Tag Archives: Thanksgiving

Best Presidental Quote EVER

Better than Nixon saying (as Vice President) “you won’t have Dick Nixon around anymore” Of course he lied. Later he said “I am not a crook!” Again, he perjured.

Trump was very succinct. To the point. “I’m fucked” … actually, he’s sodomized with a shovel, sideways so it would hurt more.

Happy ThanksNowFuckOffAndDieGiving

THANKSGIVING would seem to commemorate misplaced thanks. Our thanks are not for the bounty of the New World, or for receiving aid from the indigenous peoples, or for being bequeathed stewardship over their gardens and farms, or God forbid for their joining us for supper. American white folk give thanks that the North American indigenous resistance quite unwisely didn’t massacre our settlers to the last man and refute at least symbolically the European invasion of their continent. How many acts of turning the other cheek have been rewarded with a victor’s treachery? It’s become fashionable among environmentalists to think of mankind as a parasitic scourge soon to overrun the Earth its host, but that’s only Western Man isn’t it? Indigenous anarchist man has led a sustainable existence for longer than we celebrate our HAPPY history.

Black Friday is Buy Nothing Day

BND Nov 27The big day is upon us, the Black Friday meme is in full force, doorbuster deals are pitched to begin as early as 4am. Everyone wants to catch the early worm shopper, and NMT is no exception. We call your “growing excitement” and raise you one BUY NOTHING DAY. Consume nothing, except comestibles, go nowhere except by self-locomotion, and reclaim your pre-industrialized sustainable nature.

That’s to attack the consumer culture addiction from the abuser’s side. Stop buying what you don’t need.

This BND, Adbusters is going after the problem from the supply side by declaring a General Wildcat Strike, because how are we to arrest the consumer culture juggernaut without calling on the workers at the cogs? But it’s asking a lot of a social class who can afford it least.

Many of us already aren’t scheduled to work on the day after Thanksgiving. I’m not going to work, probably neither are you. But if you’re a retail clerk, unprotected by unions and armed with neither sick days nor savings, you can hardly risk giving your boss the finger on the day he’s expecting to earn a bonus.

Taking down the marketing megalith is going to involve enlisting the working class, but not for one day. They’re already to be the front line casualties of any successful attack on consumerism.

But you on the couch: turn off, tune out, drop down and show us some effort.

I knew Black Friday, and You Sir, are no Black Friday

Robinson Crusoe illustration by OffterdingerIf this year’s “Black Friday” fails to pull retailers out of their red ink, should the dubious protologism retire its presumption to speak for consumer confidence? I think it should. Wasn’t it really just an economist’s “for the Gipper” meme –putting the solvency of the market on the shoulders of Christmas shoppers, rallying them to pull the economy into the black, regardless if it meant spending themselves into the red? I hate it when emotion-charged phrases are usurped by pretenders. Hiroshima was “Ground Zero” before the WTC, the “Homeland” was Nazi Germany, and “Black Friday” was Robinson Crusoe’s, well, Man Friday.

“Black Friday” in general has represented whichever awful event befell that day of the week of recent memory. It may be a wonderful anti-racism step to appoint a rare positive attribution to the word “black,” but I object to its use here to exacerbate affluenza, targeted against the best efforts of sustainability educators to reframe the day-after-Thanksgiving as Buy Nothing Day. If you are a booster for consumerism, black is an accounting concept meaning profitability. But how disingenuous to expect that those outside the balance sheet should share the enthusiasm. For example, it’s not everyone’s Good Friday just because Notre Dame wins that day. Good Friday, by the way, is also called Black Friday, as is any Friday that falls on the 13th.

Below I will list history’s Black Fridays, lest nocturnal Wikipedia cobbler elves continue their PR visits to bolster the retailer claim to the term. According to “Wikipedia” the earliest citation for a shopper’s “Black Friday” is 1966. But in actuality, the expression came from Philadelphia bus drivers and policemen referring to the traffic congestion created at their city center on the busiest shopping day of the year. But Philadelphia retailers objected to the negative connotation. Perhaps as a result, the “black ink” angle surfaces, attributed to a store clerk, offering a more upbeat, chamber-of-commerce-friendly spin. Hmm.

Many people think Black Friday recalls the Stock Market Crash of 1929. It does, and they’re right to be confused about which day of the week it was in particular, because the first day of the crash became known as Black Thursday, followed by Black Friday, then the next trading days, Black Monday and Black Tuesday.

What other occasions in man’s history have warranted the dark coloration? Let’s begin with Black Sabbath:

Black Saturdays
Sept 10, 1547, disaster for Scottish defenders at Battle of Pinkie Cleugh, Scotland
Aug 6, 1621, Mass hysteria caused by dark stormy night confirming Armageddon arrived with Episcopacy, Scotland
Dec 28, 1929, Massacre of Mau demonstrators by NZ police, Samoa
June 13, 1942, Disastrous UK Battle of Gazala against German Afrika Korps
June 29, 1946, UK Operation Agatha against Zionist terrorists in Palestine
Oct 8, 1962, height of A-bomb scare, Cuban Missile Crisis
Dec 6, 1975, Beirut massacres which started Lebanese Civil War, Lebanon
July 31, 1982, worst road accident in French history, (on annual “Black Saturday” when entire of population takes to the road for vacation)
July 14, 1984, Honk Kong exchange rates fall to all time low
Aug 20, 1988, worst day of Yellowstone Fires
Jan 20, 1990, January Massacre of Azeri demonstrators by Soviet Army, Azerbaijan
Feb 7, 2009, brush fires, Victoria, Australia

Black Sundays
Feb 14, 1926, bush fires, Victoria, Australia
April 14, 1935, “Black Blizzard” over Dust Bowl, the Great Plains of US and Canada
Feb 6, 1938, fatal waves on Bondi Beach, Australia
Nov 8, 1942, Nazi extermination of Jews in Staszow, Poland
June 11, 1944, disastrous Canadian battle against German Panzers, Normandy, France
Sept 24, 1950, sunlight blocked by forest fires, Pennsylvania
Jan 2, 1955, brush fires in Southern Australia
May 2, 1982, Exxon canceled shale oil project in Parachute, Colorado
Nov 24, 1991, extreme right party ascension in Belgium
May 1, 1994, San Marino Grand Prix death of Ayrton Senna
April 26, 1998, DIA inter-terminal subway fails, Denver
Jan 21, 2001, Direct TV purged viewers who were pirating signals
Feb 18, 2001, Datona 500 death of Dale Earnhart
Dec 28, 2008, Detroit Lions finished 0-16

Black Mondays
Easter, 1209, English settlers massacred in Dublin, Ireland
April 14, 1360, Easter misfortune during Hundred Years War
Feb 8, 1886, Pall Mall Riot, London, UK
Dec 10, 1894, Newfoundland bank failure, Canada
Oct 28, 1929, Stock Market Crash, 3rd day of trading
May 27, 1935, US Supreme Court overturns National Recovery Act
Sept 19, 1977, Shutdown of Youngstown, Ohio steel mill
Nov 27, 1978, Assassination of Harvey Milk
Oct 19, 1987, global stock market crash
Oct 8, 1990, Temple Mount Massacre by Israeli IDF, Palestine

Black Tuesdays
Oct 29, 1929, Stock Market Crash
1967, brush fires in Tasmania, Australia
Oct 20, 1987, global stock market crash, because Monday is Tuesday in Australia

Black Wednesdays
Sept 16, 1992, when UK withdrew currency from European Exchange Rate Mechanism, suffering a devaluation of 3.4 billion pounds.
Nov 3, 2004, John Kerry concedes 2004 election immediately after promising to challenge polling irregularities.

Had not the US Stock Exchange been shut down on Tuesday, there would have been a Black Wednesday 1929 as well.

Black Thursdays
Feb 6, 1851, brush fires, Victoria, Australia
Oct 24, 1929, start of US Stock Market Crash
Oct 14, 1943, disastrous US-UK bombing raid over Schweinfurt, Germany
Dec 16, 1943, disastrous UK bombing raid over Berlin, Germany
Aug 24, 1995, Moscow Interbank credit market collapse, Russia
Feb 8, 1998, Black World Wide Web Protest
July 24, 2003, Guatemala City riots, Guatemala

Black Fridays
Sept 24, 1869, collapse of price of gold.
Oct 14, 1881, Eyemouth Disaster, Scotland
Nov 11, 1887, Haymarket hangings of innocent anarchists, Chicago
Nov 18, 1910, Police assault of suffragettes, London, UK
Jan 31, 1919, George Square Riot, during strike for 40hr work week, Glasgow, Scotland
Oct 25, 1929, second day of Stock Market Crash
Jan 13, 1939, bush fires in Victoria, Australia
1940 movie starring Boris Karloff
Sept 18, 1942, Bombing of Dartmouth, Devon, UK
Oct 13, 1944, Disastrous Canadian raid, Battle of the Scheldt, Belgium
Feb 9, 1945, Disastrous UK air raid, Battle of Sunnfjord, Norway
Oct 5, 1945, Hollywood Warner Brothers union riot, led to Taft-Hartley Act
May 5, 1950, Red River Flood, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
Oct 7, 1977, Phillies lost to Dodgers, game 3 of National League series
Sept 8, 1978, Massacre of protesters in Tehran, led to Iranian Revolution
May 31, 1985, US-Canadian Tornado outbreak
July 31, 1987, Edmonton Tornado, Alberta Canada
March 12, 1993 Bombay Bombings
Aug 12, 2004, suppression of protests, Male, Maldives
Sept 30, 2005, Students protesters killed in Meghalaya, India
Oct 3, 2008, EESA Wall Street Bailout
–AND–
Nov 28, 2009, the first day of the Christmas shopping season, when America’s retailers balance sheets are brought out of the red.

It fits right?

Tis the season once more….

for the Talk Radio Hate Speech about a “war on Christmas.” I don’t actually think they’re stupid, mind you, they know full well that they’re lying… and omitting a HUGE amount of data.

