Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Political Compost

My brain has been busy lately-- well not always. Some of the time I have spent online doing some shopping. And I was actually having some positive thoughts about injecting a tiny bit of my own money into this lousy economy, if not locally, at least some of it for good causes, including for gifts. And I had come across a couple of awe inspiring items, one of them a work of art.

Meanwhile, as usual, I did a cursory survey of the current news, and could have sworn that I read somewhere that the Chicago Tribune was going bankrupt, which is sad, while not surprising, since most print media are suffering from the web takeovers and the general dissatisfaction with the conventional news outlets, which are dominated by corporate interests and have been losing some of their journalists, leaving the country with a Fourth Estate lying on its back with all fours up in the air, almost a comical sight if it were not so tragic.

Then I heard on The News Hour that Illinois Governor Rod Blagojavitch had been arrested for corruption―OMG!! This is so close to home, the second bad governor in our neighbor state, one right after the other, and a story that is blasphemous in its assault on democracy. This kind of stuff is starting to get annoying.

While washing the dishes, the scary thought occurred to me that some of the downfalls happening around the country in local and state governments are all symptomatic of an increased vulnerability to the cynical takeover of our most cherished and hard won values, and we have brought it all upon ourselves. I am beginning to expect to see more and more of these people in positions of power falling over like dominoes, one after the other. And what is this like for the young people who are struggling to survive in a broken economy, with fewer options for education or decent jobs, as so many corporations have shifted to international robbery? And the people holding office have shifted to shiftier behavior.

Meanwhile, stories out of the African Continent are more and more demoralizing, with disease related to lack of clean water, and conflicts elsewhere related to tribal identities, which in the past were purposefully stirred up by dominating invaders. And violence has been springing up in Asia again, some of it directed at English speaking immigrants. The world is a mess, partly perhaps as a result of global economic woes, but chiefly, it seems, as a result of Western political domination. "Humanitarian" has almost become an oxymoron, if not for just a few sane persons, now mostly living on another continent than our own. The United States has slid down off its mountain top into the ocean, where the pollution was already thick with death before we got this far down.

So my personal resolution to write in a more optimistic vein fell down there with the rest of the country. Into that morass of self pity.

In the grocery store, which I went back to today, having forgot a few key items yesterday, I find that it sometimes takes me a minor heft of courage to pass by the corn chips. And in that spirit I am going to corral myself back to the hopeful again.

Despite the frustrations of living "below poverty level," with some troublesome challenges, I am looking forward to the coming New Year. We still don't know when the slide we are in will slow down enough for us to start climbing back up again, or even if we will be so blessed. But we have already heard the greatest wake-up call in perhaps the entire history of human civilization.

Perhaps this moment in time is the greatest opportunity ever for writers to register their thoughts, their fears, their outrages, their hopes and prayers. More and more of us are writing to be heard, with the free blogosphere out there now, meaning that a cacophony of opinions are sometimes waging a war for the available ears. But, wow! Together we have composted more political garbage than ever before even thought possible.

In some ways it should not surprise us that the rotting organic matter can give off an odor. If done properly good compost doesn't do that, but we are beginners at this new, heretofore unheard of avocation, a kind of collective outcry to get the rotten apples out of the barrel so they can be recycled into new life forms. We don't want to attract wild rodents, but we are just beginning to learn how to protect the resources we have, which is a totally new thing for a profligate society.

If we look in the right places we find many, many like-minded people who are more experienced at such things, some of them in alternative political parties or parallel social and issue oriented movements. Eventually we will get to the point that we will be sharing responsibilities with each other in whole new ways. And those "short-timers," waiting for us to fire them, who are so resistant to the prevailing reality, will begin to out themselves, tripping over themselves. They are already making themselves the butt of more and more jokes, until we are all profiting from their horrible mistakes by seeing opportunities to laugh. Laughter and crying are close allies of the human spirit.

A sense of humor is the greatest of all gifts. We can keep it in our pockets, more valuable than money, more readily available than food or water in trying times such as these.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Jon Eliot interview with Juan Guerra on Air America


Still, some "pundits" believe they know all about this story just because Mr. Guerra has been crying out to be heard by a deaf, dumb & blind corporate media machine. He has true grit, IMHO.

What, did you expect that exposing scandal in the Bush administration would produce no power struggle, and everyone would just smile and follow the grand jury's directions??? HA HA HA HA!

Case dismissed on (untrue) technicality, not on merits.

More background from Guerra himself. Does he sound like a "nutcase," or a true patriot who wishes to complete his job?

UPDATE 12-16-10, links are no longer active. The story refers to Juan Angel Guerras, District Attorney for Willacy County, TX, who indicted Dick Cheney around 2008. He charged the judge to recuse himself for conflict of interest.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Ghosts Walk the Walls of Just Us

In the late nineties a news story here in Missouri came out of a Texas videotape. The videotape had emerged in a suit against our state. In a Texas private prison some of the incarcerated men were being abused by the use of violent restraint techniques and dogs. A Missouri felon had been transferred to that prison because of overcrowding in our own correctional institutions, and he won his case.

Missourians were dismayed by this and soon afterward Missouri prisoners being held in Texas were returned to our state, the contract with the private facility ended. That particular company running prisons was thought by some to be adequately punished by its loss of our business. However the prison industry is still flourishing today. In fact it would seem that one of the chief industries of Texas may have become incarceration, with Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE), a federal agency, as its chief customer. What a way to replace the corporate cattle ranches that moved south of the border after NAFTA.

