December 2006


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I have read a number of the essays and tributes to James Brown. My favorite is at Funky16Corners, which includes a couple of MP3 links for you to listen. There is a lot packed into this short essay, here is a brief sample:

James Brown and the Famous Flames came on like scientists in the lab; refining, synthesizing, breaking down, in search of the root and then building back up again until they found the groove they were looking for. It was evolution, and revolution. If ‘Out Of Sight’ was the first shot at Lexington and Concord, ‘Cold Sweat’ was the Declaration of Independence.
It was in ‘Cold Sweat’ that James Brown, after three years of work, decided to ‘give the drummer some’, and things were never the same.

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Keith Johnson, Deseret Morning News
Four girls console each other after a meeting Wednesday in Hyrum.
The mother of three of the girls was arrested in the
raid at the Swift and Co. plant.

ICE raids on Swift plants targeted plants that were unionized.

The ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) raids on Swift plants, that placed Christian families in concentration camps right before Christmas had little or nothing to do with identity theft, and were all about union busting and racism. ICE had warrants for 170 individuals, and chose to treat 13,000 people, in Swift plants in 6 states, as criminals, whose crime was showing up for work.

The core issue here is a failed immigration system that compounds its failure by victimizing workers.

The raids were not necessary to the investigation. As the UFCW testifies, the previous month:

four workers from the Louisville, Kentucky, Swift meat packing plant were arrested by ICE agents as part of this same investigation. ICE officials calmly went into the plant and extracted the four individuals who they were looking for. The Louisville plant was not raided on Tuesday.

The other raids could have been handled the same way IF the object was to arrest the those actually engaged in identity theft. But even that is misleading. David Bacon in American Prospect reports the raids targeted plants that were unionized.

Since passage of the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, hiring an undocumented worker has been a violation of federal law. . . The real targets of this law are workers themselves, who become violators the minute they take a job.

Arresting people for holding a job, however, sounds a little inconsistent with the traditional values of hard work supported so strongly by the Bush administration. It makes better PR to accuse workers of a crime that sends shivers down the spines of middle-class newspaper readers, already maxing out their credit cards in the holiday rush.
. . .

The Swift action follows months of ICE pressuring employers to fire workers whose Social Security numbers don’t match the agency’s database. These no-match actions have been concentrated in workplaces where immigrants are organizing unions or standing up for their rights.
. . .
It’s no accident that workers belong to unions in five of the six Swift meatpacking plants where this week’s raids took place.


The workers in the plants were treated worse than criminals. The agents stormed in

dressed in riot gear, brandishing military weapons and locking the doors to prevent anyone from coming in or out. . . In Utah, the ICE agents used skin color to identify the “suspects.” In other locations naturalized citizens were separated from the native born.

As the Salt Lake Tribune reports:

. . . she and others were forced to stand in a line by U.S. immigration agents. Non-Latinos and people with lighter skin were plucked out of line and given blue bracelets.
The rest, mostly Latinos with brown skin, waited until they were ”cleared” or arrested . . .
”I was in the line because of the color of my skin,” she said, her voice shaking. ”They’re discriminating against me. I’m from the United States, and I didn’t even get a blue bracelet.”


But the immediate and truly dreadful effect of the raids was to separate children from their parents and leave hundreds of children with no one to care for them. Heroic members of the effected communities have tried to lend a hand. One of the most distressing stories comes from the UFCW testimony before Congress:

Perhaps the most inhumane result of the ICE action last Tuesday is how it ripped parents away from hundreds of children at schools and with babysitters. In one small school district in Texas, 25 children were left in their care the evening of the raid. In Marshalltown, Iowa, a Hispanic ministry was caring for a breastfeeding infant whose single mother was detained. The baby refused a bottle and was struggling to eat. ICE transported her mother to a Georgia detention facility two days later. To this day, one week later, there a small child still with a non-relative babysitter. We still cannot locate its only parent presumed to be caught up in this raid.

Today’s selections hit a whole range of targets.

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“Play yard for children incarcerated at T. Don Hutto Residential Facility.(Photographer: Jay Johnson-Castro)

The US faith based administration incarcerated families in concentration camps right before the Christmas holiday. There are approximately 200 children among the 400 inmates of the T. Don Hutto Facility, all those incarcerated have been forced to wear prison uniforms, including the children. Some of these children are citizens of the United States. And judging from demographics, most or all of them are Christians. And there are many more Christian families in many more concentration camps in several states, incarerated without due process, following the Swift raids just before Christmas. But the Christianists who currently run the US do not believe in or follow the teachings of Christ. This concentration camp is an abomination to justice and due process, and a this Christmas internment a religious abomination to anyone whose faith actually cherishes the teachings of Christ. This raid had very little to do with catching lawbreakers. The raids were really about union busting. ICE targeted plants that were unionized, ignored due process, and punished innocents. The Bush administration are all vile hypocrites. Of course this is hardly news to anyone, but it is still distressing when they deliberately punish innocent children, especially on Christmas, and treat them as criminals.

