Thursday, October 30, 2008

Busted! Feds arrest former Agriprocessors manager

Halloween trick? Sholom Rubashkin, former manager of the Agriprocessors plant in Postville IA was in federal court in Cedar Rapids IA yesterday afternoon on criminal charges.

I returned to Iowa in May just in time for the historic ICE Raid on the Agriprocessors meatpacking plant in Postville IA--the largest ever, at the time. Almost 400 "illegal immigrants" were rounded up, their lives destroyed, their families made destitute. They suffer to this day: in prison or branded with detention bracelets on their ankles--no income, no future.

As the raid played out, it trained a spotlight upon the seamy reality of the Agriprocessors plant whose practices even included child labor. Finally, yesterday, the Cedar Rapids Gazette reports that Rubashkin, 49, was arrested. He faces federal charges of conspiracy to harbor illegal aliens for financial gain, aiding and abetting document fraud and aiding and abetting aggravated identity theft, according to documents filed in the case.

For me, it's a Halloween treat. It's not that I wish him evil. It's not that I want to make anyone suffer. But I so desire to see justice triumph from time to time. And it's time for some higher justice in this case.

Rubashkin was released, after agreeing to surrender his passport and the passport of his wife, to wear a GPS ankle bracelet, restrict his travel to the northern district of Iowa and execute a $1 million bond, $500,000 of which must be secured by Wednesday. [Prosecutor are concerned Rubashkin could be a flight risk. He's rich enough to go a long way away.]

Rubashkin, 49, is the son of the company's president and principal owner, Aaron Rubashkin.
Yes, sometimes the higher ups also fall.

Join the Postville moms, Solomon, and live your life with an ankle bracelet for awhile. You will never suffer as much as the people whose lives you've used and destroyed:
PS: Two notes of thanks: 1) TO MY READERS--thanks for agonizing and outraging along with me throughout the summer as we have decried this nightmare.
2) to the Cedar Rapids Gazette for top photo and story details. Click title for a link there.

Voter's Bill of Rights (with update)

Every year voters get turned away at the polls because they don't know how to stand up for their rights. This year, make sure your vote counts and go to the polls armed with the Voter's Bill of Rights.

As a registered voter, you have the right to:

1. Cast your ballot free from interference in a private and secret manner unless assistance is requested.

2. View written instructions on how to obtain and cast a ballot.

3. Ask for and receive further instructions from election judges concerning the manner of voting.

4. View a sample ballot in the polling place before voting.

5. Cast a vote if you are in line by the time the polls close.

6. Receive another ballot if your ballot is accidentally spoiled or you make an error.

7. Vote by provisional ballot if your name is not on the precinct register and the election judges or election authority cannot determine your registration status.

8. Vote early or absentee as provided by state law.

9. File a grievance with the Secretary of State’s office if your rights under the Help America Vote Act III have been violated.

Check with your local Secretary of State’s office for a complete list of your voting rights.

from Democracy for America 2008

This video is going viral, so you perhaps saw it...but it's perfect for this post!

Obama on the left
McCain on the right
We can talk politics all night
And you can vote however you like
You can vote however you like, yeah

Democratic left
Republican right
November 4th we decide
And you can vote however you like
You can vote however you like, yeah

(McCain supporters)
McCain is the man
Fought for us in Vietnam
You know if anyone can
Help our country he can
Taxes droppin low
Dont you know oils gonna flow
Drill it low
I'll show our economy will grow

McCain's the best candidate
With Palin as his running mate
They'll fight for gun rights, pro life,
The conservative right
Our future is bright
Better economy in site
And all the world will feel our military might

(Obama supporters)
But McCain and Bush are real close right
They vote alike and keep it tight
Obama's new, he's younger too
The Middle Class he will help you
He'll bring a change, he's got the brains
McCain and Bush are just the same
You are to blame, Iraq's a shame
Four more years would be insane

Lower your Taxes - you know Obama Won't
PROTECT THE LOWER CLASS - You know McCain won't!
Have enough experience - you know that they don't
STOP GLOBAL WARMING - you know that you won't

I want Obama
Stick with McCain and you're going to have some drama
We need it
He'll be it
We'll do it
Let's move it

Obama on the left
McCain on the right
We can talk politics all night
And you can vote however you like
You can vote however you like, yeah

Democratic left
Republican right
November 4th we decide
And you can vote however you like, I said
You can vote however you like, yeah

I'm talking big pipe lines, and low gas prices
Below $2.00 that would be nice

But to do it right we gotta start today
Finding renewable ways that are here to stay

I want Obama
Stick wit McCain you gone have some drama
Iran he will attack
We gotta vote Barack!