So, to fact check them ONCE MORE…

The Founding Fathers never instituted either Christmas or Thanksgiving as national holidays.

Nor did the Pilgrims.
Nor the Puritans.
Abraham Lincoln did recognize both, but with the emphasis on Thanksgiving.
Some of Lincolns closest friends and advisers were rabid anti-Catholics.

King James First was crowned king because he was, at least in name, a Protestant.

King James invited the Puritans and the Pilgrims, not very courteously, to get out of England.

Because they said he was too Catholic.

Their major sticking point was Christmas.

He was for it.

They were against it.

The Hate Radio people insist that we’re supposed to rule America and just by consequential extension, the entire world, by the several bickering groups of Late Medieval Feudal Warlords who were killing each other and a whole bunch of civilians in Europe at the time, and had just begun to tear up America, over different interpretations of the Christian faith.

As usual in these Battles of (nit)Wits, the primary victims were Other Christians. Because in England at the time there were few openly Non-Christians to be had. Jews maybe. Jews who were burned at the stake, hanged, tortured etc etc right along with people suspected of Witchcraft.

Or Christian Blasphemy.

Which brings it to the central theme of the Hate Speech Radio Talkmongers.

Why, you might ask, did the “founding fathers” NOT establish a natoinal religion?

Well, I might answer, the slaughter of Christians by Christians was fresh in their memories. Washington had participated in an extremely bloody extension of an ongoing European “holy” war between Catholics and Protestants. In America the casualty count was comparatively low, mostly because the White Population was relatively low.

Which brings up that ugly business of the Founding Fathers being Anti-American, as in, anti-Indian.

In the mad rush to cast the Puritans especially but also the Pilgrims as Pure Saints who get to make our daily decisions and run our Government from Beyond The Grave, they have to omit details. Lots of Details.

The scene replayed in countless Thanksgiving pageants of Racial Harmony between English Invaders and Americans has many dark corners that the Haters don’t want to illuminate. It complicates the simplicity of their “war on christmas” ranting. And if they encouraged their listeners to actually think it would be bad for their bottom line.

For instance many Puritans wrestled with the question of Where Did The Indians Originate? Because we’re not mentioned in Genesis.

Some, like the witch-hunter Cotten Mather,often quoted by the Hate-mongers on Fox News and Clear Channel as being a “Founding Father” whose original intent is Holy and Beyond Question, not only hated Christmas but also many of the toys which are now given for Christmas, meaning Dolls, were declared by him an his contemporaries as being Agents of the Devil.

And that Indians have no souls, since we’re not mentioned in Genesis, we must therefore be a construct of Satan. And they heartily endorsed killing us outright. Wiping us from the Earth.

According to Rush and Hannity and Beck that isn’t really a call for Genocide.

So, which is it going to be, do we let these Medieval Murderers decide every policy for America, from Beyond The Grave? Do we hold their every thought to be the guiding principle, using the “Original Intent” argument?

WHICH “original intent”? The intent (almost completed) to Murder every non-European American? The intent to prosecute CHILDREN for playing with Dolls?

You might remember the controversies over the Teddy Ruxpin dolls and the Furby dolls, Tickle-me-Elmo and some of us with long experience remember that Disney characters are considered Demonic as well… Which of you is willing to allow an arbitrarily selected (by people who have been DEAD for 300 years) to kick down your doors, drag your kids out and torture-execute them for playing with Barbies or G.I. Joe dolls? For having Mickey Mouse or Bugs Bunny products? (Talking Animals are Satanic… just ask any Pilgrim)

Those who support Israel because the Israeli government officials were born Jewish, would you allow the Pilgrim Purity Patrol to come into your homes and Kill You for supporting Jews?

Would you, using the King James As Christian Warrior theme, hunt down Radical Protestants, like for instance the Pilgrims and Puritans (both churches still exist) and Murder Them? Or go to the Other Original Intent and slaughter every Methodist, Baptist or other Episcopalian Church Member for being, as the Puritans said, “too Catholic”?

Those Disciple of Hatred like Hannity who insist on absolutes of Religious Purity say they’re not racist, what then would be done with those of us of Mixed Race? Since the Puritans also condemned Racial Mixing. At the time, according to one source, there were 6 black people in all of London. So which races exactly were the Pilgrims and the Puritans opposed to being intermingled with the Pure English Bloodline?

The Puritans and Pilgrims couldn’t agree on anything even amongst the people in their individual congregations. But we’re supposed to let that Massive Confusion dictate to us exactly how to live in America today.

At least according to Hate Speech Radio.

Oh, and by the way, the Fox and Clear Channel Hate Freaks would have had King James killed because he was gay.

Not for any of the bloody wars he initiated and or joined into, not for the murders and pillages committed in Hannity and Limbaugh and O’Reilly’s Irish ancestral home, none of that.

But because he was gay.

See how conoluted and unreconcilable the “logic” of their arguments bocome, once set side by side and compared?

Those who had difficulties following all those twists and turns into the “logic” that I took you through with this simple posting, maybe should refrain from imposing the “logic” on the rest of us as a course of National Policy and Law.

That would be “Violently” Imposing it upon us.

The entire “War on Christmas” hate-feast indulged in each holiday season is a blatant call for Violent Murder of Americans. And the ones calling for it don’t give a pass to anybody. They’ll have their Stupid Disciples kill Christians too. Simply by declaring them to not be Christian. Or like their Disciple Sarah Palin did, declaring them to not be Americans.

Buy Nothing Day 2009 now Wildcat Strike

Adbusters Buy Nothing DayDo you recognize the cat at right? It might be a child’s zoo animal rubber stamp if it didn’t look so angry. This is a stencil that dates to the Wobblies, when working men were angry. When labor organizers had to fend off union busters and Pinkerton goons, actions had to be called in defiance of the bad contracts and entrenched company-union bosses. Something for UFCW Local 7 to think about. The hasty stencils painted on factory walls announced: Wildcat Strike!

Adbusters resurrects the wild cat for the 2009 Buy Nothing Day, whose impact might be better felt as a GENERAL STRIKE. Buy nothing, drive nowhere, turn out the lights, turn of the electronics, go for a walk, and do not go to work. For one day. The day after Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving by the way goes off the calendar too. Find something else for which to be thankful besides feasting at the expense of the Native Americans, themselves starved, infected, and driven from their land.
Adbusters Buy Nothing Day
Someone someday will be able to mobilize a real general strike. Until then, what can we lose by trying? Do it. This is the splash page which Adbusters recommends for websites planning to blackout.

mixed signals on gluttony

This morning on childrens programming time (Used to be Roadrunner, Bugs Bunny, Bullwinkle etc) there was a PSA spot about eating, the big part of it being Portion Control. And the AFA sports teams “I Am Team” against hunger, nobody should go hungry on Thanksgiving etc…

And earlier, a commercial for pans for baking Giant Cupcakes. Excusez-vous, but a giant cupcake used to be simply called a “cake”.

Teach the kiddoes that small portions are somehow not cool. Why not? McDonalds and KFC and Carl’s Jr and all of them say the same thing, go ahead, kids, pig out. Stuff yourselves silly.

Earlier this year, the UN and others announced a disturbing milestone. 1,000,000,000 people, a BILLION…don’t get enough calories to sustain their health. They’re slowly starving. Many ok I’ll say it straight MOST in nations that provide the US us with luxury farm products.

It’s more than just the rain forests of central and south America being subjugated and stripped to provide banana-republic staples like, say, bananas… coffee. Beef for the low-paid slave laborers at Micky Dee’s and the rest to burn most of the bacteria off of, coffee and tea, of course… chocolate. Stuff that doesn’t quite grow as well in the middle of North America. Gum Arabic in the Sudan, coffee from Ethiopia gracing our Gourmet Coffee Mills…

Ethiopia has requested emergency food aid just this week.

Meanwhile one of the more popular TV shows now playing is “The Biggest Loser”.

See, it’s not merely that the people in the poorest countries are starving to feed us. There’s also the constant warfare mostly being fought for the benefit of the very richest people in the world.

Incidentally, the vast majority of Americans make less than the “Average” income. It’s a mathematical inevitability when a tiny percentage, estimated at 5% of the population (by Left Wing Radicals of course) to a whopping great 9% estimated by the Right Wing Radicals of the population control over 90% of the wealth. That’s by the “conservative” numbers. That would automatically work out to 90% of the population below the average.

And that’s just in America. Places like Ethiopia and Guatemala it’s worse. Guatemala where they pay kids $4 a day to break rocks into gravel. That’s a 12 hour a day job. (in the tropics there’s very little seasonal variance in the length of day/night) so the kids don’t go to school. Not the poor kids anyway. Cuba and Venezuela provide their health care, because the sorry-ass Corporate Governments owned entirely by American companies ain’t gonna do no damn “entitlement” programs. Them poor folks have to pull themselves up by their bootstraps, just the same way the Corporate BiggPiggs pulled themselves up by the poor folks’ bootstraps.

Public Education? Why, so they could gain enough knowledge to realize they’re being exploited, and maybe that they can throw off the chains their Overlords placed upon them? They don’t need to know how to read and write in order to pick bananas and coffee and bust rocks into gravel at starvation wages.

This isn’t a joke or hyperbole, a small group of Right Wing Lunatics chided me for expressing the notion that these Poor, poor children should go to school instead of having the wonderful opportunity to support themselves as Corporate Slaves with no future other than Corporate Slavery for generations to come.

Puts a fresh perspective on the Anti-Education Tea Party types who removed their kids from school rather than have them listen to the President exhort them to actually study and strive for a better future than merely being Cannon Fodder in our army and Slave Labor in our industries…

No. 1 domestic terrorist Daniel McGowan

The Huffington Post published a letter by ELF/ALF political prisoner Daniel McGowan, who is allowed to send one letter per week from CMU36, the controversial “Communication Management Unit” whose cover-name is USP Marion. According to McGowan, prison guards call it the “I Unit,” which probably does not stand for illegal.