The CCA, a private corporation, oversees the incarceration of children as young as infants.

Since it’s been admitted that families/immigrants are detained indefinitely in these facilities without due process, the CCA and companies like it, are profiting on the false imprisonment of people – since these are noncriminals being detained.And in the meantime, men, women and children innocent of committing/violating gross crimes against humanity are being criminalized.It brings a whole new definition to business profits.

They are fingerprinting babies:

I know a man who works there, a seasoned prison guard. I will call him Tommy, obviously not his real name. Tommy is a seasoned hard-ass prison guard, but a good man.

He described the incoming immigrant families holding screaming children in their arms. He described the guards taking their fingerprints, taking the fingerprints of the babies.He said it was disturbing to the most hardened prison workers to see poor families being held like prisoners, the children behind bars, crying, all of them crying. He said they were all poor and frightened. He has been around criminals for many years. These are not criminals. They are poor and desperate.

If you want to do something, I suggest contacting your Congressional representatives. I understand Homeland Security is just throwing away the messages.

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ADDED Feb. 14, 2008: Latina Lista has grown, and is now at latinalista.net. The information linked here where the links no longer work, can mostly be found in the December 2006 blog archives at her newer website: Latina Lista blog archive December 2006
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Christmas day in Ghana is a day of feasting and visiting. There is a lovely article about it posted at GhanaWeb. I know at my house people will be coming from all over to enjoy food, drink and friendship. People will be cooking all day, and the visits start before dawn. There are a number of children whose school fees we sponsor, and they and their families are invited, as well as all our other friends and family. Unfortunately I can’t be there. But thanks to cell phones I can greet everyone and keep in touch. Here is the story from Ghana Web, which also featured the Father Christmas image.

Afenhyiapa!

In Ghana, Christmas season runs from December 20th to the first week in January. This coincides with the end of the cocoa harvest, the most prosperous time of the year, which contributes to the festive atmosphere.

Ghanaians who labor far from home, in the cities, on cocoa farms, and in the mines, return home for the holiday to spend it with family and friends. Houses, schools, and vehicles are decorated with paper ornaments and crepe paper. On Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, families and friends gather to feast on rice, chicken, goat, lamb and “fufu” (a cassava-plaintain paste)

On Christmas Eve there’s often an outdoor procession, perhaps led by local musicians. On Christmas Eve and Day people go caroling house-to-house, singing traditional carols in one of Ghana’s 66 local languages. Christmas Eve and Christmas Day services feature carols and retellings of the Christmas story. After church, children get small gifts from “Father Christmas”, perhaps sweets, new clothes or a diary. People say Afishapa to one another, using an Akan (a major Ghanaian language) word that translates to “Merry Christmas & Happy New Year”.

Father Christmas

The children of Ghana might find it difficult to relate to the harsh cold of the North Pole, so their “Father Christmas” arrives instead from the tropics to play his part in the Christmas festivals.

His gifts are simple – good things to eat mostly – but his outfit is very elegant. Sandals peek out from under his bright red robe trimmed in golden fabric.

A traditional African patterned sash unites the colors of his outfit, and he wears a pale-colored cloak with a hood over his red cap. While “Father Christmas” is a holdover from Ghana’s colonial days, this was the first Black African country to gain its independence. Thus the people there have chosen the traditions they wish to keep from among the European customs, and expanded to encompass their own.

In Ghana the Christmas festival includes a special, religious service after which young people are given imported chocolates, and cookies and crackers prepared especially for this event. These are said to come from “Father Christmas”. Christmas also coincides with harvest time for cocoa, which also is generally known as a time of abundance and good cheer. Friends and relations travel to visit each other, celebrate the Christmas story, and share a wonderful feast.

Ghanaians really like to speak thier minds. I think that is one reason Ghana has preserved its democracy so far. If you read the comments on the GhanaWeb article, not all the commenters like this story or agree with what it says. But to my mind that just makes it better, that way it includes multiple Ghanian points of view. And most of the comments send best wishes to all.

These are some hard hitting cartoons.

Malaria is a huge impediment to productivity and development wherever it strikes. That is one reason it is particularly agreeable to see the recent initiatives to reduce and eradicate malaria, and reason to pray that they be successful, in Ghana, and in all other countries.

