June 25, 2007
David Landsberg, Publisher
Anders Gyllenhaal, Executive Editor
THE MIAMI HERALD
One Herald Plaza
Miami, Florida 33132-1693
Re: The Poverty Peddler - Business as Usual
Dear Mssrs Landsberg and Gyllenhaal:
The recent Herald muckraking deserves the Prize and is certainly winning back many of those readers who were convinced that the rag under the previous owners was the promotional mouthpiece for a power elite led by interests vested in real estate, a minority colluding in its own interest at great cost to the general public. Indeed, many readers believed that an intense investigation should have been warranted long ago, and that such an investigation should have extended into the personal accounts of people populating your own high offices.
I sincerely thank you for 'The House of Lies' and 'Poverty Peddler' and the like muckraking series; but I ask myself, for I know you will not answer: Where has our supposedly independent watchdog been all this time? Trumpeting downtown real estate development, in which the Herald's owner had a substantial interest, and overlooking apparent conflicts of interest everywhere?
I shall give the Herald the benefit of the doubt, and supposed that it was with all good intentions simply boosting what it thought was good for the community, and that the press watchdog was too young to remember what "business is our politics, and politics is our business" led to. The impoverished workforce of Miami shall at least have Hoovervilles and a positive mental attitude about Business as Usual. Therefore, they say, ignore what the naysayers say. Naysayers are not gentile enough for our gentrification plan. We advised them to welcome change, but they refused to be welcome mats for our sea change. So leave them to their own devices: God helps those who help themselves.
Maybe the watchdog was conned. And if that is true, then no doubt the civic leaders involved in the confidence schemes are victims too, say, of the so-called Poverty Peddler, one Dennis Stackhouse. I am not convinced by the Poverty Peddler series that Mr. Stackhouse is a full-fledged conman who managed to take greedy people for a ride. Perhaps he is a confident man who was short of capital and who wanted to do some good with his shortage for a change; to wit: use the lack to motivate himself to raise other people's money to fulfill his and their dream of enriching one of the neediest neighborhoods in the country. Perhaps the personal greed of the civic leaders his confidence won over extends to greed for the greater good.
Does not good require that there be something in it for everybody? I understand that the late Arthur Teele, Jr., the poor scandalized bloke who shot himself to death in the Herald lobby, had done so much good for the community that he should have run for mayor instead. Mr. Teele believed that former Executive Editor Tom Fiedler, who fired the best columnist the Herald had for recording Mr. Teele's last words, was in cahoots with the "great white sharks of Miami real estate." I hope the journalists and editors have thoroughly examined each other for unethical conduct.
Of course corruption is corruption no matter how much good it does, and criminals should be brought to justice. Despite the triple-payment of certain bills and cross-back-scratching in the case of the Poverty Peddler, perhaps there is no criminal conspiracy or collusion between public officials, private persons, business corporations and quasi-public or nonprofit organizations in Magic City – where so many things do tend to get done, thanks to the sleeping watchdog, without visible means, with mirrors and wires and pulleys behind the scenes.
In any event, the whole thing smacks of Business as Usual. A better education in that business would certainly be beneficial to us all, therefore I applaud the Herald for its inquiries into that business and its revelation of facts, and urge the both of you to cause your staff to dig up many more facts whether they are incriminating or not. Please include more public information about the nonprofits involved – IRS Instructions (990, 990PF) requires copies of their reports to be filed with the Secretary of State, where they are considered to be a filing nuisance and are completely ignored – if funds are solicited from the public, detailed financial information must be reported with the state Department of Agriculture. But of course your investigative reporters must know all about that.
Coincidentally, I noticed that your photograph of the biotech park ceremony included an esteemed hero of the Mariel Crisis, Eduardo Padrón of Miami-Dade College, along with Mr. Stackhouse and other civic leaders with ceremonial shovels in hand. Newspaper-scandalized Congressman Meek reportedly obtained a $1 million labor grant to train 800 technicians for the would-be biopark, which thus far is nothing but empty lots and a promise to build a parking garage in two years. As you know, Mr. Padrón led the Imagine Miami coalition, and he issued dire warning about Business as Usual. You will find my article on that subject enclosed, and you may note the speculation therein as to whether Los Cinquentas Padrones should be called Los Cinquentas Ladrones. I, for one, need more information to arrive at a reasonable conclusion, and to that end I look forward to your reports.