As of May 2009, I have been at USP Marion’s “Communication Management Unit,” or CMU, for roughly nine months and now is a good time to address the misconceptions (and the silence) regarding this unit. I want to offer a snapshot of my day-to-day life here as well as some analysis of what the existence of CMUs in the federal prison system implies. It is my hope that this article will partially fill the void of information that exists concerning the CMU, will help dispel rumors, and will inspire you to support those of us on the inside fighting the existence of these isolation units — in the courts and in the realm of public opinion.

It is best to start from the beginning — or at least where my story and the CMU meet. My transfer here is no different from that of many of the men here who were living at Federal Correctional Institutions (normal prisons) prior to the genesis of the CMUs. On May 12, 2008, on my way back from a decent lunch, I was told to report to “R&D” (receiving and discharge). I was given two boxes and half an hour to pack up my meager possessions. After complying I was placed in the SHU (secure housing unit or “hole”) and put on a bus the next day. There was no hearing and no information given to me or my attorneys — only after a day was I told I was on my way to Marion, Illinois’ CMU.

Hearing the term “CMU” made my knees buckle as it drummed up some memory I had of the infamous “control units” at Marion (closed in 1995 and replaced by Florence ADX: the lone Federal “Supermax” prison). Then it hit me. The lawyers, in challenging the application of the terrorist enhancement in my case, made the prescient argument that if I receive the enhancement, the Bureau of Prisons (BoP) would use that to place me in the CMU at FCI Terre Haute, Indiana (at the time just 5 months old). In fact, on the way to FCI Sandstone in August 2007, I not only saw the CMU but met one of its residents while in transit. Let me back up and offer a brief history of the Communication Management Units.

The CMU I reside in, at USP Marion, received its first prisoner in May 2008 and when I arrived, held about 17 men, the majority of whom were Muslim. Currently, the unit has 25, with a capacity of 52 cells. In April 2009, we received seven new people, all of whom were from the CMU at FCI Terre Haute. The unit is overwhelmingly Muslim with 18 men identifying as such. Most, but not all of the prison, have so-called terrorism cases. According to a BoP spokesperson, the unit “will not be limited to inmates convicted of terrorism-related cases through all of the prisoners fit that description.” Others have prison disciplinary violation or allegations related to communication and the misuse of telephones etc. Here, almost everyone has a terrorism related case — whether it is like my case (destruction of property characterized as “domestic terrorism”) or conspiracy and “providing material aid” cases.

Before the Marion CMU opened, there was the original CMU, opened in December 2006 at the former death row at FCI Terre Haute. According to early articles, the unit was intended for “second tier terrorism inmates, most of them Arab Muslims and a less restrictive version of the Supermax in Florence, Colorado.”

Additionally, BoP Director Harley Lappin, in a July 2008 hearing on the 2009 BoP budget request, said of the CMUs, “A lot of the more serious offenders, terrorists, were housed at ADX Florence. So, we are ramping up two communications management units that are less restrictive but will ensure that all mail and phone calls of the offenders are monitored on a daily basis.”

Terre Haute’s CMU has 36 men (27 of whom are Muslim) and is roughly comparable to Marion’s CMU. The rest of this place focuses on the latter, in which I have resided and of which I have seen firsthand.

You may be curious about just what a CMU actually is. From my correspondence, I can tell that many correspondents do not know much about what goes on here. I hope this can clear up any misperceptions. According to the BoP,

The CMU is [sic] established to house inmates who, due to their current offense of conviction, offense conduct or other verified information, require increased monitoring of communication between inmates and persons in the community in order to protect the safety, security, and orderly operations of Bureau facilities and protect the public…The CMU is a self-contained general population housing unit.

There are, of course, alternate views to the above definition including the belief that the CMUs are Muslim units, a political prisoner unit (similar to the HSU operated by the BoP in the 80’s, and a punishment unit.

The CMUs have an extremely high Muslim population; here at Marion, it is 65-75%. An overrepresentation of any one demographic in a prison raises constitutional issues of equal protection as well as safety issues. Nowhere in the BoP will you find any group represented in such extreme disproportion. To counter these claims, the BoP brought in a small number of non-Muslims to be used as proof that the units are not strictly Muslim (an interesting note is that some of the Muslim men here have cases unrelated to terrorism). Does the inclusion of six people that are non-Muslim really negate the claim of segregation though? What are the criteria for determining who comes to the CMU? The BoP claims there are 211 international terrorists (and 1000 domestic terrorists) in their system. Yet, the CMUs have no more than 60 men at the present time. Where are the rest of these people? How does the BOP determine who of those 1200 are sent to a CMU and who to normal prisons? These are questions that need to be asked — in court and in the media.

Many of the men here (both Muslim and non) are considered political prisoners in their respective movements and have been engaged in social justice, religious organizations, charities and humanitarian efforts. Another conception of the CMU is that it is a location designed to isolate us from our movements and to act as a deterrent for others from those movements (as in “step outside the line and you too will end up there”). The intended effect of long-term housing of this kind is a profound sense of dislocation and alienation. With your mail, email, phones, and visits monitored and no human touch allowed at the visits, it is difficult to feel a connection to “the streets.” There is historical evidence of the BoP utilizing political prisons — despite the fact that the Department of Justice refuses to acknowledge the concept of political prisoners in US prisons, choosing to call us “criminal” instead.

The Lexington High Security Unit (HSU) was one such example. Having opened its 16-bed facilities in 1988 and housing a number of female political prisoners, the HSU functioned as an isolation unit — underground, bathed in fluorescence, and limited interaction with staff. In the opinion of Dr. Richard Korn, speaking on behalf of the American Civil Liberties Union, the unit’s goal was “…to reduce prisoners to a state of submission essential for their ideological conversion. That failing, the next objective is to reduce them as efficient, self-directing antagonists. That failing, the only alternative is to destroy them by making them destroy themselves.”

After an arduous campaign by human rights advocates and supporters, the BoP capitulated, stating it would close its facility (when it did not, it was sued). The judge ruled that the plaintiffs were illegally designated based on their past political affiliations, statements and political beliefs. The unit was closed and the women were transferred to other prisons.

The correlations between the HSU and CMU are many and seem to have some of the same goals as well as methods used to designate us here. Knowing they are dealing with people committed to ideals and the movements they are a part of, we were placed here in order to weaken those connections and harm our relationships. An example is the horrendous strain that the CMU puts on our familial relations — especially our marriages. It was certainly considered by the architects of the CMU that preventing visits that allow human touch for long-term prisoners would have a disastrous impact on our relationships and would lead to weaker inmates.

Finally, the CMU can be viewed as “the stick” — a punitive unit for those who don’t play ball or who continue to express political beliefs anathema to the BoP or the US government. Although I am not aware of the BoP’s criteria for sending people here (due to their refusal to release specific CMU information), it is curious who is and who is not here. Out of roughly 18 codefendants in my criminal case, I am the only one at a CMU (the remainder of them are at low and medium security prisons). The same goes for a member of the SHAC7 campaign, Andrew Stepanian, one of 6 defendants in his case who was sent here for the last 6 months of his sentence. Other men here have codefendants at the Terre Haute CMU while others have codefendants at normal federal prisons. Despite numerous Freedom of Information Requests, the BoP refuses to grant the documents that specify the rules governing transfer to the CMU. Remember, hardly any of the men here have received any disciplinary violations and some have been in general population over 15 years! How can someone be okay in general population for that long and then one day be seen as a communication threat?

So, I have hypothesized about the goals of the CMU. Let me discuss the many problems and injustices associated with the existence of the CMUs.

Due process
More appropriately, a lack thereof. A term I never thought much about before my imprisonment, due process is:

…the conduct of legal proceedings according to established rules and principles for the protection and enforcement of private rights, including notice and the right to hearing before a tribunal [my emphasis] with the power to decide the case.

I was moved from FCI Sandstone, against my will and at a moment’s notice, with no hearing and thus no chance to contest the reason for my transfer. A FOIA request recently received states I was redesignated May 6th, my transfer was signed the next day and I was moved on May 13th with the reason given as “program participation”. Since I got here, I have not had a hearing to contest the claims made in the “Notice to Inmate of Transfer to CMU, ” some of which were woefully inaccurate. Instead, I was told I can utilize the administrative remedy process (which I have done to no avail) and request a transfer after 18 months of “clear conduct”.

The irony is that all prisoners who violate prison rules are subject to a series of disciplinary hearings in which they could offer their defense. For legal units such as Florence ADX (Supermax) or the control unit program, there exists a codified set of rules and hearings for transfer to these locations. The BoP has deliberately ignored this process and has instead transferred us to this special, brand-new CMU without due process. My notice of transfer was given to me 12 days after I arrived!

Similar to the callous disregard for due process (and the US Constitution), there is no “step down” process for the CMU. Unlike the ones that exist at Florence ADX, control units or even the gang units, the CMU has no stages, no requisite amount of time we are to spend here before being sent back to a normal prison.

Because these preceding programs are specifically for prison misbehavior, there is a logical and orderly way to finish the program and eventually transfer. For us, the BoP has set up a paradox — if we are here for our offense conduct, which we cannot ever change, how can we reasonably leave the unit? In its “Admissions and Orientation” guide for Marion’s CMU, here is what they say:

Every new commitment to the CMU will be evaluated by his unit team regarding his suitability for incarceration in this institution. If, for some reason, the inmate is deemed not acceptable for confinement in this unit, he will be processed as expeditiously as possible…

[I am still roughly 10 months from my 18-month period in which I must wait before requesting a transfer. Considering the fact that all my remedies have been denied, I am not hopeful about this.]

CMU as Secret
In addition to the due process and transfer issues, there is the secretive and illegal manner that the CMU was created (Note: for historical perspectives, it needs to be stated that the CMU was established roughly halfway through the second term of George W. Bush and his Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.)