Obama on the left
McCain on the right
We can talk politics all night
And you can vote however you like, I said
You can vote however you like, yeah

Democratic left
Republican right
November 4th we decide
And you can vote however you like, I said
You can vote however you like, yeah

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Write to Marry Day

As the nation hopes CA will vote for justice on Proposition 8, I post for marriage equality today, joining Mombian's blogswarm: "Write to Marry Day."

A bumper sticker sorta gal, I share these:

Marriage is a human right, not a heterosexual privilege.

If gay and lesbian people are given civil rights, everyone will want them.

Don't support Gay Marriage? Don't Have One!

I'm sorry your marriage is so fragile, but I'm still voting NO on Proposition 8.

Gay Marriage doesn't scare me. Hatred and inequality do.

If I ruled the world, the church would get out of the marrying business entirely and simply bless whatever civil unions it chose. [A worthy church would choose to bless the civil union of every worthy couple.] We've got an inappropriate mix of church and state going with respect to marriage in this country.
I seldom see that thought expressed in writing.
What do you think about that?

If you'd like some minutes of heartwarming love for inspiration, enjoy this:

H/t to FranIAm for bringing this to my attention today. Sure do appreciate her relentless devotion to gay rights.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Gov. Bill Richardson to take action for Lomas del Poleo!

I really like Gov. Bill Richardson. Southwesterners generally like him (I live 5 months annually on the border of New Mexico) and Iowa liked him in the primaries. What's not to like? I hope he'll be our next Secretary of State.

When he was out stumping for some Dems, activists in Las Cruces NM brought Lomas del Poleo to his attention, according to Grassroots Press (10/24/08).

"On Saturday, Oct.18... the governor was provided a new packet of information containing documented human rights reports, articles and photos of demolished homes. The group explained how the situation was escalating in Lomas, and that within the past two weeks four homes had been destroyed, two elderly residents were kidnapped and beaten by the Mexican military, and that residents were being denied water and electricity by “guards” employed by the powerful Zaragoza family, which claims ownership of land in the colonia.

"After making the rounds and giving a short speech, the governor returned to the group to talk about the situation. He admitted he remembered hearing about the conflict, though in the past six weeks—crunch time for the political campaigns—it had slipped his mind.

“What do you want me to do?” Richardson asked. “I want to do something more than just make a public statement about it.” [BE: emphasis mine]

Contacting the Chihuahua governor and pushing to stop future development until the human rights of Lomas residents are respected were two action suggestions Richardson received. He learned that residents of Lomas had wanted to come and speak to him personally about what life is like living in the besieged community, but that they were too afraid to leave their homes out of fear that they would be destroyed while they were away.

“I will see what I can do,” Gov. Richardson told alliance members.

According to the article, about 35 families remain in the fenced-in area of Lomas. While several families have left out of fear and relocated elsewhere, those living within the barbed wire are still fighting for their rights to their land. They are without access to water or electricity, and they face daily acts of intimidation and violence, now by the Mexican military as well as by the guards hired by the Zaragoza family.

Residents have asked for: water (gallon jugs), flashlights and batteries, kerosene lamps, walkie talkie radios, cell phone chargers, and whistles. Blankets and warm clothing are also welcome. Students and faculty at the University of Texas at El Paso are collecting items for Lomas.

People from outside the local area can help by participating in an email campaign. Addresses and letter to email are on this post. Join Bill Richardson and voice your concern for this oppressed community.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Straight Talk Express Crashes into Minivan

Oh! Admire the "found" visual poem: a minivan is creamed by the Straight Talk Express.

[I wonder if Joe McCain called 911??] (1:49)

We're down to crunch time. Let's derail that puppy.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Registering the Homeless to Vote

I just had to take action in this election, but I was unsure how. When I read Fran's post "Registering the Homeless," BINGO! I knew that would be it. Since all my volunteer work is currently with homeless U.S. citizens, it was a perfect fit. I went to the auditor's office, got the forms and learned about deadlines.

What an inspiration it was! Last week during an all-staff meeting, my husband and I filled in for the shelter supervisors. Mr. B.E. answered the phone and handled the desk while I mingled in the day shelter room with my forms and my offer.

Eyes sparked to life, faces lit up when I asked people if they'd like to register. They did not hesitate. They actually thanked me profusely at times.

"This will be the first time I've voted," one man about my age remarked. "This is an historic election. I'm going to vote! Do you know who I'm going to vote for? Obama. He is one smart Black man."

A guy at the next table, overhearing this announcement, chimed in promptly, "He's a smart man. You can end it right there. He is a smart man."

The first man, duly noting the internalized racism of his remark, agreed. "You are right. He is one of the brothers. And he is smart."

"The New York Times endorsed Obama this morning," one homeless man informed me excitedly.

