut hole of major news and issues that are going unreported by corporate media.  Paying attention to how and why such information is being buried and ignored usually makes clear the other hugely important part of the picture: The power structures in place that would such matters steered in certain ways and therefore have a vested interest in an uninformed, misinformed or misled public.

The half hour interview with Michael D. D. White covers a lot of ground.  It is probably at this moment the best up-to-date half hour to get an overview hearing about why New York City libraries (and potentially other libraries similarly around the country and the world) are being attacked and shifted away from pursuit of their traditional functions.

The following are links you may want to us to delve deeper into some of things you’ll hear discussed in the interview:

Main Citizens Defending Libraries page
Of course, our our current main Citizens Defending Libraries page, which, with lots of links, takes you in any direction you would like to research more about the dismantling of NYC libraries.  In all, it provides a very good overview, fairly parallel to the interview, but with even more information, of what we are up against broken down by topics.

It's Not Just The Real Estate Industry Threatening Libraries: Examining The Panoply of Other Threats

Our CDL page on Digital vs. Physical books:  Physical Books vs. Digital Books.

Articles About Library Privacy and Surveillance In Libraries
Interesting to Think That it All Began With BOOKS? Except That Amazon and World’s Wealthiest Man (As We Know Jeff Bezos Today) Didn’t Exactly Begin That Way. . .

Amazon Headquarters Lands In Long Island City: What Happens When Our Elected Officials Hand The Task of Governing Over To A Private Sector Corporation

Citizens Defending Libraries has covered suppressed books, including here:
Books As Catalysts In A World Where Information And Points of View Are Often Suppressed

Biography of Washington Post publisher Katherine Graham, one example of a suppressed book.
As for Pacifica stations getting more content out and the possibility of HD radio (and you can think about the parallels between why it's important to preserve traditional libraries and why terrestrial radio is similarly important, there's a bit written about HD radio here:

Feeling Constrained By Your Digital `Liberation’? Speaking Personally, I Am

Interestingly, what that article mentions about our doorbells no longer being zones of privacy became a NY Times op-ed subject (Time To Panic About Privacy) in the special Sunday Review privacy project (but the way the Times has it set up on line is creepy and may turn your brain off).

Michael White reported a little bit of Esprit de l'escalier (spirit of the staircase) after his Project censored interview-  He said that when co-host Chase Palmieri asked about implication of Amazon Prime's reach (and he couldn't answer that exactly), he should have one-upped the conversation respecting such concerns with a jump to mentioning Alexa.  And when it comes to Alexa, our YouTube channel has a short Alexa video that's funny in a creepy, black humor sort of way.  See:

We think you will enjoy this video: Alexa Explains Surveillance Valley (+ Siri on Alexa)
The video:
Alexa Explains Surveillance Valley (+ Siri on Alexa)

The Alexa video is also embedded in a CDL post about Yasha Levine's book (Levine could be a good Project Censored guest):

Reading on the Internet vs. Reading a Book You Picked Up Browsing In Your Library: Yasha Levine’s “Surveillance Valley- The Secret Military History of the Internet”

There is another immediate followup Citizens Defending Libraries post to the above Yasha Levine book post (below), but the implications of it are very layered, nuanced and frightening, offering an uncomfortably challenging perspective.  It would have been, a real "rabbit hole," to get into-- It's basically another angle on where Levine gets around to for the end of his book.  Levin was even interviewed about it on WNYC's "On The Media":

Self Proclaimed As Fighting Surveillance, Library Freedom Project Is Tied to Tor Service With Its Deep Ongoing Connections, Including Financing, To The U.S. Government

The article mentioned by Michael White at the end about the interview about the non-representation of super-majorities of the public on major issue after major issue  (including not giving us the libraries we can afford):

Everybody’s Realizing It Now: The Political Establishment Is Not Willing To Give The Public The Things The Vast Majority Of Americans Want And That We Could Easily Have

Signing our petition lets people get email updates.