In April 2006, the BoP proposed a “Limited Communication for Terrorist Inmates” policy, which suggested new restrictions for “terrorists” and “terrorism related inmates” such as:

1) One 6-page letter per week.

2) One 15-minute phone call a month.

3) One 1-hour visit a month.

A coalition of civil rights organizations signed a letter of protest criticizing the proposed rules and raising numerous constitutional, practical and ethical objectives. The outcry appears to have caused the BoP to reconsider it and just 6 months later, open the CMU at FCI Terre Haute quietly. Since the BoP never sought public comment on the new CMU, it certainly appears to be a violation of the Administrative Procedural Act (APA), an argument a federal judge in Miami raised in response to a prisoner’s legal challenge to transfer to the CMU.

The unit is functionally an open secret. While the BoP circumvented the standard public comment (and feedback process), it has sought to get around this by describing the CMU as a “self-contained general population unit,” implying that the unit is legally and penally no different than a normal unit at an FCI. There is no mention of the CMU on the BoP’s website (ww.bop.gov) or USP Marion’s subpage on the same site. You will not find extensive Congressional hearings on the subject — other than a July 2008 subcommittee hearing in which it appears that the BoP director was not fully forthcoming on the CMU36. Letters here are stamped “USP Marion,” not CMU, and the unit is called “I Unit” by staff. (An interesting anecdote: while on transit in Winter 2009, I met men from the FCI here and asked them what they knew about I Unit. Without hesitation, they said, “That’s where the terrorists are.” They informed me this is what BoP Staff routinely told them.)

Media queries are met with silence or vague information. Requests by the media to interview me by coming to Marion have been denied — due to it “being detrimental to the safety, security and good order of the institution.” There still is no Program Statement on the CMU — a legal requirement, outlining the specific rules of the CMU and its designation criteria.

Because of this, and the general refusal of the BoP to hand over relevant documents through FOIA, it is impossible to determine the specific reasons why one is sent here — and thus, how to contest this process. In effect, the CMU was created on the fly, with no eye toward legality; they are free to operate it in whatever manner they choose.

Communication Management (The Promotion of Isolation and Alienation)
The most painful aspect of this unit, to me, is how the CMU restricts my contact with the world beyond these walls. It is difficult for those who have not known prison to understand what a lifeline contact with our family and friends is to us. It is our link to the world — and our future (for those of us who are fortunate enough to have release dates). Prison authorities and architects are well aware that those with strong family ties and in good communication with their loved ones are well behaved and have significantly lower rates of recidivism. The BoP, in theory, recognizes this by claiming they try to situate us within 500 miles of our homes. Mostly, this is a cruel farce for many prisoners — I have not been within 1000 miles of my family in 2 years.

The most Orwellian aspects of the CMU are in how they manage our communications:

A) Telephones- at my previous prison, I was able to use the phones for 300 minutes a month — days, nights, weekends and holidays — basically at any point I was not in my housing unit (6am-10pm). Here, we receive one 15-minute phone call a week. The call can only take place between 8am and 2:30pm, never on weekends or holidays and must be scheduled one and a half weeks in advance (we can choose a back-up number to call but if neither picks up, we don’t get a call). The call is live-monitored and recorded. Not only do we receive one fifth of the minutes granted to other federal prisoners but the call is also very trying for our families — all of whom have day jobs and many of whom have children in school. The CMU requires calls be made in English only — a difficult demand considering over half of the men here speak English as a second language (this restriction is not present at other federal prisons).

B) Visits- At FCI Sandstone, I received up to eight visiting days a month (56 hours) — contact visits in which I could embrace my wife, play cards with my nieces and share vending machine food with my visitors. These visits were my lifeline. I got about twelve of them in eight months and it aided in my adjustment to prison.

The CMU restricts our visits to one four-hour non-contract visit a month. One short visit through two inches of plate glass with cameras hanging overhead and my visitors stuffed in a four-and-a-half by three-and-a-half-foot stuffy booth — a tight squeeze for two. The visits can only take place on weekdays from 8am-2pm — no more Christmas or Thanksgiving visits — and worse, no physical contact (Consider what it would be like to have no contact with your loved ones. What if you couldn’t hug or kiss your lover, partner, wife, husband? What would that do to you?) I find myself riddled with guilt when I ask friends to spend $500 to fly across the country, drive three hours (and repeat) for a four-hour non-contact visit. I’m lucky though, having people who will do this. Many of the men here can’t afford it or don’t want to subject their children to this reality.

C) Mail- We can only send out mail once a day and we cannot visit the mail room to send out packages. We are one-hundred-percent reliant on the one staff person who deals with our mail to do so and sending a box home is a laborious procedure. We must leave our envelopes unsealed so that staff can read, copy, scan and send to whatever other agency studies our correspondence. A letter to NYC takes roughly seven to nine days (which should take five). Letters sent abroad, especially those not written in English, could take a month or more — a common complaint of some of my fellow prisoners.

Staff here has an interesting reading of the rules governing legal mail leading to the charge that they open our legal mail (this is the subject of an administrative remedy I filed with the BoP Central Office in Washington DC). The rule states that the lawyer’s name must be clearly identified and that the envelope must say “Special Mail- Open only in the presence of inmates” and yet staff has opened my legal mail that said “Law Offices of Jane Doe” stating that it should have said, “Jane Doe, Attorney at Law”! The staff looks for any reason to disqualify our legal mail as protected and gather intelligence this way. In doing so, they violate the sanctity of the attorney-client confidentiality principle.

Most of my violations have been petty — a package has more than twenty pieces of paper or a friend kindly enclosed stamps. A few instances though amount to censorship and a limiting of political expression and dialogue. See Appendix B for a detailed discussion of these instances.

D) Media Contact- Although requests have been made to interview people in the CMU, none have been granted to date. This is a violation of the spirit of the BoP’s own media policy. There is an imperative on the Bureau’s part to control and ultimately suppress information on the CMU from making it to a mass audience.

Daily Life at the CMU
Neither one of the two CMUs were built for long-term habitation. The Marion CMU was the site of the Secure Housing Unit (SHU), the USP that closed here in 2005. Terre Haute’s CMU is in “D-wing” — the site of the former federal death row.

The CMU was seemingly converted to its current use with the addition of televisions, steel tables, and new wiring and yet it is not suitable for long-term use due to its “open cell” design (i.e. with bars). With 25 prisoners, our movements are restricted to two housing ranges (hallways about 100 by 12 feet); a recreation range where we also eat (consisting of seven cells with a computer, typewriter, barber shop, religious library, social library, art room and recreational equipment); and a small rec yard (all concrete, a lap equals one-eighteenth of a mile, four cages with two basketball hoops, one handball court, a weather awning with tables and some sit-up benches). We are lucky to be visited daily by a resident bird population of doves and blackbirds, and overhead, the occasional hawk or falcon (ironically, as I write this, I overhear warnings from staff that if we continue to feed the birds, we will receive violations). The appearance of the yard with its cages, concrete, and excessive barbed wire has earned it nickname “Little Guantanamo” (of course a punitive unit with seventy-five percent Muslims also contributes to the name as well).

The conditions here are not dire — in fact, the horror stories I have heard over the last two years have convinced me it is far worse at many prisons and yet, I believe it is important to be descriptive and accurate — to dispel fears (about violence, for instance) but also to demonstrate just how different life is for us at the CMU.

There are many things we lack here that other prisons in the federal system have to offer:

1- A residential drug/alcohol program- despite at least one person here having completion of it ordered by the court.

2- Enough jobs for the prisoners here- There is not nearly enough jobs for all the men here and most are extremely low paying.

3- UNICOR- This is Federal Prison Industries which has shops at many federal prisons (including this one outside the CMU). These jobs pay much more, allow men to pay their court fees, restitution and child support and, as the BoP brags, teaches people job skills.

4- Adequate educational opportunities- Until recently, we did not have GED or vocational programs. Due to inmate pressure and persistence, we now have both of those as well as a few prisoner-taught classes but no college courses at all.

5- Access to staff on a daily basis- At other federal prisons, you are able to approach staff members at lunch every day, including the Warden. Here, we get (at most) two quick walk-throughs a week, usually taking place early in the morning. You are often left waiting days to resolve a simple question.

6- Law library access- We have a very small law library here with only twenty-five percent of the books required by law. We can only request books twice weekly and those are only delivered if the other nine hundred prisoners at the adjacent Medium are not using them. We lack Federal Court and Supreme Court reports as well as books on Immigration Law (fifty percent or more of the men here face deportation). This lack of access makes for an arduous and ineffective research path.

7- Computers- We have four computers for our email system (two for reading, one for printing and one that we were told would be for legal but it still isn’t working). Unlike my previous prison, where we had forty computers with a robust computer-class program, or like other prisons that teach a vocational computer course, we have no such thing.

8- Access to general population- Being in an isolation unit makes for a situation in which we cannot have organized sports leagues and tournaments due to not having enough people at all. This may not seem crucial but sports are a very useful diversion from the stress of prison life and separation.

After reading the preceding sections, perhaps like me you are wondering what really is the purpose of the CMU. In short, the SMU is Florence ADX-LITE for those men whose security points are low and present no real problems to staff. From my interactions with the men here, I can say with certainty, that people here are remarkably well-behaved and calm — many without any disciplinary violations. If these men, like myself, don’t get in trouble, and have been in the system for some time, why are we here? Consider my case.

My short time in prison prior to coming to the CMU consisted of two months at MDC Brooklyn and eight months at FCI Sandstone. I had never gotten in trouble and spent my days as a clerk in psychology, working toward a Master’s degree, reading, writing and exercising. My goal was to get closer to home and my loved ones. In April 2008, I filed a “hardship transfer” request due to my mother’s illness and her inability to travel to Minnesota to visit me. I had my team meeting, and my security points were lowered. Weeks later, I was moved to the CMU.

