Monday, August 31, 2009

Possible Dreams International begins operations


Welcome to the world: Possible Dreams International!

Regular bloggers may have met Maithri of The Soaring Impulse. This young Australian physician is one of those amazing people you rarely encounter. Gifted in many ways--perhaps his greatest gift is his compassionate heart. He fell in love with the people of Swaiziland--some of the most forgotten people on the planet. He says:

Swaziland is a country where 42% of the population are infected with HIV/AIDS. That’s almost one in two people. As I have written before on these pages, in Siteki there are more coffin salesmen than grocery stores; 75 % of people live on less than one dollar a day; 10% of the population are orphaned children; And there are well over 15,000 orphan led households.


Armed with his belief that we can be the change that's needed in the world, Maithri has already made a difference. Today he launches Possible Dreams International, Inc. It's an avenue for all of us to join him on the front lines of international poverty. If you're serious about wanting to help the poor [and I know you are!] check it out:
WEBSITE: http://www.possibledreamsinternational.org
FACEBOOK: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Possible-Dreams-International/119742974805?ref=ts
TWITTER: http://twitter.com/pdiwecan

But, it just may be better to start with Maithri's blog entry today. Get the whole story in short form--"Possible Dreams International" on The Soaring Impulse.

Isn't it great to get GOOD news today?

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Violence is Easy. Peace is Hard.



"I will offer you a simple litmus test to determine whether a person has healthy or unhealthy religion. What do they do with their pain-even their daily little disappointments? Do they transform their pain or do they transmit it? People who are practiced in transforming actual life pain, like Jesus on the cross, are the only spiritual authorities worth following. They know. They can lead and teach. The rest of us just talk." ~Richard Rohr, OFM


In our neighborhood this month, a local man named Steven Mallory unprovokedly assaulted a volunteer at the free meal site for the poor. After fleeing the scene, minutes later, he brutally attacked the police officer who stopped him for questioning. In self defense, the policeman had to shoot, and he killed Steven. Our "inner city" neighborhood, although not a stranger to crime, was shaken to the core. So much violence! A life ended, others severely damaged--all within minutes [for the complete story and video: Violent End to a Violent Life: Our Neighborhood Nightmare].


From the moment I heard there would be a prayer service in response to that horrid sequence of events, I knew I would attend. The service was last week.


The short, simple event attempted to respond peacefully to that violence. People who knew or were related to the perpetrator, people who serve in the neighborhood, neighbors--we all gathered in the site that provides free meals. We sang, reflected, and shared. We stood and extended our hands, symbolically calling down a blessing of peace on the area--in each of the four directions.


Unquestioningly, the testimony of the volunteer, Rylan Bebermeyer, who had been assaulted at that very room, moved me deeply. His lip was split in the unprovoked punch, an attack he did not even see coming, an attack that required 15 stitches to fix. As a neighbor to the Café myself, seeing his bloody gurney going into the ambulance had been my first indication of the trouble that day. He had looked like a character from the movie Rocky--and he even almost chuckled as he recalled that fact himself to the group.


Rylan also recalled that he had prayed early that morning that he would be open to whatever the day would bring to him. As he spoke of the incident his face mirrored deep peace. He expressed no anger--only gratitude: "I never once had a feeling of anger toward Steve. What good would have anger done?"


Instead Rylan remembered gratefully the many people who assisted him--including even the woman upon whom he fell: "...right over there [pointing]. I fell on her. She kept me from hitting the corner on my way down."


Nonviolence is not "goody two-shoes," otherworldly, nor something vapid or "feel good." The person who can integrate undeserved pain deliberately inflicted on him is not taking the easy way out. Our neighborhood is healing. Violence is easy. Peace is hard.

---------

Thanks to the blog "St. Anne, Pray for Us" for bringing the quotation from Rohr to my attention.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Arrested Activists Claim False Imprisonment by Army Police in Wisconsin


"...a virtual kidnapping." Attorney Larry Hildes

Four peace activists who were arrested and jailed by Department of the Army Police at Wisconsin's Fort McCoy at an antiwar protest on August 9 are exploring possible legal responses to what they charge is their false imprisonment and various violations of posse comitatus laws that restrict the military from acting as civilian police.