Seeing the shining pride and enthusiasm, I literally got goosebumps. The low-grade depression that often hangs like a pall over the room was lifted: "I'm registered!" "I've already voted." "I voted absentee."

My registration effort was entirely nonpartisan, of course. But people may declare a party as they register, and except for one "Undeclared," all registered as "Democrat." Many openly stated they would vote for Obama.

I felt safe enough to share my concern, a concern I've voiced repeatedly on the blogs: "I'm worried that people will not vote for Obama simply because he is African-American."

Emphatically one man responded, "If Obama could beat Hillary in Iowa, a state that is 93% Caucasian. If he could win here. In Iowa! Then he can win."

Relieved by this reasoning, full of hope and uplifted, I carried out those forms to submit them to the county officials.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

URGENT ACTION for Lomas del Poleo!

This just arrived from Fr. Bill Morton. It is urgent.
It's my Thursday & Friday post put up on Wednesday:

Many of you are familiar with the land dispute in Lomas del Poleo in which two men have been murdered, two children burned to death and in which the Zaragozas and their surrogates continue to use violence, terror and even kidnapping to remove the residents from this piece of land right on the Mexico/New Mexico border.
[B.E. Note: See "Lomas del Poleo" under "Labels" in right sidebar.]

Please copy/paste English and Spanish version of the letter below, and sign with your name, city/state and email this Wednesday, Oct. 22 (or this week) to the three email addresses noted below. Sign it personally. Invite anyone in your network of friends, families, civic, church and other groups to do the same. If you miss the Wednesday Oct 22 "send" date, don't worry, send it Thursday, Friday or whenever you can.

Go to for more information. We want to inundate Chihuahua Governor Reyes Baeza with messages sent on the same day (or close to it) soliciting his intervention to stop the violence and mediate a just, peaceful solution.

Please send the e-mails to the three following addresses related to the Governor/State Government Offices. If you are willing to do something more, like fax, call or send surface mail copy of your letter, there is information at the Chihuahua official state website.

This action is more urgent than ever. In the last two weeks four more homes have been demolished, two elderly residents have been kidnapped and tortured by the Mexican military, and the residents’ access to water and electricity continues to be denied. A deep ditch has been dug around the elementary school house making it difficult for the students and their families to gain entry. The teachers are frequently absent, now, due to escalating violence and attempts by Zaragoza surrogates to close the school and force the families to go to another school in the relocation area.
photo caption: bulldozed home

On Saturday a small group of the Lomas del Poleo Alliance of Las Cruces met with New Mexico Governor, Bill Richardson, who indicated he would be willing to intervene since the disputed land, literally, borders on his state of New Mexico. Lomas del Poleo is also in the path of a proposed multi-billion dollar, bi-national development plan involving major business figures from both sides of the border, as well as government officials from New Mexico and Chihuahua.

Thank you for your solidarity on behalf of the human rights of the residents of Lomas del Poleo.
Bill Morton
B.E.'s Directions: Copy the text below. Paste it into your personal email. Add your name, title, city & state. Send it to each of the email three addresses (listed above or below).
UPDATE: They've disabled the first email address: Only need to email the 2nd & 3rd. (See comment #1.)

Sr. José Reyes Baeza

Gobernador del Estado de Chihuahua, México.

P r e s e n t e

Debido a la escalada de violencia desatada en las últimas semanas en contra de los habitantes de la parte alta de la colonia Granjas Lomas del Poleo, por parte de trabajadores al servicio de Pedro y Jorge Zaragoza Fuentes, le solicitamos su inmediata intervención para que las autoridades correspondientes garanticen la seguridad de los vecinos de esa colonia. Asimismo, le urgimos ordene a la Procuraduría de Justicia del Estado la inmediata investigación de los delitos cometidos en esa zona, los cuales han sido oportunamente denunciados ante esa representación.

Como debe ser de su amplio conocimiento, las tierras de la Colonia Granjas Lomas del Poleo están sujetas a una disputa legal que se dirime -- a través de distintas demandas en el Tribunal Unitario Agrario Número Cinco--, por lo que le solicitamos, también, obligue a los empresarios Zaragoza Fuentes respeten los tiempos de la ley y detengan inmediatamente la campaña de presión y hostigamiento que han levantado en contra de los vecinos en Lomas del Poleo. Es obvio que lo que pretenden estos dos empresarios es obligar a los colonos a que abandonen sus tierras, antes de que los tribunales competentes rindan su fallo final.

En suma, Sr Gobernador, lo único que le pedimos es que haga cumplir la ley y restaure el Estado de derecho en la colonia Lomas del Poleo.