The irony is that I was moved to the CMU to have my communication managed, but what changed in that one year to justify this move? If I was a danger, then why did the BoP house me in a low-security prison? The same applies to many of the men here– some have been in general population for twenty years and then suddenly a need to manage their communication is conjured up. During my pre-CMU time, I had used 3500 phone minutes and sent hundreds of letters. If there was a problem with my communication, shouldn’t the BoP have raised this with me? My notice stating their rationale for placing me here attributed it to me “being a member and leader in the ELF and ALF” and “communicating in code.” But if this is true, then shouldn’t I have been sent to the CMU as soon as I self-reported to prison in July 2007?

The CMUs were crafted and opened under the Bush administration as some misguided attempt to be tough on the “war on terror.” This unit contains many prisoners from cases prosecuted during the hyper-paranoid and over-the-top period after 9/11 and the passage of the USA Patriot Act.44 The number of prosecutions categorized as terrorism-related more than doubled to reach 1,200 in 2002. It seemed that every other week, there was some plot uncovered by overzealous FBI agents — in Lackawanna, NY, Miami, FL, Portland, OR, and Virginia and elsewhere (never mind the illegal wiretaps and unscrupulous people used in these cases). These cases may not be headlines anymore but these men did not go away — they were sent to prison and, when it was politically advantageous for Bush, transferred to the CMUs. The non-Muslim populations of these units (although definitely picked judiciously) were sent there to dispel charges that the CMUs were exclusively Muslim units.

The codified rationale for all prisoners being transferred here are “contact with persons in community require heightened control and reviews” and “your transfer to this facility for greater communication management is necessary to the safe, secure, and orderly function of Bureau institutions…” Should an increase in monitoring of communication mean a decrease in privileges? If the goal is to manage our contact with the outside world, shouldn’t the BoP hire enough staff so that we can maintain the same rights and privileges as other prisoners (since the party line is that we are not here for punishment)? The reality is the conditions, segregation, lack of due process and such are punishment regardless of whether the BoP admits it or not.

Forward!
Where to from here, then? Does the new President and his Attorney General take issue with segregation? Will Obama view the CMU, as he did with Guantanamo Bay, as a horrible legacy of his predecessor and close it? Many people are hopeful for an outcome like that. On April 7th, 2009, Mr. Obama, while in Turkey, said, “The United States will not make war on Islam,” and that he wanted to “extend the hand of friendship to the Muslim world.” While that sounds wonderful, what does that look like in concrete terms? Will he actualize that opinion by closing the CMU? Or will he marry the policy of Bush and condone a secret illegal set of political units for Muslims and activists? What of the men here? Will he transfer us back to normal prisons and review the outrageous prosecutions of many of the CMU detainees? If it can be done with (former) Senator Ted Steven’s case, it can be done here.

While lawsuits have been filed in both Illinois and Indiana federal courts, what is needed urgently is for these units to be dragged out into the open. I am asking for your help and advocacy in dealing with this injustice and the mindset that allows a CMU to exist. Please pursue the resource section at the end of this article and consider doing something. I apologize for the length of this piece — it was suggested to me (by people way smarter than myself) that it would be best to start from the beginning and offer as many details as possible. I hope I gave you a clearer idea of what’s going on here. Thank you for all your support and love — your letters are a bright candle in a sea of darkness.

White Flight from football to assault rifle

Lacrosse baggataway warriorRyan dons the rest of his gear in the car. Pads, armor, helmet, even mouth guard. I adjust the rearview mirror downward until I see his small frame in the backseat. We’re only halfway to practice and he’s already biting down, breathing through his nose, focused straight ahead. It’s the same routine for football, except today he’s got a lacrosse stick across his knees. In his grip, I should say. When we pull the car to the edge of the parking lot, he jumps and literally hits the ground running. From my height he gives me the sense I’m a helicopter pilot who’s dropped soldier reinforcements to join the team on the pitch. There’s a steep hillock between Ryan and the field, but his charge never slows, he ascends like a Cavalry of One, his stick brandished like an assault rifle.

Would an M16 be held any different? The difference between football and lacrosse is that your little assault squad is armed.

In 1763 a band of Chippewa Indians seized Fort Michilimackinac by feigning a game of baggataway, the Native American origin of lacrosse. The Indians pretended that an over-spirited drive led players over the fortifications and within minutes they’d stormed the ramparts.

In a spirit of honoring American Indian tradition, like the harvest celebration of Thanksgiving, American dads are pushing a new sport unto the youth athletic season. Because the first early adopters where also the first white men to hit the New World, the sport now has a Mayflower WASP identity too.

Lacrosse has an exotic appeal in spite of its New England tradition. It’s sort of field hockey gone aerial, full court jai alai with armor, East Coast blue blood rooted with the authentic red bloods, the original old money land owners.

Is that what’s behind the lacrosse resurgence? As Ryan’s team wrapped up the other day, they passed baseball diamonds and could not hold back from chanting “lacrosse, lacrosse” toward the children playing baseball, as if to instigate a cross-sport rivalry. Lacrosse teams are still relatively scarce. On weekends they have to cross neighboring metropolitan regions to play each other.

How many sports programs do you need to round out your kids? Boys have baseball, football and basketball, among the big team sports. Neither of which are the biggest sports internationally. Soccer and handball. Curiously both those require little equipment. They are perfect for the Third World, but imperfect for consumer cultures which have wheels of commerce to drive, especially in recreational pursuits.

Which could explain why Lacrosse teams have to traverse great distances to encounter adversaries. The usual cross town rivals can’t pony up the money for this game.

Lacrosse is White Flight from football. Most schools have barely enough money to keep their athletes in football gear, let alone a completely redundant lacrosse kit. And so the only kids playing lacrosse are from families who can afford the hundreds extra for the specialized equipment. Added bonus, there are no players bringing a black athletic advantage to the game. Like the other equipment intensive sports of the northern climes, lacrosse is a venue where white boys can dominate, and give their accustomed advantage some elbow room.

I remember a fencing instructor encouraging prospective young pupils at a toney gym, about a peripheral advantage to the sport. Ivy League schools offered fencing scholarships, and prospects outside the usual New England states would be at an advantage for consideration. It was the first glimpse I had of counter-insurgency strategies in America’s race war.

Lacrosse may be the arena where prosperous families can let their white boys roughhouse with supremacy, but the joke’s definitely on them. It’s a sport for social climbers, and this ladder is definitely pointed elsewhere. Is your Playstation 3 teaching options trading or first person combat? Lacrosse is real world preschool basic training.

What does lacrosse impart that Football doesn’t? The teamwork is the same, the size differentials are still key. In both games there is only one ball, but in lacrosse, regardless who has the ball, everyone has a stick. If ever there was a sport which prepared athlete soldiers, lacrosse is it.

The sport of real blue bloods was always Rugby. In England, where commoners play rugby, you can always tell the rugby veterans by their broken noses and missing teeth. In America it’s the preference of the prep schools and private colleges, where offspring of the affluent can acquire scars without fear that it will hinder their job prospects because their futures are secure.

America’s white settlers weren’t blue bloods, they were the ground troops dispatched to seize the continent. It looks to me, the same American Dreamers are being tweaked again into service of the empire. The poor bigoted middle class is turning their boys out for real war.

Hot Dog!

harry the dirty dogThe swearing in of the White House Dog is upon us, as the ever vigilant American press reports that Obama’s dog may debut Tuesday! Unfortunately the President has decided to pick a Portuguese water dog simply because it has a cute and ‘IN’ brand name.

My entire family is certainly deeply depressed about this as we had expected that our very own Colorado Peace Dog, Dirty Harriet, would have made a much better pick, and WOULD HAVE BEEN PICKED, if Dennis Kucinich had only become President instead of the fake imitation liberal the DNC gave us on the sly. A peace dog was considered way too radical by Joe Biden to ever be allowed into the White House, so Dirty Harriet never got interviewed for the post.

At least, let us hope that the new dog is not executed like Hillary eventually did with Socks, the Cat. Though, before Socks died he did get much better medical care than Americans ever did out of the Clinton family. Unfortunately, Socks was no longer able to deliver the proper image for Hillary and so ‘had to be put to sleep’, as the expression goes. He was shedded, in other words.

We have no report yet about whether the Obama family will be getting any official aquarium fish, mice, gerbils, or hamsters? So we must sill wait with baited breath for any sign that other animals will be anointed by Barack, or not?

PETA officials say it is way too early to tell still, and are encouraging the Royal Family to release all chickens, pigs, cows, and frogs as a gesture of goodwill as they consider the animal world and their position about wild and domestic life. If not, they are planning to throw a shoe full of animal blood at the President at the earliest possible opportunity, though the woman doing it will be extremely sexy.

This also will be used as a test to find out if the policy on torture use has been changed any at all, or whether it has all been merely cosmetic words, by the now, not so New, Administration? Good luck, PETA. And good luck, Thanksgiving turkeys.

(NO PETA member was used or harmed in the writing of this report) Please write and let us know how you feel about the selection of the Portuguese water dog for executive dog. A good pick? Or a bad one?

Bush, McCain still haven’t fulfilled their promise to the Troops

Two years ago Bush said, at a Thanksgiving dinner attended only by troops who were vetted to be loyal enough to not ask embarrassing questions (the other soldiers got to eat cold MREs for Thanksgiving) that “If only my wife and my Dawg support me, WE will stay in Iraq.”

Then got the HE part of WE smuggled out of Iraq within hours, the same way HE was smuggled in earlier. Leaving the rest of the WE part to clean up after his stupid coward ass.

He repeated his False Bravado last summer in Afghanistan, saying he envied the Troops for their romantic and heroic mission but… Dog-gone it, he had a prior business commitment in Washing Tundy Sea that prevented him.

I wish he’d left his poor ol’ Dawg out of the equation, his Wife is dumb enough to stay with him, but that’s her own stupid fault.