The nonviolent protest commemorated the atomic bombing of Nagasaki. Over 50 participants of the "Walk for Peace," a three day demonstration march, ended their march at the gates of Fort McCoy, a military training center which deploys National Guard units to Iraq and Afghanistan. Nine activists who carried their protest onto the base received citations for a federal petty offense that required them to appear in court at a later date. Normally the cited person is immediately released pending that later court appearance. But in this case, military authorities released only five of the nine and continued to detain four, telling them that they would be jailed because they had each been apprehended at previous protests at the Fort.

U.S. Attorney John Vaudreuil told Wisconsin Public Radio that a glitch in communications between his office and military police at the base led to the four's jailing.

Representatives of Fort McCoy told the four prisoners, media, and public inquirers that the four would be held at the base until they were turned over to United States Marshals for transport to the Dane County Jail in Madison, WI. However, the four were instead held on the base for over three hours before being chained, loaded in a van by Fort McCoy police, and driven seventy miles to the Dane County Jail where they were incarcerated as "federal holds." The US Marshals' office in Madison claimed no knowledge of the four and had no record of their detention.

The four were released the next afternoon, 24 hours after being apprehended by Fort McCoy Army police. They never appeared before a judge. Jail guards told them that "Fort McCoy wired that they were lifting their hold" on the prisoners.

The incident raises many disturbing issues, according to the Mass Defense Committee of the National Lawyers Guild attorney Larry Hildes of Bellingham, Washington. He says the bizarre events in Wisconsin constitute a "virtual kidnapping." Hildes represents other activists around the country regarding a growing number of alleged violations of the Posse Comitatus Act. He says the Dane County Sheriff's Department "should have been asking a lot of questions" before accepting the prisoners delivered by Army police.

Joy First, co-convener of the National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance and one of the four, stated: "...the officials at Fort McCoy acted as judge and jury as they illegally detained us and took us to Madison to be held overnight in the Dane County Jail."

Another of the four, Bonnie Urfer of Nukewatch, sees parallels between Fort McCoy police treatment of the protestors and military policy regarding detainees abroad: "The four of us received just a small taste of what it feels like to be rounded up and punished by a military out of control and operating outside the law... In the U.S., illegal military detention should not be happening for any amount of time at all."

"What the US Attorney calls a ‘glitch in communications' is in reality a crime and a part of a larger pattern of illegal government activity that needs to be resisted on many levels," says Brian Terrell of Voices for Creative Nonviolence. "Wars of aggression and illegal occupations not only take the lives of civilians and soldiers without distinction, they also inevitably erode civil liberties and freedoms here at home."

More acts of nonviolent protest are being planned at Fort McCoy until all US troops are brought home from Iraq and Afghanistan, say the activists in information they provided.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Improve the US Economy: Legalize unauthorized immigrants


In a report released last week, the Cato Institute calculates the benefits that would flow to the U.S. economy from a comprehensive immigration reform that grants legal status to unauthorized immigrants already living in the United States.

This study explains the implications for the U.S. economy of seven different policies toward illegal labor, ranging from increased enforcement at the border and in the workplace to the legalization of currently unauthorized immigrants and creation of legal channels for future immigrant workers that accommodate actual U.S. labor demand. It analyzes those seven stances using a tool developed for U.S. government commissions and agencies called the U.S. Applied General Equilibrium model. The report concludes that "compared to either border or interior enforcement, a policy of legalization would, over time, raise the incomes of U.S. workers and their families."

A program to grant legal status to unauthorized workers already in the United States, combined with new channels for the arrival of immigrant workers in the future, would increase the productivity of immigrant workers and create more job openings for American workers in higher-skilled occupations. The net result would be economic gains of roughly $180 billion over ten years.

On the opposite side of the spectrum, an enforcement-only approach would shrink the overall economy, reducing opportunities for higher-skilled American workers. The result of this approach is a significant negative impact on the income of U.S. households, netting economic losses of roughly $80 billion over ten years.

The US Congress is currently drafting comprehensive immigration reform proposals. Mary Giovagnoli, Director of the Immigration Policy Center, notes this report's timely relevance: "...the latest CATO report makes the essential point that reforming our broken immigration system by bringing unauthorized workers into our tax system and on the right side of the law will help our economy. Continuing our enforcement-only policies not only neglects the broken system, but will actually cost our economy billions of dollars over the next decade."