DAVID ARTHUR WALTERS
Miami Beach, Florida 33139
Imagine Miami's Future
By David Arthur Walters
Last edited: Saturday, June 25, 2005
Posted: Monday, June 13, 2005
|Will her future be revolution or business as usual? |
"Ever since the state fell under the sway of a few powerful men... all influence, rank, and wealth have been in their hands. To us they have left danger, defeat, prosecutions, poverty.... What have we left save only the breath of life?... Is it not better to die valiantly than to lose our wretched and dishonored lives after being the sport of other men's insolence?" Lucius Sergius Cataline
"Those men conduct their affairs well who keep in front of their eyes their own private interest and measure all their actions according to its necessities." Francesco Guicciardini
The Imagine Miami initiative launched by the Human Services Coalition of Dade County is apparently on the move. The group's activities are of inordinate interest not only to the residents of Miami but to those people in other cities who are becoming increasingly concerned with the worsening gap between the rich and the poor. The nation is on the verge of a grave domestic crisis. The organized neoconservative attack on the liberal consensus implemented by the Reagan administration has finally resulted in a great fault in our society, a divide that threatens to destroy it unless concerted action is taken forthwith.
Miami's current claim to fame is that it is the supermodel for the future of the United States of America. In fact the modeling process has been referred to by a South American analyst as the "miamizacion" of the United States.
Beautiful Miami is the most impoverished and corrupt city in the country and its population has the highest incidence of mental illness, yet immigration proceeds apace as real estate prices soar far beyond the reach of the average resident. Even the highest paid construction workers will not be able to afford to live in the downtown condominiums they are building. Wages are relatively low, especially so for laborers, many of whom are immigrants - poor Americans from the United States are virtual immigrants. Cheap labor is the thing, as the founding fathers knew very well when they used slave labor at $ 5 per day to build the White House and Congress. After the job was finished, the rented slaves were sent back to the plantations.
Today's companies terminate workers after they build up the business, hiring cheaper domestic or foreign labor to take over. Pension funding obligations are reduced and the promises broken in the end. And now we are urged to privatize social security, increase the retirement age, and cut benefits; - that is the American Way.
Not only is cheap labor flowing into Miami, a great influx of Latin American cash is fleeing social responsibility lately. The publisher of Money Laundering Alert, Charles Intriago, said, "Some people call Miami the capital of Latin America; we call it the corruption proceeds capital of Latin America." As for the residents who cannot afford to buy into the creative-destruction of their downtown neighborhoods, the message from Free Exchange enthusiasts is, "Stop whining and move."
The Imagine Miami initiative is a community planning effort. Its stated mission is to move the city from being the poorest in the country to the most prosperous by 2015. On May 26, Miami Today reported that the Imagine Miami coalition will conduct a survey of residents. Eduardo J. Padron, president of Miami Dade College and a co-chairman of Imagine Miami, said the survey would correspond to the main interests of his group in the health and welfare of the community at large. Mr. Padron observed in a recent essay published by The Miami Herald that Miami is a "bellwether" for America's futurists; therefore, responsible individuals should take a look at the growing underclass and see to it that every sector of society sees the "writing on the wall," or else the future shall be grim, because a society that continues to grow an underclass is doomed.