So far la menage Bush is in Texas and still not making any moves eastward.

Mr Bush, if you DO go, don’t actually go on any missions. I have friends and relatives in what was formerly your publicly funded Private Corporate Army, and I would just hate to lose one or more of them because they had a Jackass like yourself backing them up.

Leave that part to the REAL men, m’kay?

Oh, that’s right, you already do…oops, my bad…

McCain echoed the same lying “Yeah, I’m behind you guys all the way” (as far behind them as he could possibly get) insincere sentiment this past year.

Mr Bush, Mr McCain, you and your gold-digger wives can go there, you have your Corporate Dictatorship firmly in charge there… or so your propagandists tell us.

One of them just today told us that YOU brought democracy and freedom to Iraq.

Just, you know, leave that poor ol’ Dawg here. Miz Laura and McCindy have a voice and can speak for themselves.

Oh, and send back the plane and the pilot when you go.

You won’t be needing them, and WE did after all pay for them.

Walmart trampling is Black Friday PR

Walmart blitz line“BLACK FRIDAY” BREAKING NEWS- What do you make of the trampling of a Wal-mart worker by crazed bargain hunters at Long Island super center first thing on the day after Thanksgiving? Crazy shoppers, or beguilingly crazy bargains? Which most aroused your curiosity? Savage crowd behavior, that’s nothing new. But maniacal consumer behavior in the mist of a darkening economic crisis –that’s PR whitewash.

Mumbai ‘Jewish Center’ itself a center for promotion of Jewish terrorism and a few other thoughts

expel-the-muslimsJust what sort of ‘Jewish Center’ in Mumbai, India was attacked this Wednesday night and into Thursday?

In fact, this was the Chabad-Lubavitch center there, and not one of the many other Jewish centers in Mumbai. This group of sectarian Jews is Messianic and racist to the core, and is well connected historically to Kach, the Kahanes, and The Jewish Defense League, all of which were Jewish terrorist groupings and individuals. They are the core Right Wing group of the Jewish settlers that are stealing from and murdering Palestinians in their own lands. These Chabad-Lubavich racists have a long history of links to Jewish pro-terrorist activities in the New York City area, too, and have leading US political figures often times giving both covert and overt political support to them.

Chabad Votes For Racist This article gives a glimpse of the role of Chabad-Lubavich in the rabid Israeli settler community, where they are leading advocates of Israeli expansionism at the expense of the native Arab population. Their historical roots are with Jewish terrorists like Baruch Goldstein, who gunned down in cold blood and killed and wounded over 150 Muslim worshippers inside an Islamic holy site some 14+ years ago.

Yes, I know that little of this history is known by Americans, still the ‘terrorism’ is coming from all sides and the fact that the Hindu Indian government has increasingly promoted pogroms inside its own borders against Muslims (and Christians, too) should not go by unmentioned, and unnoticed. Neither should we be missing the connections to the US government’s own acts of terrorism against the Muslim community worldwide. We are seeing 9/11 enacted all over again, but this time on Indian soil and in not so extensive and dramatic a manner as planes colliding into buildings. Yet, the reasons here are much the same as before though in the attacks on the World Trade Towers and the Pentagon.

The Mumbai Chabad-Lubavitch building was one of about 8 or 9 other targets chosen by this unknown group of people to terrorize. The other places, outside of the train station which might have been an accident when some of the armed men of the group were surprised, seemed to have mainly targeted the more elite, English speaking tourist and business class types (Mumbai being india’s financial equivalent of Wall Street, New York) plus a Bollywood elite cinema, Bollywood (Mumbai/ Bombay) being home of the Indian equivalent of Hollywood. What might have been the over all motive?

Sadly, the principal motive might have simply been to continue to create the panic of the type that the Bush Administration fought so hard to instill after 9/11 ….a panic that may ultimately be the factor that financially will sink The US Empire by self-bankrupt.

The current Indian government has signed onto allying itself with this US Empire and the elites of India became a target because of that. In some respects, this almost looks like India’s no-Thanksgiving Day of 9/11. In dirty wars of this sort, messages are always being sent back and forth, usually through acts of terror between one side and the other.

Amazing how quiet the US government is being about it all? Maybe the power elites here in the USA are hoping that nobody notices the similarities between what happened in New York City of 2001, and what happened in Mumbai 2008? Sh…. don’t look at our ‘success’? ‘Global War on Terrorism’? What humbug!

Buffalo Bill Lives at Fort Cody Nebraska

fort-cody-trading-postFT CODY, NEBRASKA- On I-80 as you pass North Platte, sits the Fort Cody Trading Post, home of the Free Buffalo Bill Museum Emporium. What had been the Ogallala, Neb, Sioux Trading Post, moved in 1969 to follow the travelers rerouted from Hwy-30 to the new interstate, and changed its focus from the Native American to the Ugly American.

Buffalo Bill Cody earned his moniker by eradicating America’s buffalo herds. Over a million buffalo were killed each year during the 1870s. According to the museum, Mr. Cody labored to feed a sudden East Coast appetite for buffalo tongue, and a fad for buffalo fur coats. The display confessed: “Unfortunately the buffalo carcasses were left to rot on the plains.”

History books had been less forthcoming. They record that Cody was hired by the railroad builders to supply food for their workforce. He and his team were contracted to supply twelve buffalo a day. Does that come a little shy of a million? Accounts also wink at the risk Cody ran of coming against unfriendly Indians while engaged in the task.

When BB Cody wasn’t scouting for the railroad and the US cavalry, he was touring the world to exhibit the red skinned savage. Fort Cody featured a miniature 20,000 piece, hand-carved, animated model of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show.

On an opposite wall, among a fantastic collection of western guns, clothing and cowboy gear, was an undated tintype depicting Bill posing with fellow scouts, cradling his favorite rifle which he called “Lucretia Borgia.”

In recent years, government documents have revealed a different story. It turns out the white men leading the charge westward were frustrated that the Plains Indians had what looked like an unlimited food supply. The buffalo kept them clothed and fed, and the nomadic tribes followed the herds like their own moveable orchards. One of the strategies to force the Native Americans from their land was to eliminate their source of food, and basically their livelihood.

Most Americans have been kept oblivious to this version of history. Should we doubt that most of the participants were keenly aware of the strategy, if perhaps indifferent to the fate of the red savage? Does it matter?

Under the pretext of building a security wall in Palestine, Israel is separating the Palestinians from their olive orchards, often by uprooting the orchards outright. American troops in Iraq have destroyed date palm orchards using the excuse of having to clear the populated areas of cover for insurgents. In Vietnam, defoliants were used to despoil large areas, rendering them incapable of yielding food. Troops also poisoned wells. It’s called the scorched earth policy, and by the way, it’s a war crime.

If Americans don’t come to terms with the crimes we committed here, or are committing elsewhere, how can we expect our soldiers to find cause to refuse the orders next time? The public’s consent is always being manipulated by having to hold a certain regard for the soldiers. Out of respect for the memory of its veterans, in current events, to “support the troops.” After a point, we have to lay the blame with both commanders and perpetrators. Vietnam was genocide. Iraq is genocide. Those over there are doing it.

fort-cody

Where’s the independence on Independence Day?

American FlagThe Fourth of July is celebrated as America’s ‘Independence Day’ but where’s the independence? Sure, you’re free to get drunk, barbecue up some meat product on the grill, shoot fireworks off dangerously, and run your mouth about why one just supposedly has to vote for McCain or Obama, BUT…

Yes, but where’s the independence in Independence Day? If you have low expectations don’t worry about it OK? But some of us do think about it some and we’re still working on obtaining Independence for ourselves, our families, and our communities. There’s really little to celebrate yet.

Look, Independence Day was a flawed day from the very beginning, and just like our many other very flawed national holidays like ‘Columbus Day, Thanksgiving, etc., it just lacks real substance big time. Can’t you sense that? The Fourth of July is just a very shallow celebration, with the flag waving and all. Americans do not have independence. No, we have no more independence than a group of serfs under the King once did. We are merely blinder and more ignorant than the serfs were, it seems.

We live in a top down authoritarian society, and our lives are ordered around to the most minuscule detail. The not so hidden hand of authoritarianism is everywhere, and it tells us how to think, and what to do. Many of the more daft of us don’t see it much though. We’re too busy earning the bread, shopping for bread, and shitting to notice how society is actually arranged. We don’t quite know why so many of us are miserable?

We see the guns, we see the orders, we see the lack of respect, but many of us just can’t seem to figure anything out. So some go to church, some take dope, some just smoke their cigarettes. Some sell Mary Kay, some sell real estate, some sell Amway, or do Ebay. Some play the lottery, some play Bingo, some shoplift for their gambling instead. Indian Casino anybody?

All this supposedly is a sign of liberty and independence, according to the pundits! Watch TV, play public radio on KRCC… you’ll see what I am saying. They’ll do their puff pieces about the Fourth.

But seriously? Where’s the independence on Independence Day? I don’t see it. It’s just not there.

Community should learn to welcome immigrants

Imagine my surprise today, to open up The Gazette and see the Metro section of the paper with a column by opinion writer Barry Noreen titled “Community should learn to welcome immigrants.” I have read this paper for two years now and had not yet found any commentary by its opinion writers that I agreed with 100%. And here it was at last!

Noreen spotlighted the efforts of Megumi Nakamura and others in the community to befriend immigrants coming into the US, rather than to persecute them. Reminds me kind of the All- American holiday Thanksgiving even, where American immigrants made an annual meal to thank those that were kind and gave them assistance. For Megumi, everyday should be Thanksgiving American style, rather than persecution American style with ICE, which is the new name La Migra has given to itself.

One thing missing from the commentary though, was any thought that most immigrants are fleeing from countries that our own US government has Big Time helped mess up. Fact is, our own government is all over the world right now, messing up the lives of other peoples. It has been this way for decades now, too. So we should try to stop allowing government officials to do that so that maybe we would have less poor people entering our US Borders looking for a new life, for their families and their kids. And we should learn to welcome those that do enter meantime.