A T E N T A M E N T E:

(Insert HERE your name, title, city, state)

English Version of Letter:
Honorable Jose Reyes Baeza
Governor of the State of Chihuahua
Republic of Mexico

Owing to the escalation of violence in recent weeks against the inhabitants of the Colonia of Lomas del Poleo by the employees of the brothers, Jorge and Pedro Zaragoza, we are asking your immediate intervention so that the appropriate authorities might guarantee the security of the residents in this Colonia. Also we urge that you order the State Attorney General's office to immediately investigate the crimes committed in this area which have already been presented to the Attorney General.

As you well know the lands in Lomas del Poleo are the subject of a legal dispute in the Agrarian Court Number Five in Chihuahua so we are also asking you to oblige the Zaragozas to respect the law and immediately stop the campaign of oppression and harassment against the inhabitants of Lomas del Poleo. It is obvious that these two businessmen are trying to get the inhabitants to abandon their lands before the courts make their decision.

In short, Mr. Governor we only ask that the law be followed and restored.

(Insert HERE your name, title, city, state, country)


EMAIL To: <>, <>, <>

The people of Lomas have no voice but yours! Thank you!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Bolivia to USA: "Return 'Goni' to Justice"

Five years ago this month, Bolivian President Gonalo Sánchez de Lozada [everyone calls him "Goni"] ordered his military to suppress civilian protesters. They killed 67 and injured hundreds. Goni fled Bolivia, receiving asylum in the USA. The families of the victims of Black October, 2003 continue to fight for justice, despite numerous setbacks and obstacles.

The U.S. Embassy in Bolivia received this week official letters petitioning extradition of Goni (and two accomplices)--an important step toward ending the impunity they've enjoyed. The documents should arrive in Washington by the end of this week. The US State Department then will determine the fates of Goni and his two helpers.

Your help in the United States, and in other countries, is crucial. Public pressure must be strong on the State Department to respect the Bolivian judicial process and the nonpolitical, multi-party decision on the part of the Bolivian Congress to try Goni and his accomplices for the Black October massacres.

Help spread the word. Inform your organizations, networks, and other contacts. Blog, write letters to the editor, publicize the issue. Here's a useful summary by the Council on Hemispheric Affairs on the case for extradition and its context:

Public actions of solidarity with Bolivia joined to the request for extradition are especially vital to draw attention to Black October, the families of the victims that continue to fight for justice, and the U.S. protection of accused authors of state violence.

Don't take my word for it. Listen to Eva Isabel Carvajal, an investigator with the Center of Superior University Studies in Cochabamba, Boliva, for just one minute:

Monday, October 20, 2008

A message to their supporters from Lomas del Poleo

Caption: Who Governs Chihuahua [the Mexican state immediately south of El Paso]?

Yes, we are still battling with and for the residents of Lomas del Poleo. Violence has increased, more houses have been knocked down, some residents have accepted a 'deal' with Zaragoza and left, two other residents were falsely arrested by the army this past Friday, accused of selling drugs and dumped out on some remote roads far from Lomas. Of course, while they were gone, their documents and other possessions were stolen or destroyed. [BE: emphasis mine]

The NGOs and others here El Paso and Juarez placed a 'paid announcement' in El Diario, Juarez' biggest newspaper on Oct 6, articulating what the Zaragozas [BE: wealthy family who now claim this land belongs to them] are doing and signed by well known professors, intellectuals, activists from Mexico City, Juarez, El Paso, Las Cruces and countries as far as Greece.
[BE: Addressed to Gov Reyes Baeza, the announcement is above this post--click to enlarge. The English translation and lots of photos are

The Zaragozas were furious and put in a [similar announcement in their own] defense two days later. Our ad was expensive, and we are still trying to raise money for Barbara Zamora's legal and travel fees for herself and her husband, Santos.

I'm writing to ask if [you] might be able to donate towards the costs for legal defense. I know times are getting harder but anything you can do or any suggestions you might have would be appreciated.

Thanks for your support, Blessings, [Rev.] Bill Morton, Columban Border Ministries

You can watch Fr. Bill in action advocating for the Lomas residents right here:

I'll get any input or suggestions to Fr. Bill. Email me: borderexplorer (at) gmail (dot) com
or post in the comments.

Simply your words of support will encourage him. It must get difficult for him. He has struggled for and loved the people of Lomas for so many years and, for that, he was expelled by the Mexican government.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

So, what's the latest atrocity in Lomas del Poleo?

NB. If you're a new reader here, you'll find background on this post by clicking the label "Lomas del Poleo" in the sidebar. Or simply this particular post will summarize the setting.

from: Grassroots Press. 10/16/08. Mexican Army Is Being Used in Push to Dispossess Residents of Lomas del Poleo.
photo caption: "Welcome. Lomas de Poleo." The sign strikes me as ironic.