Immigrants bring value to America in their roles as workers, taxpayers and consumers. The data demonstrates that, simply from an economic perspective, legalizing the status of unauthorized immigrants is in the best interest of the US citizen.

FOR MORE INFORMATION: Restriction or Legalization? Measuring the Economic Benefits of Immigration Reform by Peter B. Dixon and Maureen T. Rimmer

Sunday, August 16, 2009

MN Homeless Fight Health Care Cuts--on YouTube!



Taking their struggle to YouTube, Twin Cities' homeless are telling Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty what they think about recent health care cuts. Pawlenty's veto ended the General Assistance Medical Care (GAMC) program during the last legislative session. Coverage that protects homeless Minnesotans will stop in March 2010.

Hoping to catch the governor's attention, homeless people are telling their stories to camera crews and posting them on YouTube. Josh Lang, Human Rights Program Director at St. Stephen's, says the project is "a way to get that voice out that isn't getting out in any other way."

"People on anti-psychotic meds who are trying to figure out, 'Well do I wean myself off? How do I do that?' People with diabetes [who need to take] insulin. These [are] real life or death issues. They're scared." Lange told a local reporter. "People aren't going to stop getting sick when their health care runs out. They're not going to stop getting injured on the streets, they're not going to stop having mental health issues."

Michael Harristhal, Vice President of Public Policy and Strategy at Hennepin County Medical Center, the facility that handles the most patients on GAMC in the state, is concerned that ending the GAMC program will drive up costs for everyone. "[The GAMC funding cut] was conceived as a way to save costs but unless we come up with a better solution it actually could result in higher costs to the system," he stated.

Patients without health care often must delay treatment and end up in the emergency room, a more costly treatment option.

St. Stephen's Community hopes to record 1,000 YouTube interviews for Governor Pawlenty. By actually showing the people left in the lurch without health care, they hope the impact will go beyond that of a paper petition.


Over 30,000 Minnesotans are currently covered by GAMC. Pawlenty has said that when it ends, other programs should cover them. But opponents say different programs have higher costs and that those programs will need more money to cover new patients.

For the entire collection of YouTube videos CLICK HERE. A short compilation of a few examples is at the top of this post.

h/t to my friend Cathy who works with this project in the Twin Cities! You rule, Goddess!

Friday, August 14, 2009

What does the War on Drugs Mean? Ask the Drug Czar!


"Drug Czar" Gil Kerlikowske said it himself this spring and repeated it in El Paso this week at the 6th Annual Border Security Conference: the phrase "War on Drugs" is inaccurate.

He told El Paso independent media The Newspaper Tree that there is no evidence legalizing marijuana would reduce the Drug War violence.

In a brief interview he repeated his stand that neither he nor President Barack Obama believe legalizing any drugs is worth talking about or discussing.

The Newspaper Tree notes that by law, the drug czar must opose any attempt to legalize the use (in any form) of illicit drugs. "The statute says we have to absolutely resist (legalization)," it quotes Kerlikowske as saying.

Kerlikowski also said that the administration intends to turn the focus of the War on Drugs to a public health problem: "We brought a group of prevention specialists together not long after I became the director. And the prevention specialists felt that their voices in quality prevention programs have not been heard."

When asked whether there is a difference between marijuana and hard drugs like cocaine, he deferred the matter to the attorney general.

And medical marijuana? "I think the medical marijuana, we're reserving that question for the medical community. The decision on whether marijuana actually has a medicinal benefit within its chemical compound is a question we're going to let science answer."

Did the end of Prohibition reduce violence in Chicago, and is that a possible model for legalizing marijuana? "I'm not sure I'd liken what we're talking about to Prohibition, but I don't think anybody thought after Prohibition was lifted crime ended as a result," Kerlikowske said.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Priest and Activist Arrested While Praying at US-MX Border


photo credit: Fr. Bob Carney

This news story is about one of the most wonderful human beings I've ever met: John Heid.
I'm proud to call him my friend.