The way I read it, the "writing on the wall" is, in a word, Revolution. The revolutionary scenario is easy to imagine. It might proceed with the assassination, kidnapping, torture, and execution of neoliberal business and political leaders - the top ten real estate developers would of course be beheaded. Sabotage, sniper and rocket attacks on luxury condominiums, hotels, and resorts would be the order of the day. Television stations would be pleased to cover the bombing and arson attacks on luxury condominium sales offices. Base jumpers and hang gliders would be deployed on bombing attacks. Bank branches would be robbed by revolutionary fund-raising rings, and bank headquarters would be bombed every week or so. Luxury cruise ships would be attacked. Eventually gangs would roam the streets to protect the public from the National Guard and police agencies - the assassination of police brass, and car-bomb and rocket attacks on police stations would occur on a regular basis. Anarchists would provoke violent retaliations by Miami's black, Hispanic and white underclass on the Cuban-American elite, and that would further augment the supply of militant personnel, funds, arms and munitions from revolutionary Latin American forces. Of course the charitable arm of the Revolution would provide food, clothing, hideouts, political education, military training and weapons so that the dignity of the poor, homeless, mentally ill and otherwise socially rejected persons might be restored by revolutionary activities. The rest of the nation would follow its supermodel. The city will be torn between the forces of anarchism and communism - most of the neofascists, neoconservatives, and neoliberals will have been executed or will have fled the country. The struggle for the extreme utopias, Anarchia and Totalitaria, which in their extremities are dystopias, might be eventually resolved in a logically absurd compromise: anarcho-communism. Perfect equality might be achieved if the city is leveled as flat as Florida.
With the writing on the wall in the back of their minds, the Imagine Miami alliance of civil leaders will study the deplorable present and recommend more favorable scenarios in lieu of the Or Else. The usual resort will be made to surveys, focus groups, public and closed meetings, expert research, analysis, and synthesis, so that better alternatives might be identified and specific steps taken to realize a better future for everyone in terms of housing, health, education and the like.
I am ninety percent in favor of the Imagine Miami initiative, and I have been glad to say so many times. I took a look at the pathetic situations of impoverished people including myself and I imagined a better future for them. Getting there is another matter for me, or for anyone else for that matter. God only knows how Imagine Miami will realize its favored scenarios given the momentum of current trend towards enormous economic disparity. Sometimes, where there is a will there is no way, particularly when your will is contrary to the will of the power elite and the dominant social prejudice.
Despite the overbearing confidence I have in the grandeur of my insignificance, I have a nagging doubt about the likelihood of my own success in Miami given current trends. Likewise, a minor part of me, call it the devil's advocate in me, or the ten percent of my personality corresponding to the American traitors who revolted against Great Britain, says the Imagine Miami initiative might fail because it prescribes the causes of the social disease to cure the disease.
Of course homeopathic medicine prescribes a tiny bit of poison to stimulated the body's healing powers; but Imagine Miami prescribes much more of the same, or more business as usual, which would do nothing at the most or would make the sick society sicker. What do I mean here by business as usual?
Well, according to Mr. Padron's essay, 'Imagine a better Miami', published in The Miami Herald on March 14, 2005, "Some 50 community leaders from every sector of enterprise in the county gathered on Feb. 16 at MDC (Miami Dade College) to initiate Phase 1 of Imagine Miami."
Now if you are not a "community leader", the first phase of the project smacks of top-down management, the very sort of management that has kept people down, purportedly for their own good - we know that the neoconservative godfathers are greedy and care nothing for the good of those they keep down.
I made a bit of a pun in my faulty Spanish, calling the 50 community leaders Los Cinquentas Padrones, The Fifty Patrons. A young friend of mine from Cuba laughed out loud at my pun, and said my Spanish was not so good, that I should have said Los Cinquentas Ladrones, meaning the famous fifty thieves. Some folks say patrons are thieves as well as patrons given man's ambiguous nature - or, if you will, the original sin of being born an individual in constradistinction to the society that imposes 'Good' and projects 'God' to preside over it.
Perhaps the reader already gets the gist of what I mean by business as usual; but I shall press the issue. To reiterate: our civic leaders will conduct surveys; focus groups and committees will meet. Professional research will be conducted; teams of experts will analyze and synthesize, and so on and so forth. Possible scenarios for our future to choose from will be created; the community will be invited to comment on the limited set of alternatives, just as they might vote for the limited set of political candidates put before them by the power elite.
All that is business as usual. The same leaders lead, and the same followers are expected to follow those leaders. No one has suggested that the existing leaders be tossed out of the windows of the top floors they occupy, or, if the windows are sealed, off the roofs of their buildings, that the followers may become the new leaders by virtue of defenestration and topping-off parties.