Barry Noreen, thank you for being brave and bucking the Far Right trend over at The Gazette. It was a brave thing to have written the column the way you did. Thanks.

I had a blue Christmas without you

Advent wreath
I felt more than a bit empty around Christmas this year. For the first time it seemed completely devoid of meaning. No one believes in God. No one believes in Santa. There’s nothing particularly thrilling to give or get. There’s just an obligation to pour money into the pockets of corporate pricks and fill our houses with crap none of us needs, or even really wants.

I remember Christmas as magical. But, as I reflect on my childhood, the magic of the holiday was closely tied to religious ritual. Coming into church on a Sunday soon after Thanksgiving, back when Christmas lights didn’t begin showing up by Halloween and could still be cause for celebration, we’d find the Advent wreath suspended from the rafters. Oh, yes! Christmas is coming! The three purple candles, a pink one for the third Sunday of Advent, a white candle for Christmas Eve. Each candle with its own story and symbolic meaning.

The beautiful haunting Christmas carols. O Come O Come, Emmanuel was my favorite. It still gives me goosebumps. The nativity display. The Christmas story with its shepherds and wise men and camels and bright stars and inns and stables and mangers and gold, frankincense and myrrh. Oh my! I just loved it all.

My poor darling children have none of this, thanks to me. I, like many of my generation, have largely rejected organized religion. Unfortunately, I now understand hypocrisy and oppression and believe that the church is guilty of all the sins it forbids. But what do we do about our spiritual longings? How do we find meaning and impart that meaning to our children who are daily bombarded with despicable messages from our commercialized world? For meaning surely does exist.

I am at a loss when it comes to recreating Christmas magic without a little baby Jesus to help me. And I can’t just pull him out of a box in the attic and blow the dust off of him so he can lay in his manger Christmas morning. My parents did this, and it was okay, because we knew all about him, every day of every year, so it didn’t smack of phoniness like it does when I try to bring him into the Christmas mix.

I have no answers. My children sense my sadness around Christmas, and they know it has something to do with religion. But it doesn’t really. It has to do with meaning, significance, all things lofty and sublime. It has to do with my remembered feelings of joy and sheer awe at the birth of the Savior. It’s the Christmas spirit that, without a miracle, my children will never know.

Pinheads in High Definition

Or ESPN sports centerI hadn’t yet seen HDTV, or watched a football game in high definition I guess. Over Thanksgiving I had the chance, and got a closeup of the Sports Center-esque after-party where guys in chip covered Barca-loungers watch suits at a conference table lend a business air to their giddy analysis. What made this so different in Hi Def? Maybe you knew it already. Each of these dapper jock-industry everymen wears a flag pin!

Pins with the American flag on them.

I know there’s a school of thought which urges us not to relinquish our patriotic symbols to the bastards making them look so horrifically bad. Might I ask hypothetically, when might we consider the symbol irretrievable? When you drop the lipstick into the toilet, public or private, I’ve learned from women, it’s irrecoverable. You have to retrieve it, obviously if it’s your toilet, but that’s it for the lipstick.

A flag is a symbol for what you stand for, by definition, a standard. When bad guys take it, do bad things with it, make it stand for THEIR ideals: rape, torture, theft, murder, mass murder, genocide, supremacy, imperialism, conquest, a new world order, wouldn’t it be fair to retire what you thought the flag meant? It’s theirs, leave it to them. This isn’t just a little shit with which they’ve desecrated the flag, this is shit with which they’ve varnished the damned thing. This is karmic shit with which they’ve DAMNED the symbol of our higher ideals. Our higher ideals used to shove immorality into innocent throats until they thought they were suffocating or drowning and for good measure until they were dead.

That is the symbol which each of those TV jocks wears on their lapels. Militant US supremacy.

Ghosts of Thanksgiving Past

Devon praying
I was obsessed with Bernadette Soubirous when I was a Catholic schoolgirl. You’ll recall, or perhaps you won’t, that the Mother of God appeared to Bernadette at Lourdes in 1858. Or so Bernadette claimed.

Filled with unbelief and not wishing to delude the gullible faithful, the church hierarchy convened a Council of Enquiry to check out Bern’s story. Oh how the Bishop wrestled with his monumental burden!
“But if Bernadette does not want to deceive, was she not deceived herself? How could she believe to see and hear what she did not see and hear? Was she not the victim of hallucinations? How could we believe her? The wisdom of her answers reveals in this child a spirit of goodness, a quiet imagination, good sense beyond her years. Religious feelings never showed in her a spirit of exhalation; nobody could prove in the young girl neither intellectual disorder, nor change of mind nor unusual personality nor morbid feelings which would allow her to give way to a creative imagination.”

The Bishop of Tarbus, after only four years’ deliberation, decided that Bernadette was worthy and the people were given permission to believe her. The divine presence revealed, because of the moral purity of one young girl. Hmmmmm.

Upon hearing this story as a ten-year-old I determined to be the next Bernadette. I was certain I could be as holy and pious as she was. I secreted myself in my room at night and quietly recited the rosary, lingering over the Hail Marys. Surely the Blessed Virgin would take notice of my glow-in-the-dark rosary beads and appear to me as I lay in my little bed. I worried about my response. Should I feign surprise? Perhaps a sense of peaceful recognition? What if she expected tears of joy? Would I be able to produce them without delay? What if she appeared and my acting was deemed inferior? What would happen to poor Mary?

I enrolled in a Creative Dramatics class to ensure my success.

Despite years of piety, countless novenas (guaranteed to work! follow instructions exactly or no money back!), mental sojourns along the Via Dolorosa, Easter vigils, midnight masses, prayer flags, candles, medals–still no Mary. After learning that Marie was synonymous with Mary in the eyes of linguists everywhere, my final act of radical devotion saw me refuse to take a confirmation name. There could be no saint that I hoped to emulate more than the Mother of God. Mary, are you listening?

I finally gave up hope the summer after my sophomore year. I burned my uniforms and transferred to a public school. I decided that if Mary was too good for me, I’d find another other-worldly persona that liked my obviously flawed self. Who could be bad enough for me? Perhaps Satan?

After a short stint as a bad girl I found Jesus and stopped grieving my fractured relationship with Mary. I was drawn to the fundamental purity and wisdom of that most-revered and infallible document, the Holy Bible. In my youth, the Bible was clad in white leatherette with garish gold writing and a big picture of Jesus. It was placed in a prominent place in every Catholic home. But read? I was sure the Pope would not approve. Popes are popes and have need to pontificate. This requires a certain degree of cooperative ignorance on the part of the pontificatees, does it not? Feeling like a teenage boy with his daddy’s Playboy magazine, I sat in my room and studied the Bible. I could not believe how deceived I had been! Satan himself had been standing between me and the Holy Spirit, the only true path to peace and enlightenment. Jesus had been there all along, quietly knocking on the door to my heart, and I had been so caught up in my works-based salvation, my meager attempts to be holy, that I missed his call. Fuck.

Thus began a twenty-year stint as a religious fundamentalist. I will spare you most of the details of my quest to reconcile my inherently sinful nature with my holy and perfect god. I will say that I had a team of prayer warriors beseeching god to reveal himself to Dave, my militant atheist husband. I begged the Lord to allow the scales to fall from Dave’s eyes so he, too, could see as clearly as I did. It turns out that it wasn’t only Dave who was in grave danger. It was pretty much everyone I knew. And every unreached person in the four corners of the earth. It was up to me personally to pray without ceasing for each and every one of these lost souls. Their eternal destiny depended entirely on me. Holy fuck. I had wasted a lot of time on Mary.

Try as I might I could not suppress my rational nor my spiritual side forever. An academic approach feels safe when treading in parts unknown, so I embarked on a study of comparative religion. Surely most of the world could not be held accountable for truths that God in his infinite wisdom had not chosen to reveal to them. And surely it could not possibly fall on me and a handful of the idiotic chosen to make certain that the world had a chance to hear the good news. While I was sporting my hard-won Mind of Christ, my mind developed a mind of its own. What a crock of shit! was the refrain that replaced the time-honored Praise the Lord!

I’ll cut to the end. I believe that there is something more knowing, more powerful, more permanent, more loving than me. But to attach a personality, a gender, a shape, even a part of speech, to a universal force is not only foolish, it’s often tragic. If you want to see human frailty in action look no further than organized religion.

Spiritual reality has been a part of mankind since the beginning. We do our best to give our ephemeral understanding structure. We fashion an idol that resonates within us. Where food is scarce and money more so, perhaps god resembles a golden calf, the highest and best we know. Where women suffer together and depend upon the earth’s bounty to bear daily burdens, perhaps she is a goddess who permeates the natural world. Men stripped of their voices and forced to serve a capricious master create a suffering servant who will rule heaven and earth one day. When our basic needs are met and we are perched on the top of Maslow’s ladder, we have nowhere to go but inward. Divinity resides within.

At the deepest place we are the same. We are one tribe. We are protected and loved by a universal force that knows no bounds. We are free to define it as we will. Our understanding of it may change over time, a reflection of our growth. We must give others the same freedom to be, to know, to discover, to change. I am thankful that I have had that chance. That I still have that chance.

Commerce takes Visa or anti-Visa

Life takes Visa not cashI love this commercial. Life Takes Visa. Life –or here its commerce equivalent– is a well choreographed bakery, a happy flow of patrons interrupted only by a hapless customer who bottlenecks the process by presuming to pay with cash. The scenario presages acceptance of the viewer/consumer’s role as willing cog, but it offers an important economics truism to those who would aspire to monkey-wrench such a dehumanized construct. What does it take to disrupt a well oiled machine? A trifle.