A Catholic priest and a peace activist were arrested yesterday morning during a prayer vigil at a virtual fence communication tower under construction in Arizona. John Heid, 54, a Quaker with Christian Peacemaker Teams and Fr. Jerome Zawada, 72, a Franciscan priest, had gone to pray at the US-Mexico border where walls and virtual fences have caused the deaths of five thousand migrants. A Pima County Sheriff's deputy arrested both for trespass. The pair was taken into custody on the anniversary of the atomic bomb deployment on Hiroshima, Japan. They released the following statement:

On this, the 64th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, Japan, we call for an end to militarization in all its guises. An end to bombs, nuclear and conventional. An end to the use of Drones (unmanned aerial vehicles). An end to walls, fences and their virtual counterparts that divide us and promote fear of each other. An end to war without end.

This morning we vigil at the gates of Davis-Monthan Air Force Base,
home of a Predator UAV unit which now flies missions around the clock in Iraq and Afghanistan armed with Hellfire missiles which have killed hundreds of unarmed civilians. We demand an end to the unilateral slaughter.

This afternoon we vigil at a communication tower, "Tucson-1" (virtual
fence) construction sight. Fences and walls, solid and virtual, have funneled people in migration deeper into the harsh, dangerous terrain of the Sonoran desert, resulting in more than 5,000 deaths since 1994.

These three - bombs, drones and fences/walls - are lethal weapons
directed specifically at noncombatants. Cities like Hiroshima, villages in Iraq and Afghanistan and the U.S.-Mexico borderland have been deliberately targeted and violated. These are crimes against humanity. A betrayal of civility. In spiritual terms, a sin.

Today we pray without ceasing for a world without weapons and fences.
We pray for peace, for justice, for unity which makes walls and war obsolete.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Coup in Honduras

The coup government in Honduras ordered attacks on unarmed protesters, including women and children. I discovered this music video on YouTube. I'm angry today, and this hip-hop approach sits right with me. (Lyrics from the YouTube site beneath)



Lyrics & Music by Simon Rios.

Golpe

Oye, Nica, Salvadoreño,
Indio, Garifuna, Brazileiro,
Gringo, Gaucho, y Caraqueño,
Chilango, Cholo, Potorro y Porteño
Esto es una llamada, en nombre de los Hondureños
Hay ke levantarnos todos, por este justo desempeño
Hay que defender ese pueblo, con puño y con cerebro
Hay que defender ese pueblo, con puño y con cerebro

June 28th, 2,000-nine was the day
When they uprooted los catrachos, from the progresista way.
Mel Zelaya was the president, whod gone from right to left,
He was a magnate of the old school, but was calling out the theft,
& pillage of Honduras, & the whole of the continente
by los gringos asesinos, & their local asistentes.
So they kidnapped Mel at gunpoint, at five o clock in the morn
And America woke that Sunday, said what the hell is going on?
Que carajo esta pasando? Otro golpe militar!
Otro once de septiembre, otro tiempo pa gritar!
This isnt about Manuel Zelaya, it aint about the constitution,
Its about the oligarchía, and its about the revolution.
The Honduran Magna Carta, was designed by the ruling class
With the oversight of Washington, & the rulers of the past
And Zelaya wanted reform, to promote participation
Cuz democracy aint about, pulling a lever & waiting patient
It aint about a rich criollo, sucking blood out of the nation
Its about power to the people, & the old order is changing
Pues America esta cambiando, por un modelo socialista,
anti-fascista, contra estes malditos golpistas
Tres-cientos mil up en la calle, dicen Zelaya no se va!
Los golpistas dicen democracia, mientras hacen coup detat
Its like saying save the trees, while revving a chainsaw
Its like saying it aint me babe, when youre the one I saw.
And the golpistas waved a banner, reading we shall overcome
Which side would Martin be on, if Martin couldve come?