Business as usual: photographs will probably be taken at future gatherings of civic leaders and followers; they shall look like a crowd, and therefore the projections they applaud will appear to be applauded by the masses. The dissenting portion of the masses is outside, behind barricades at some distance from the studio. They are protesting the visions, plans, and policies of their civic leaders, including the favored members of the community's vision teams. The little crowd in the studio cannot see the protestors because of the one-way mirror in which they reflect themselves envisioning the future and approving of their favored scenario on the drawing board. The entire project is a sort of mirage of divine socialism, a heavenly city hovering in the air; in fact it will be populated by the overclass who imagined it; the underclass who serve them will live on the seamy outskirts, in hovels or under underpasses. But the picture presented is a pretty one when viewed on the television screen. In any case, the silent majority stays at home and tends to go along with current authority no matter what the scenario might be.
Mr. Padron spoke of social "inclusion and unity" as a key interest of Image Miami. His good intentions are indisputable. No doubt he would avoid mistaking a mirage for reality. To that end he will need plenty of critics around lest he be deluded by the grandiose envisioning process. Civic leaders including educators especially love unity and would like to have everyone agree with them, for agreement reinforces their high opinion of their intentions and station in life. They usually want to maintain a "positive mental attitude" and strive for a "consensus" that stifles dissent while giving lip service to "diversity" and "multiculturalism" and the like. Who can blame them for that?
Mr. Padron is one of the famous heroes of the Mariel Refugee Crisis. The heroes did not claim fame; they merely did what leaders are supposed to do, for crying out loud: take personal responsibility for resolving crises. Mr. Padron at Miami Dade College saw to it that the thousands of refugees were educated to fit in, to become productive citizens of the United States. The Mariel refugees were not only publicly defamed as a criminal and immoral underclass by Castro but were disparaged by the upper class Cuban Americans exiles who got to Florida first - The Miami Herald contributed to the defamation of the refugees. Thanks to Mr. Padron and other padrones, the success of the Mariel refugees is phenomenal. Not only have they fit in, they earn on the average considerably more per person ($32,210) than the average resident ($21,947), although somewhat less than the average for all Cuban exiles ($37,440).
Mr. Padron's job is not finished. 60 percent of his students are low-income, and nearly 40 percent live beneath the national poverty level. Mr. Padron could tell us many stories about passionate students who had to drop their education to make ends meet at dead end jobs. As for those who are making it, it is one thing to fit students in, and another to inspire them to change the political and economic environment for the better, or to revolt against the 'system' they have fit into when their liberty is unduly restrained. To that end a universal liberal education is required. Let us speak of a liberal education in the classical sense. First of all, we have the trivium, or the first three of the Seven Liberal Arts: 1) the art of grammar, in the broad sense of the greatest literature of the world; 2) rhetoric, the art of persuasion; 3) dialectic, the art of convincing conversation.
The Greek trivium where those three abstract paths meet is the stable tripod or three-legged seat of the Great Conversation. That conversation was open to all hence was democratic. A main topic was Justice; every sane person or person capable of community was expected to have an innate sense of Justice - Zeus said anyone without a sense of justice did not belong to society and might be put to death.
Prehistoric inventors all over the world observed early on that a three-legged structure is the most stable. The abstract idea of triunity was particularly useful to the prehistoric religious chefs, as it is today to the Pope. Logic was developed in the attempt to solve riddles arising from the great dialectic.
As for the intersection of three roads, Trivia (a form of Hecate) presided there. The trivium or crossroads in Rome was a noisy and dirty place. The poorer students, who could not afford enough tuition to rent a classroom by the forum, were taught at the crossroads to read and write maxims. Thus did they get a 'moral' education; moral meant 'mental', for the liberated or rational mind had been cultivated to choose the right course of action. Ample use was made of the stick, lest someone forget his lessons. The children were taught arithmetic as well, the "accounts" of the original written language that eventually inspired bored bookkeepers to write verbal accounts of events. I think Dr. Padron alluded to the Great (universal) Conversation in this paragraph of his essay:
"If the individual is the essential contributor to a civil society, then our communities are the incubators, the proving ground for the hope and the opportunity that define the American system. With democratic ideals as the focus of conversation across the globe, there could be no more salient moment to reinforce those ideals at home."