The latest threat to the poor people who earned deeds to the driest wasteland in Mexico is army intimidation: torture and framing for illegal weapons and drugs to try to pin federal crimes on the residents. If the army can indiscriminately arrest the people there, the Zaragosa family could finally oust these impoverished citizens from their homes--which now lie in the valuable path of a proposed bi-national highway.

If it works, the soldiers would take care of the dirty work that can no longer be done comfortably by the private guards, paid by this very wealthy family, which has for several months been in the public eye. Two of the men who have resisted the relentless Zaragosa takeover effort were picked up and tortured on October 10.

From the testimony of 72 year old Alfredo Piñón Valenzuela:

“Your time is up, stupid bastard!” the soldier yelled at him, while aiming his gun.“You are really screwed” he told him, kicking him straight in his injured ribcage.

“Shoot, whatever, it was time,” the man replied, thrown on the ground and blind-folded.

“Ah, so you are not afraid?” the soldiers carried on, mocking him. “You think you are really tough, you have ‘big pants’ (‘muchos calzones’)?” [B.E.'s translation: "big boy" pants]

“Yes, and after you kill me, I will lend them to you”.

This is only the beginning of the story. You can read the entire account at Grassroots Press. It includes illegal entry, illegal search, framing for weapons/drugs violations, abduction, torture, and his subsequent abandonment in the middle of the night in a deserted, rural area.

“I thought they were going to kill me, but they just kicked me again, laughed at me and left me there.”

Readers, I am almost beside myself. I will be back on the Border in six weeks. There is so much to do.

I urge you to read the gripping account in Grassroots Press in its entirety. You will not be bored. In the least.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Postville Priest: "Nobody can tell me to shut up"

I'm so proud of all the pastoral ministers in Postville, IA. (They counterbalance the weirdo who "prayed" before a McCain rally last week in Iowa--we still writhe in embarrassment on "that one" [ahem] )...I continue...

As a newly ordained priest, Fr. Paul Ouderkirk served in my hometown (pop. 1,000) parish. It's a long way from there to New York City, but this summer he was featured in the New York Times since he now serves as a retired volunteer minister to the Hispanic population of Postville, IA--the people who have been decimated by an ICE raid in May.

photo caption: Fr. Paul Ouderkirk, sporting a Tshirt, speaks to fellow priest
(and my distant cousin) Fr. Leon Connelly, who attended
the pro-immigrant rally in Postville, IA in July in his wheelchair.
Please do click this to enlarge it! It's a nice Tshirt.

This week he's on CNN. The whole article is worth the trip over. Really! Meanwhile, don't miss these quotes:
  • "...he's upset that Iowa Gov. Chet Culver and other top state officials haven't set foot in Postville since the raid left the town of 2,400 'bleeding to death.'"
  • "I think every elected politician -- no exceptions -- should bow their heads in shame," Ouderkirk says. "Upset?! Yeah, I'm upset. I mean give me a break ... If the elected politicians couldn't do any better than this to come up with a good, just immigration law, they should hang their heads in shame."
  • [speaking of apprehended immigrant women who were released for humanitarian reasons to care for their children and must remain in Postville wearing ankle monitoring bracelets]: "They walk the streets here monitored wherever they go. They can't leave, they can't work, they all have children," Ouderkirk says. "So effectively, they are prisoners in our town and in this parish."
  • Ouderkirk, who came out of retirement after the raid, says it's costing his church $80,000 a month, and the church only has enough money to keep paying through the end of the year. "It's pathetic when you have what was labeled by the man who directed the raid here as a 'very successful raid.' How successful is this when it does this to the children and breaks up families?" Ouderkirk says.
  • "This is no way as a democracy to treat people. I don't care if they are legal or illegal. You don't tear families apart like this," Ouderkirk says. "The women and children we're taking care of right now are no more criminal than people driving down the street breaking the speed limit."
  • He says he's "gotten hate letters like you wouldn't believe."
  • "If people have a right to spout off like that, then I have a right to speak in defense of these poor people," he says. "This is a free country. I have a right to speak what I believe in, and I have a right to speak up for poor people whose voice is being denied."
I daresay Paul Ouderkirk is one of the good guys.
Once again, I tip my hat to Letters & Papers from Postville.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Misconceptions of Obama Fuel Republican Campaign While the World Watches Us

I'm going to let Jan in San Fran, a blogger I've been tracking recently on her blog Happening Here, explain this as she did on her post. This (2 minute) video shows one reason Obama might tell his supporters not to get cocky.

Prepare yourself for a gut-wrenching experience. Or just move along to another blog. Here's what Jan says:

This video is not for the faint of heart. The whole world is watching the U.S. election. A goodly fraction of it is watching on the Al-Jazeera TV network, based in Qatar, a Gulf oil state. Their correspondent interviewed some of the poorly informed, frightened people who attended a Palin rally in Ohio and an Obama supporter who tried to influence them. No further comment from me.