Oxala pudiera cantarte, una rolita mas alegre
But the golpe en Honduras, makes me mutherfucking angry
I wish this was a nightmare, or a skit on cha cha cha
But its real as rigor mortis, cuz they made a coup de tat
Hay que tener rabia pueblo, Honduras es America
La misma sangre y consigna, desde Ushuaia hasta Merida
Y de ahi para Recife, y de ahi pa Torreón
Desde el bosque de Chapultepec, hasta las minas de Cerrejón.
No importa que pinche dia, no importa en que lugar,
Pues la esperanza comun, es lo kieren asesinar.
And they speak of an invasion by Venezolano agents
Y no aguantamos eso, they say, cuz were a sovereign nation.
Sovereign nation? With a gringo base in Chaperola?
You mean sovereign to the people? Or sovereign to Coca Cola?
And youd be foolish if you thought that the gringos didnt play a role
You think that the ambassador, Hugo Llorens, didnt know?
This aint the US of Obama, but of Reich & of la CIA
The ones who planned the golpe contra Hugo Chavez Frias
The ones who killed Allende, & who tried to kill Fidel
The ones who speak of freedom, while manifesting hell
The ones who infiltrated the mighty Tupamaros
The ones who drew & quartered, the brave Tupac Amaru
The ones who own la prensa, y las haciendas y maquilas
The ones who stand to profit, from the riches of the minas
And the reporters of the mainstream, are more full of shit & piss
Than the sewage tank at midnight, on the Chinatown Express
Sowing fear of comunismo, and a thousand huevonadas
Cuz la prensa esta vendida, y su gente, comprada
Comiendo baleadas, mientras los pobres comen basura,
And they still cant understand, why theres tanta amargura
And you think they give a damn about the starvation of a people?
The disenfranchising of a people? the genocide of a people?
Cuz theyre killing little kids, & theyre killing periodistas,
Theyre killing esperanzas, & theyre killing sindicalistas.
Heres a fist up for Murillo, martyr of Tegucigalpa
Whose death served to make la resistencia stand mas alta
Here a fist up to COFADEH, OFRANEH, y el COPINH
From the pueblo of Geronimo, & Martin Luther King.
This is the wakening of Honduras, in the form of a class war
Its a fight of good & evil, & the good ones are the poor
Nothing more, and it sure aint nothing less
And it wont stop till the coup drops, and justicia is addressed.
Caerá la dictadura, como todos los demas
Y llegará un tiempo de justicia, justicia con paz
Pero mientras tanto y los llantos, los molestaré con mi canto
En frente de las marchas, con mas bravura que mil Rambos
Ambos ladosde la izkierda y por debajo
Venceremos Hondureñodale duro pueblo catracho.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Honduran Coup-sponsored Violence Injures Women, Children; Represses Journalists


Excerpted and reposted with permission from Hermano Juancito (originally posted 7/31/2009 at 1:21 PM). Juancito is a friend of mine whose living and working in Honduras:


There have been reports of violence by the military and police in some parts of the country against demonstrators opposed to the coup, as well as arrests and detentions. But it seems to have happened nearby.

There are often demonstrations at a gas station...off the main road to San Pedro Sula. People camp in the streets and prevent traffic from passing through for a few hours.

I stopped at Caritas [B.E.: Roman Catholic assistance agency] this morning and the staff told me, that, according to radio reports, about 11 am this morning, police dislodged the people from the intersection and injured people, including women and some 10 to 11 year old children. Some fled to a restaurant in the gas station; the police broke glass windows; people were also fleeing into the woods.

The folks visiting me saw some soldiers in riot gear in a car in town as well as a police car with police and a number of people, coming away from the demonstration.

---

I have a group of people from Iowa here with me. They arrived Wednesday night. To avoid having to walk through road blocks we got a ride back Wednesday night with a Spanish Franciscan sister who lives down the block. The pickup was stopped twice by the army. At one they said she had a light burnt out. She talked with them and avoided a fine (but I wonder if they wanted a bribe.)

====================

The violence Juancito reports above was predicted and described by Via Campasina, Nicaragua on Thursday, 30 July 2009:

From Via Campasina:

Today July 30 since the early hours of the morning the combined forces of the Police and the Army have been carrying to most violent repression to date against unarmed protestors. There are many injured people, some very severely, and other being pursued at this moment.


The soldiers have orders to repress journalists and other civilians in the areas of conflict.


The state of barbarism continues, especially in the El Durazno part of the highway leaving Tegucigalpa toward the border with Nicaragua.

We need to activate urgent actions and denounce what is going on the Human Rights agencies, as peaceful protestors are being violently beaten at this very moment in various parts of Honduras.

They are launching tear gas from helicopters and aircraft, and shooting rubber and wooden bullets at the people.

Please send protest messages to the dictator: Roberto Micheletti:

robertomicheletti (at) congreso.gob.hn

with cc to the OAS to see if it's possible to give a bad conscience [sic] to José Miguel Insulza: OASWeb (at) oas.org


Please, we must stop these acts of military violence against the people, to avoid more tragic outcomes as the military attacks the civilian population.

Fausto Torrez ATC-Via Campesina Nicaragua