Now the curriculum at Miami Dade College presents the visage of a vocational school which is, in the main, a corporate business tool. Members of the underclass apparently do not have time for an expensive liberal education, the general subject of which is liberty, because they must be immediately divided and trained according to the multiplying divisions of labor and fit into the workforce. Divide and conquer: a workforce thus finely divided and integrated into the machine according to certified function is easily managed; but the cogs must be kept happy: to paraphrase Bentham, it does not matter if people are turned into cogs as long as the cogs are kept happy. A liberal education in the classical sense is reserved for the elite, who must first of all excel in subjects such as grammar, rhetoric, dialectic, literature, history, philosophy, law, and the like. Notwithstanding the growing number of exceptions, as America is being dumbed up by anti-intellectuals in high places, we still find such liberally educated persons in high private and public offices. They virtually rule the United States. Unfortunately, all too many of them are wolves in sheep's clothing.
Wherefore, in order to maintain the status quo, liberal education is for the few while vocational training is for the many. Businesses avoid responsibility for educating employees in house and on the job, and depend on privately and publicly funded schools to do their job for them, to create a pool of specialized workers who can be recruited and terminated at will. The people, in turn, leave the government of the nation and business to experts. Less than 25% of adults are aware of important foreign issues, and only 12% are well informed enough on those issues to engage in an intelligent conversation. Of course almost everyone is aware of the war in Iraq; still, less than 25% are well informed enough to participate in an intelligent conversation. In any event, the employee is expected to know and do his special job, and to consume products.
Like other members of the elite class, top educators naturally have a high opinion of themselves, and sometimes justly so. Despite their liberal profession, or rather because of it, they harbor oligarchical, hierarchical prejudices and delusions of natural aristocracy; if only the opportunity to get a liberal education were freely distributed among the general population, many of today's educators would not be the educators of choice.
Alas, the educational system is so organized to perpetuate and serve the very mechanism that Dr. Padron and other well meaning patrons would somehow adjust with visions and dreams; those very dreams are subject to the cult of self-responsible, anti-social, "Look out for Number One individualism" the pro-business educators refer to as the American Way.
Dr. Padron preaches individual responsibility, and that is a good thing if we have read the existentialist bibles. But when every one is responsible to himself alone for the love of unimpeded liberty, society will tend to degenerate and civilization will break down: individuals must be held responsible by others to a certain extent.
While mouthing such terms as "innovation", "creativity", "civil society", "democracy", and the like, the leading administrators make sure students are trained to obedience; to fit into anti-democratic, dictatorial corporate armies. The corporate generals and the command staff on down are not elected; their orders must be followed, or else life on the streets. The military command style has become severe since the destruction of the liberal consensus by the neoconservative (neofascist) fraction that inspired and exploited the fear and greed of the populace.
The liberal consensus encouraged welfare capitalism - capitalists can profit by treating their employees very well. Those employees were proud of their companies. But today most employees of large corporations loathe their companies. The term Corporate has for good reason become synonymous with evil and death; with Corpse instead of living organism. Over half the economy is controlled by a few large corporations, and they are controlled by a plutocracy with interlocking interests - among themselves, the elite are relatively democratic and free.
Small businesses suck off the hind teats of the corporate Behemoth. Long hours of corporate life are intolerable to workers unless there is plenty of trash, junk, and garbage to consume. A plethora of popular cultural diversions are readily available to blunt the finer senses and whet the appetite for mass consumption.
The CEOs of big business as usual now earn an average $ 8 million per annum. And the other members of the top levels of the corporate command structure are very well paid for their consciences. They are expected to buy units in the condominium towers to be erected in downtown Miami: the citadel that visionaries proclaim to be the model of the future of the United States of America.