"O wad some Power the giftie give us
To see ourselves as others see us!

It wad frae monie a blunder free us,
An' foolish notion."

--"To a Louse" by Robert Burns

October 16=World Food Day, a global food crisis

The accelerating rise in the prices of essential goods over the last three years, especially in the grain sector, has skyrocketed this year. Agricultural markets have often experienced phenomena of increase or decrease in the prices of their products. The current situation, however, presents some new characteristics with respect to the past: the increase in prices, which affects almost all the main food products, is occurring in many countries at the same time and lasting for a considerable length of time.

"...look at rice, for example, where the price has gone, in a brief period of time, from $250 to $350 a ton to $1,200 a ton. You have the price beginning to rise because of rising demand and the drought, and some countries react by introducing export bans which takes rice off the international market causing the price to go up further. The market becomes a mixture of gridlock and panic."

Shaun Ferris, CRS senior technical advisor on agriculture and the environment.

Last week I bumped into an Iowa farm activist I had not seen in quite a long time. She referenced the "food crisis" as it affected Iowa: "If the borders of the state would be sealed and nothing could pass in or out, there is enough food to last only two days."

Noting my puzzled expression, she continued: "Yes, that is how much food we have on the shelves in the stores...two days' worth."

...and this is Iowa, the breadbasket of the world? the heart of the corn belt?

"Buying fresh, buying local" in her family means not purchasing, for instance, pineapples. My family has some improving to do toward practicing justice in the grocery department.

Have you read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver? It is on my to-do list.

"This is the story of a year in which we made every attempt to feed ourselves animals and vegetables whose provenance we really knew . . . and of how our family was changed by our first year of deliberately eating food produced from the same place where we worked, went to school, loved our neighbors, drank the water, and breathed the air."

Today's motto: Think globally, eat locally.
Will you commemorate World Food Day? How much awareness of the global food crisis exists?

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

American Dream: Humble Pie--EAT IT! (Blog Action Day)

In conjunction with Blog Action Day, I repost from Social Seppuku the video (3:54) that Jess Wundrem created from M. Yu's post. The United States faces an economic meltdown. How does this relate with the state of the world?

Blog Action Day is an annual nonprofit event to unite the world’s bloggers, podcasters and videocasters to post about the same issue on the same day to raise awareness and trigger a global discussion. This year's topic is "Poverty." If a picture is worth 1000 words, this video is worth 700 billion. In fact, not even knowing M. Yu--nor if s/he is gay or straight--I proposed. It was love at first viewing.

Caveat: The world is not pretty or pleasant for many people. Expect to see that in the video. Don't watch it unless you're prepared to see reality. Any/all thoughts on poverty are welcome in the comments; support Blog Action Day by voicing them.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

R.I.P., USA (1776-2008), the death of a free nation

Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it. Do not believe in anything simply because it is spoken and rumored by many. Do not believe in anything simply because it is found written in your religious books.Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders. Do not believe in traditions simply because they have been handed down for many generations. But after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it." Buddha (h/t to Yolanda)

"Goodbye Liberty", from Chris Bliss (without juggling).
This will cost you 7 minutes:

(h/t to Betmo)

My best (and first) blogger friend abruptly and unceremoniously concluded yesterday a three year Blogger run. I grieve. Worse, his last post featured a 27 minute video which my husband and I together watched last night. In it Naomi Wolf asserts that on October 1, 2008 the president of the United States staged a coup. I urge you to watch it. Is it unnecessarily alarmist? Is Naomi simply a huckster? The Buddha suggests you decide for yourself and act accordingly. As for me, I think things may be much worse than I realized.

For further surfing:
The Center for Constitutional Rights (FAO's and info sheets page)
The End of America movie

I will not post again until Sunday.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Help Iowa Tornado Recovery Efforts with Just 1 Click!

Photo credit: The Telegraph Herald--My niece and some high school friends volunteered to assist Parkersburg IA with tornado cleanup this spring.

Aplington-Parkersburg High School in Parkersburg IA is one of 10 finalist schools hoping to win the nation's vote for a $25,000 prize in a contest sponsored by a manufacturing corporation.

Parkersburg, a tiny farming community, will need lots of friends around the country to vote for them. You can vote once a day from your email address until October 19 at

This entry got them into the finals:

On May 25, 2008 an F5 tornado destroyed a third of the community of Parkersburg, IA. The high school was destroyed.