Ever wonder what would happen if a store’s customers all decided to shop the same day? We see it the day after Thanksgiving, but otherwise most of us distribute ourselves evenly across the calendar. It’s the market’s invisible hand and retail business models are fashioned accordingly. What happens when someone organizes a boycott, or otherwise interferes with the statistical flow? We can see it in this ad: Chaos and collapse. A boycott doesn’t have to convince a majority of consumers to curb their spending, it need only reach a number critical to upset the applecart. As management practices streamline labor efficiencies, even a small interruption in demand can wreak a disproportion of havoc.

It will not be for lack of a credit card (though certainly for lack of consumer credit!), but fliers or a picket line, can effect the balance sheet, most of all because the potential liabilities they pose cannot be predicted, and margins of profit cannot then be insured. The demise of your worst nightmare of a blood-sucking capitalist is but a garlic-breath away. You may be kept to feel by the corporate media that you are powerless to contravene, but here’s an ad they are too cynical to have censored. YOU can bring their machinations to a cathartic stop.

Same bait, same switch

Troops needed to watch the Mexico borderWell looky who’s used the protect the border bait and switch before! Ninety years ago, same illegal immigration scare, same perp.
 
I happened across some posters used to recruit soldiers during WWI. Here they raise the Mexico bugaboo to ease worries that enlistment into the military would automatically mean duty in the trenches. “No More Men Are Needed” at the western front. Oh really?! It reminds me of something Air Force recruiters were telling Colorado College students on Thanksgiving 2005. US troops would be out of Iraq by Christmas. Potential enlistees need not fear being sent to Iraq because America was already pulling out. Public opinion had already forced their hand, they said, and we were pulling out.

Algonquin, Iroquois, Hmong, Montagnard, Pashtun, Kosovars, Bosnian Muslims, Kurds, Timorese

What a tragic list. The list is actually much, much larger than the one I put here as the title of this thread, but the unifying theme is a simple one. It is a list of smaller national groupings that have cooperated in some way with major imperialist powers, usually with tragic results to themselves. It is a list of smaller cultural, racial, national groupings that have gotten historically used and buffeted by much larger powers, that themselves were acting in their own perceived interests within much larger world conflicts.

An interesting and poorly taught history, is the history of the conflicts between the Algonquin vs the Iroquois, French vs the British, then enter the Americans, too with their own internal conflicts. Much easier to teach are the fables of Pocahontas and that of ‘Thanksgiving’. How much brutal warfare for the Algonquin and the Iroquois as they tried to side with one group of Europeans against the other. Their efforts to survive were only minimally successful.

Then are the stories of the Hmong and Montagnards, who cooperated in one degree or another with the French and the US in their imperial efforts to dominate SE Asia. They did so in rebellion against their own domination within their regional societies by the more numerous Vietnamese, Lao, and Khmer peoples. But as a result, they became soon ‘strangers in their own land’, so to speak. Many ended up in far away exiles in the US and elsewhere.

And look what has befallen the Pashtun, used by the US and the US allied Arab dictatorships to battle against the exSoviet Union which backed different Norht Afghan groupings of other national backgrounds. Much more complicated than just blaming it on the Taliban or ‘Muslim extremism’, as the idiot US Right Wing does so.

The Kosovars remain with 60% unemployment years after Clinton/ Gore’s war. What have they gotten by cooperating with US imperial interests against their neighbors, the Serbs? Little, it seems. Would ‘independence’ bring any better? It is doubtful, since Serbia is unlikely to easily forget such an evil alliance between Albanian and American. And the Bosnian Muslim? He faces a backing that now is in a religious war against the very same religion backed just yesterday.

The Kurds? They had certainly legitimate reason to rebel against Saddam Hussein and the his Arab Sunni grouping. But now they are linked irremediably to the CIA and Pentagon, even as those same sinister forces back Kurd oppression next door in Turkey. Iraqi Kurdistan is now the better off section of Iraq, yet what a dangerous situation for the Kurdish people long term.

And the Timorese? Half of Timor remains part of Indonesia, and the other half is now an impotent pseudo state, dependent on the UN, Australia, and the US for its semi-starvation bound existence. Its 1,000,00 people are divided into an incoherent number of language, tribal, ethnic, and cultural groups, whose only field of unity is that most everybody is of Christian religion, legacy of Portuguese imperialism.

US/ Australian imperialism split off a Christian portion of Indonesia and mainly to help control better the oil resources for themselves, and not the people being manipulated. There can be little independent and local economy in such a miniscule and divided half of an island. Meanwhile, Indonesian Timor has more population, more economic activity, and is not a society that is essentially a colony dependent on White racist Australia. It is part of the Indonesian archipelago of 17,000 islands, and not a colonialist split off.

How sad the results most always are, when small national, ethnic, and cultural groupings get picked up and carried along in the power plays by various imperialist world powers. What will happen to the Balkans, will they ever be able to restabilize themselves now that imperialism has reentered into their affairs in such a major way? What will happen to the Kurds, Shia, and the Sunni/ What about all the ethnic groups of Afghanistan and Pakistan? All now victims of US power plays.

Comparing the death tolls

In the aftermath of bombings and indiscriminate attacks in Iraq which reached record numbers on Thanksgiving, I read that the combined Iraqi civilian casualties raised the Baghdad death toll to 202. For the day. For Baghdad. The count starts anew each day.
 
Meanwhile the US soldier death toll is 50 and climbing, for the month. For all of Iraq. Why the differing units of measure? Why not consider weekly totals for both Americans and Iraqis, to facillitate comparison?

I know something’s wrong on the grocery shelf when the price of some items is given per ounce, while a similar commodity is described per pound. Somebody doesn’t want the price comparison weighed, and I haven’t yet taken a calculator with me to discover who.

Why this discrepancy of value for human lives? I’m thankful at least we are new counting the Iraqi lives lost, although the numbers are themselves distorted. US forces are conducting more air attacks where it’s more difficult to measure the casualties. Won’t somebody come out and say it, we care quite a bit less about Iraqi lives compared to American lives? Even though the Iraqis were likely innocents, often children and children.

How can news outlets simply set the standards of measure as if the most important factor was to have the result fall within manageable ranges, figures we can wrap our head around? Or more accurately, figures they can wrap around our head.

What’s going to happen when the daily toll of civilian deaths reaches higher? Will they break the day into parts, a morning Iraqi death toll for example? To compare not too insanely with the US deaths per month? What a ruse.

Activism home grown

My siblings and I frequently talk about our “activist” upbringing. We grew up with parents who walked their talk. Our mom hung out with the radical nuns protesting around Rocky Flats. And I can’t remember a single Thanksgiving where we didn’t have a couple of homeless men sitting at our dinner table. Our parents introduced them by name and we were expected to be gracious and make interesting conversation.

Then there was Robin, a retarded young man who was obsessed with a pair of moccasins that we had in our front closet. My mom made a rule that the front door be always open so that Robin could come in for his moccasins any time he wanted. As a mother, I question the wisdom of this now but, at the time, we just accepted that at any time Robin might walk in and open our front closet. It wasn’t anything we worried about….just another one of mom’s people.

At the 1975 fall of Saigon, Divine Redeemer, our home church with hundreds of families, decided to sponsor a family fleeing Communist oppression. They asked that someone step forward to host a family of 8 people for several months. Guess who stepped forward? Much to our horror, my mom and dad did. We had 6 of our own children, aged 6 to 15, living in a small house and suddenly we had 16 people living under the same roof. They didn’t speak a word of English. We certainly didn’t speak Vietnamese. Our mom and their dad were able to communicate in broken French.

We reminisce about how our mom used to read little kid books to them, VERY LOUDLY, as though she could make them understand English if only she shouted. They used to stare at us and we back at them while she did this…all of us trying hard not to laugh.

Because my dad had been a part of the war in Viet Nam and a number of families we knew had been widowed during that war, we lost friends because of the choice we made to support this family. I didn’t understand this at all at the time. It’s taken many years for me to understand that to stand for something, anything, is to risk the wrath of those who don’t agree.

As kids, we remember it as crazy fun. We made Chef Boyardee pizzas and they chopped off the heads of weird little fish and made carrots look like flowers. We were all about the same age, they dressed weird, we dressed weird….we laughed and figured out how to communicate even without words. They showed us martial arts. We taught them to hula hoop. We laughed our asses off day after day.

Once, the 10-year-old girl, incredibly beautiful, her name was Ngoc (pronounced Nop), and I sat on the swing in the front yard. She placed her hand in front of my face, put up her index finger and said “Mot.” “Mo,” I said, knowing that she was counting. “Hai.” “Hi.” “Bah. Bon. Nam. Sau.” After she taught me to count to ten she grabbed my hand and rushed me into the living room where 15-20 people sat, always at the ready, listening to the Vietnamese singing American anthems, which was both lovely and hilarious since they didn’t really understand the words. “Ma cunry tis a vee. Swe lan a liverty.” Ngoc got everyone’s attention and suddenly 20 people were staring at me, a 14-year-old, not exactly at the age where I wanted a lot of scrutiny, and she said, encouragingly, “Mot.” I felt like throwing up but I understood that the stakes were high so with red cheeks I recited what I just learned. When I finished a loud roar went up….I swear there were even a few tears from the Vietnamese parents.

This family went on to become a success story. Ultimately, the boys, Phat, Dat and Loi, became Tony and Billy and Joey. They went to DU, studied engineering. Mom and Dad opened a successful restaurant on Federal Boulevard in Denver. The girls married Vietnamese men and carried on Vietnamese tradition on their new soil. Oddly, my two brothers married Asian women, one Vietnamese, one Thai.

This family had another baby after they came to the United States. They wanted to choose an American name to honor the country that had given them a second chance. They chose Helen. My mother’s name.

I’ve spent a lot of time over the past two decades “wasting” my time doing things that may or may not ever register on anyone’s radar. One of my inspirations has been Margaret Mead who said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” That’s what my family taught me….what I’d like to teach my own.