One condominium tower may be 74-stories tall; another might match the World Trade Center. The historic Freedom Tower, where many Cuban immigrants were processed, is being used as an excuse to build a gigantic $ 500 million 62-story condominium complex that if approved will dwarf the tower of Cuban liberty and make a laughing stock out of the symbol of democracy by wrapping it in a gigantic wave-like building. The Mas dynasty - a powerful exile family - bought the Freedom Tower with the intention of turning it into a museum, but turned around and sold it to developer Pedro Martin's company for $ 38 million, realizing a modest gain of $ 20 million.
Pedro Martin picked up another 10 acres nearby, from the owner of The Miami Herald, Knight Ridder, for $ 190 million. The Miami Herald is the virtual trumpeter for downtown Miami's rampant real estate development - sometimes the real estate news can hardly be distinguished from real estate advertising. That is the newspaper business as usual: Knight Ridder's Kansas City Star got a free printing plant complex from taxpayers for boosting Mayor Kay Barne's downtown real estate development plan as the holy gospel.
But never mind: let the residents who cannot afford the towers pack up and move and make way for their betters, for money and conspicuous consumption are the only important measures of personal worth nowadays - it would be much less wasteful if regularly updated net worth could be digitally displayed on each person's forehead. Well, yes, there is some concern that the speculation is inflating a bubble that is about to burst; a real estate pundit made an amusing comment on the subject: there will be plenty of low-cost housing if the market crashes - but let's think positive.
At least that is the towering vision of Miami. And it is the future city presented by forecasters for the power elite, who have good reason to expect more of the same despite a few bumps in the road, which they will not feel. Prices will continue to rise in the long term according to more of the same business as usual. Education follows the suits that Dr. Padron deplores and says will lead to the fall of our society. The college is part of the business as usual system, a system increasingly led by liars, thieves, and even murderers, a system that is virtually enslaving the masses.
Everything is permitted within the American system, but anyone against the system is unpatriotic, un-American, a traitor; or, to paraphrase Fidel Castro, an un-American worm. Mr. Castro, by the way, gave an upbeat portrayal of Cuba's future last March: he said he appreciated the "extraordinary confidence" of his people, and said Cubans must do away with "scheming" because the socialist state has the best cause. "Do not create illusions. Let things mature. Trust, trust the country; it has a serious perspective." Apparently Mr. Castro has only one scenario in mind. "By the first quarter of next year, " he said, "you can all sleep peacefully." Many Cubans have an alternative cause for their repose in mind, because nothing has been permitted in Cuba except Mr. Castro's Revolution, and some feel Mr. Castro has unwittingly prophesied his own demise. Sweet dreams.
Here in Miami, where the régime is much more subtle and the tyranny so sophisticated that people are barely aware of it, we do not see in the Miami Dade College catalog classes in civil disobedience, in organized protest, strikes, boycotts, or in the history and technique of revolution No, students are expected to fit in. What's more, most of them want very much to fit in. Somehow, if they fit in, more of the same will cure the iniquity and inequity of business as usual.
Undoubtedly some small distribution in the interest of distributive justice will be made from time to time to keep up expectations. Schools of all sorts will continue to propagate the idea that any poor slob in America can get filthy rich if he really sets his mind and hand to the task, and a few fortunate examples will be held up as proof of the circulation of people in the elite class. The city of the corporate gods in heaven will be the same in many important respects as the city of the secular gods on earth. The gods will not have to keep an eye on everyone in Panopticonia, for the cyclopean eye and the I behind it have been divided into i's and implanted in the in-divid-uals. In the absence of a dynamic liberal consensus, which is continually achieved via a continuous dialectical struggle, the great gap between the rich and poor will grow until a match is struck and the dust explodes.
That being said, I am relieved to say that I have nine times as much to say in favor of the Imagine Miami project. What really bothers me about Miami is that I am in love with her, and that might be the ruin of me. I would love her as she is. She is from a poor family, she is mixed up, she is tempestuous, and she is the most attractive lady in the hemisphere. If only the feeling I had for her were mutual, I would happily die in her Hurakanic arms. Until then, I have some nagging doubts, but never mind.