High Schoolers will be attending the Middle School in Aplington making cramped quarters this school year, but everyone is determined to make it work. The construction of a new school will begin soon with the goal of being in it by the start of the 2009-2010 school year. $25000 could be used in so many areas, new textbooks are needed, desks, computers, classroom equipment, sound equipment for the auditorium, the list goes on and on as so much was lost or damaged. The students have stepped up to help with cleanup in the community as well as helping to get the other school buildings rearranged to house more students. It would be a wonderful reward for them to receive a grant such as this.

So many of the students lost their own homes yet they want to continue helping others. My own children lost their granparents to the storm, and they would like to make a contribution to the school in their honor. The students will face many emotional challenges this year in addition to the academic challenges of high school.

Any contibution lets them know people care for them and want them to succeed and show that "Falcons Rise Again!"

Befriending Anger and Courage

"Hope has two beautiful daughters; their names are Anger and Courage.
Anger at the way things are, and Courage to see that they do not remain as they are."
St. Augustine (354-430 A.D.)

Remaining present to injustice is costly. One must work equally hard at focusing on the positive to avoid burnout. Thanks to Thomas (whom I met this morning) I found this Augustine quote on a poster at the Progressive Resources Catalog. It arrived in my life on a good day.

My anger is flaming high after watching Taxi to the Dark Side (see yesterday's post). Augustine affirms Anger as my beautiful daughter. I must nourish her sister, Courage, today; I need each daughter.

I wish to you Anger and Courage today. May they be born from your Hope.

Photo: The mothers of these displaced Tarahumara indigenous children beg in the streets of Palomas, MX. They all lunched at the soup kitchen we helped staff last year.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Taxi to the Dark Side

With the onset of autumn’s dark evenings, Netflix returns to our house. Last night we watched “Taxi to the Dark Side” (2007), the Oscar-winning documentary that takes an in-depth look at the torture practices of the United States in Afghanistan, Iraq and Guantanamo Bay. Just days after an innocent taxi driver in Afghanistan picked up three passengers and never returned home, he was killed at Bagram Air Base by injuries inflicted by US soldiers in 2002. The story ends at the top of the U.S. chain of command.

I’m transcribing a few relevant paragraphs from one of the closing chapters:

Lawrence Wilkerson, US Army colonel, retired: “In a legal sense I think [the Bush administration] wanted to discard the Constitution and they wanted to write a new one. But you can’t do that, so what you do is you throw a new interpretation on the old one. And the new interpretation is, the Executive, in wartime, and perhaps this war is gonna last forever, is all-powerful.”

Congress gave the President most of what he wanted. He would agree to abide by the Geneva Conventions. So long as he could define their meaning and application. A few detainees at Guantanamo might be put on trial, but the rest would no longer have access to habeas corpus, the fundamental legal right to challenge their detention. Planning a run for president, even Senator McCain voted for the bill soon after the Bush administration threatened to discredit him with conservative voters.

Jack Cafferty: “Buried deep inside this legislation is a provision that will pardon President Bush and all the members of his administration of any possible crimes connected with the torture and mistreatment of detainees dated all the way back to September 11, 2001. At least President Nixon had Gerald Ford to do his dirty work. President Bush is trying to pardon himself.”

The pardon did not extend to frontline soldiers.

This movie will appear on HBO this month: tonight at 4:00, Oct. 9 at 9:00 PM, & Oct. 16 at 1:00 AM.

For the offiicial movie site, click title of this post. For more information:

Wikipedia article on Taxi to the Dark Side

Internet Movie Data Base on Taxi to the Dark Side

"Democracy Now" coverage of Taxi to the Dark Side

We cannot chant "USA, USA" and not know what our country is doing in our names around the world.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Bailout vis a vis Dorothy Day's take on another depression

illustration credit: Rex Babin

"Another Depression might be a relief to many people. They know our prosperity is built on war. It might be so much better than war.

People won't have to keep up a front any longer. They wouldn't have to keep up the payments any more. There would have to be a moratorium.

The threat of Depression is nothing to worry about. I wish to goodness the stock market would collapse for good and for all. I'd like to see a nonviolent revolution take place and an end to this Holy War..."

Dorothy Day, as told to Studs Terkel in "Hard Times, An Oral History of The Great Depression" 1970

"We need to change the system. We need to overthrow, not the government, as the authorities are always accusing the Communists "of conspiring to teach to do," but this rotten, decadent, putrid industrial capitalist system which breeds such suffering in the whited sepulcher of New York."

Dorothy Day, "On Pligrimage," September 1956

It is 2008. Are her sentiments relevant?

Friday, October 3, 2008

A Fresh Update on Violence in Juarez--from an American Mom

photo caption: In Juarez at 10 AM the army patrols a principal downtown street.

A letter arrived yesterday from North American friends living in Ciudad Juarez doing human rights work. I quoted it while presenting a couple powerpoints about Border life while here in the Midwest. These friends work with a Roman Catholic organization, connected to a local parish in the neighborhood where they and their young family live.