Just now, we are learning of a murder of a prisoner in Texas which occurred in 2001, in a different private prison owned by the GEO Group whose stock is offered by Vanguard Group. This crime finally resulted in a civil judgement costing GEO $47.5 million. Another separate charge of murder in Val Verde County, Texas, has been tried more recently against a GEO guard. This is just the beginning of this story, which has been connected by the District Attorney of Willacy County, Juan Guerra, to Dick Cheney and Alberto Gonzales, who have now been indicted. One might wonder if this is the beginning of the truth telling that will follow the end of the Bush White House. And could some of those recently revealed illnesses of Bush's current Attorney General Michael Mukasey have any relationship to these revelations? It is enough to make one sick. Yet the story has not been widely reported, no surprise to bloggers.

The latest episode of this unfolding political thriller is a request for removal of the presiding judge who has been playing South Texas games with the local D.A. Guerra, who claims this judge caused him to lose reelection by filing a suit against him which was later dismissed. The judge also has a relationship to one of the local potential defendants, a Texas legislator. With a hearing set for today. Raymondville, the town where the prison is located, could get a little economic boost from the journalists likely to show up if the most famous of the stock holders in the Geo Group, which provides prison beds for federal and state offenders, actually show up. Wouldn't it be ironic if Cheney and Gonzales are indeed standing before a court in a town that dubs itself "Prisonville?'

The Lone Star State is one I have visited several times over the years. It's pretty much a straight shot over Highway 44. The billboards telling drivers things like "You are now in Big Country" always made me laugh. Parts of the state are vast expanses of grass-- other parts are desert. The tourist attractions tend to be along the Gulf Coast or in the larger cities.

Some western Texas towns where cattle are still being shipped north on trains to meat packing plants can have an oppressive odor of animal excrement hanging in the air. St. Louisans may also remember the odor of rotting blood around packing plants from back in the day when we had at least two in the metro area. It's enough to make anyone a vegetarian overnight But sometimes shipping and killing animals just plain stinks. Humans are humans though. I would never want to confuse species.

If you look at where Raymondville sits on a map you notice that it is a short way north of Brownsville, a place where the building of the Border Wall this side of the Rio Grande has been more vocally disputed that anywhere else. Brownsville has been described by some ecologists as an open biome, where people and species of all sorts go back and forth between the two countries, and have for an estimated thirty centuries. Many of the people living on either side are indigenous and have dual citizenships. No one in the vicinity is happy about the building of what has been called by Homeland Security "a fence." Yeah, eight foot tall steel tubes welded together are surely no obstruction to vision. Just ask Boeing, the company whose California branch has the contract to build it. If it's a fence it has Homeland Security specifications. Questions about it linger.

You may have seen this rising monstrosity covered on Now or on Bill Moyers' Journal on PBS. If not I recommend watching those episodes online. This is a federal project that involves four states, California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. A Working Group at the University of Texas has cited human rights violations affecting in particular the long standing tribal indigenous peoples who were here before any European immigrants arrived. Their videotaped testimony {link opens your video-player} to the Inter­American Commission on Human Rights is also an hour long education. Who, under such circumstances has the first word about this land and how it is used or abused? Most Americans have begun to understand that we owe some form of reparations to the people our previous generations have used as though they are lesser beings. Take some time to inform yourself on this issue, and invite others to do so as well. Then begin to speak out to Congress, often and loudly.

That is what my blog is about, your Write to Be Heard!! Put your thoughts into your own words and tell your Senators and Representatives that reprehensible policies based on false fears do not make us more secure. They instead only incite anger, fear and divisive politics, not to mention injustice. And the use of private prisons by any government ought to be outlawed. Instead of being cost effective they raise costs not only by the per bed rate charged but by the lobbyists who continually seek longer sentences. No public official should ever have financial holdings in a government supported prison industry.

The Rio Grande makes a nice border between ourselves and our neighbors to the south. Do we really want to be capturing people who cross it and charging them with crimes while we ignore the real crimes of our own "leadership?" What is this fear, that terrorists are coming into the U.S., if not a bogus front for profiting from human flesh? Our own legislators and former Presidents accelerated this movement of people with so-called "free trade." It is free only to the corporate entities, which are made up of stockholders, some of whom are severely ethically challenged.

Our southern boundary has a rich history of disputes. Since those earlier times of conflict I would like to believe Americans have grown up as a people. Wouldn't it be so much lovelier to work together, celebrating our distinct cultures, and extending friendship to peoples and nations who have oftentimes served as humble examples of heroism to us? Or should we continue to capture immigrants to our land as prison meat?

As I have written before in this blog, we have nothing to lose but walls. Whether prison walls or border walls, both serve some purpose some of the time. A retaining wall can protect a garden or lawn from erosion. But neither can be used to an extreme against persons without causing injury. Most people relate to each other in a friendly manner, as "just us folks." When people in the upper ranks of the social or political hierarchy forget that they themselves are only human like the rest of us they make wrong decisions, and it is up to us to correct them. In some instances that may require a correctional institution.

For their sake hope the indicted do not end up in private prisons in Texas.

More Sources and suggested sites for information:






Who broke the case to the news media?