I'm reprinting their letter here--with names deleted for their protection.
Consider it a report from the ground in the midst of a bloody warzone:

"...since our last letter in April the violence here has escalated significantly. With our neighbors we share the daily struggle to live in faith and hope in the midst of a violence that has become very prevalent and ugly as two major drug cartels fight for control of this border area.

Since late March the Mexican government has sent 4500 federal troops to the state of Chihuahua, with the large majority coming to Juárez. Unfortunately, it is mostly show and has brought case after case of detention and torture at the hands of the troops who now patrol the streets of Juárez. What is really needed is an improved criminal justice program where crimes can be investigated. Of the more than 1000 people killed since January only 6 arrests have been made and no charges have been filed. One wonders if they don’t want to know who is behind it all. [B.E.: emphasis mine]

[Name deleted] has found his work at the Center for Human Rights, Paso del Norte to be very helpful in helping to gain a better understanding of what is happening. Although he hears more about human rights abuses than is good for his stress level, he has found the conversations with the lawyers, counselors and social workers at the center to provide a good perspective to this complex reality. He has been able to invite a team from the center to speak at each of the five chapels of our parish regarding the rights of individuals in the threat of improper detention and interrogation by police and military authorities. This is in response to ongoing searches and detention of innocent people, among them members of our parish.

People are worried. In general, the soldiers’ methods have not instilled a sense of safety. Over the summer it became common to see a convoy of military pickups driving up and down the streets of our neighborhood, 6 or 7 soldiers standing in the back with machine guns pointed out. Convoys of soldiers sometimes drive by as children are coming out of school.
photo caption: the kids at home in their Juarez neighborhood.

A few evenings ago three such trucks drove back and forth numerous times on our street, finally stopping in front of the house of a neighbor. While one masked soldier patrolled the front door of our 8 year old son’s best friend’s house, others entered a different house up the street. They were looking for drugs, allegedly tipped off by someone they had picked up earlier. But our son’s friend Pepe and his two younger brothers cowered under their bed, afraid that the soldiers would enter their home as well. While the role of the federal military is unclear, they have clearly managed to shake people up. Fortunately, the military did not enter Pepe’s house. No drugs were found in the other home and no one was hurt or arrested. The killings have been primarily targeted to gain control of the drug market (the victims have been mostly small, local sellers), but everyone has been affected, even if only by fear or distrust. The feeling of powerlessness can be overwhelming. As a parish we have been organizing a monthly march for peace in a neighborhood park. We pray for hope and wisdom and fortitude as well as peace.

It is sobering to realize how the battles to control the drug market have so negatively affected the people of Mexico and in many ways destabilized all of Latin America. It’s also sobering to see from this perspective the extent of drug use in the U.S. We recommend this website for more about U.S. government money earmarked for Plan México. As said before, we need much more investigation, including where the money flows." [B.E. again, emphasis mine]
I'm still on the road doing presentations on the Border and taking some family time. I'll be back to regular blogging next week.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Bolivia Crisis for Beginners: a primer

The US official message about Americans' safety in Bolivia suggests a real threat. Observe the most recent Department of State Travel Warning:

“The Department of State has authorized the departure of non-emergency personnel and all family members of U.S. Embassy personnel in Bolivia and suggests all U.S. citizens defer non-essential travel to Bolivia. U.S. citizens currently in Bolivia should remain vigilant, monitor local media, review their security posture on a regular basis, and consider departing if the situation allows.”

Por faVOR! U.S. citizens continue living their daily lives in Bolivia. However, American Airlines has once again suspended flights in and out of the country. On top of that, there is an apparent effort to inaccurately characterize the expulsion of US Ambassador Goldberg as part of an overall anti-American initiative on the part of the Morales administration.

With unrest claiming the lives of dozens, the recent upheaval in Bolivia has put this Andean nation on the radar of US public attention. This video, "Bolivia Crisis for Beginners," explains the history and context of the current push for autonomy by four lowland provinces according to
Kathryn Ledebur, a premier analyst who has lived in Bolivia for the past 18 years.

Notice: The video, a recording of a talk given this month in Washington D.C., lasts 59 minutes and is "talking head" format. So you'll need to be motivated. But, on the bright side: there are no commercials! (I watched it twice and learned something both times.) If you don't have an hour to invest, I completely understand, you're not a lesser B.E. blogger! I'll keep looking for good sources in print. If you like to learn via video, this one is worthwhile and you can download it to your iPod [here]. Or come back to listen later; it'll be here waiting for you.

How relevant is the Monroe Doctrine to us?
(Not mentioned in the video, BTW. So you don't need to see the vid to speak up. Hope to hear from you!)