The Polish journalist Ryszard Kapuscinski has spent much time in many of the countries of Africa and is very fond of the people and the continent. One of his books, Shadow of the Sun, is a collection of essays about different places, people and events he has visited, met, and witnessed throughout the continent. He has suffered from malaria more than once, and provides one of the most vivid written descriptions of the disease. In a chapter he calls “Inside the Mountain of Ice” he writes about the onset of malaria. For those who have never suffered a malaria attack, this provides insight on why it is so devastating.

The first signal of an imminent malaria attack is a feeling of anxiety, which comes on suddenly and for no clear reason. Something has happened to you, something bad. If you believe in spirits, you know what it is: someone has pronounced a curse, and an evil spirit has entered you, disabling you and rooting you to the ground. Hence the dullness, the weakness, the heaviness that comes over you. Everything is irritating. First and foremost, the light; you hate the light. And others are irritating – their loud voices, their revolting smell, their rough touch.

But you don’t have a lot of time for these repugnances and loathings. For the attack arrives quickly, sometimes quite abruptly, with few preliminaries. It is a sudden, violent onset of cold. A polar, arctic cold. Someone has taken you, naked, toasted in the hellish heat of the Sahel and the Sahara, and thrown you straight into the icy highlands of Greenland or Spitsbergen, amid the snows, winds, and blizzards. What a shock! You feel the cold in a split second, a terrifying, piercing, ghastly cold. You begin to tremble, to quake, to thrash about. You immediately recognize, however, that this is not a trembling you are familiar with from earlier experiences – say, when you caught cold one winter in a frost; these tremors and convulsions tossing you around are of a kind that at any moment now will tear you to shreds. Trying to save yourself, you begin to beg for help.

What can bring relief? The only thing that really helps is if someone covers you. But not simply throws a blanket or quilt over you. This thing you are being covered with must crush you with its weight, squeeze you, flatten you. You dream of being pulverized. You desperately long for a steamroller to pass over you.

I once had a powerful malaria attack in a poor village, where there weren’t any heavy coverings. The villagers placed the lid from some kind of wooden chest on top of me and then patiently sat on it, waiting for the worst tremors to pass. The most wretched are those who have a malaria attack and there is nothing to wrap them in. You can see them by the roadsides, in the bush, or in clay huts, lying semicomatose on the ground, drenched in sweat, confused, their bodies rent by rhythmic waves of malarial convulsions. But even snuggled under a dozen blankets, jackets, and coats, your teeth chatter and you moan with pain, because you sense that this cold does not come from without – it’s forty degrees Celsius out there! – but that it’s within, inside you, that these Greenlands, and Spitsbergens are in you, that all those floes, sheets, and mountains of ice are advancing through your veins, muscles, and bones. Perhaps this thought would fill you with fear – were you able to summon the strength to feel anything at all. But the thought occurs just as the peak of the attack, after several hours, is gradually subsiding, and you start a helpless descent into a state of extreme exhaustion and weakness.

The malaria attack is not merely painful, but like every pain also a mystical experience . . . But this moment of discovery, too, passes, and the spirits desert us, depart, and disappear, and that which remains, under the mountain of the most bizarre coverings, is truly painful.

A man right after a strong attack of malaria is a human rag. He lies in a puddle of sweat, he is still feverish, and he can move neither hand nor foot. Everything hurts; he is dizzy and nauseous. He is exhausted, weak, limp. Carried by someone else he gives the impression of having no bones or muscles. And many days must pass before he can get up on his feet again.

Each year in Africa malaria afflicts tens of millions of people, and in those areas where it is most prevalent – in wet, low-lying, marshy regions – it kills one child out of three.

(Shadow of the Sun p.54-56, ISBN: 0-676-97374-4)

And Africa is the most optimistic region in the world. This is from a Gallup International Voice of the People Survey. This is very nice to see, as US news, if it covers Africa at all, tends to dwell on war, famine and disaster.

Seven out of every ten (68%) Ghanaian thinks that 2007 will be a better year than 2006 according to a Gallup International Voice of the People Survey conducted in November and December.
. . .
Optimism is particularly high in countries which are upbeat about economic prospects and do not have major concerns about unemployment or industrial disputes increasing in 2007.
. . .
Looking at regions across the world, as in previous years, Africa is the most optimistic region, whilst Western Europe is the least optimistic about prospects for the coming year.

I’ve been reluctant to post because the behavior of the US President is so distressing. I don’t want to ignore it, and it is hard to say anything and hard to know what to say. As Swopa puts it:

We have a president who is so wedded to his rhetoric of “victory” and “resolve” that he wants to throw thousands more troops into a meat grinder, despite the military’s unanimous resistance and only 11 or 12% support from the public, just so he doesn’t have to admit that he screwed up.

And in every appearance recently, Bush has had Cheney right behind him, to make sure he does not listen if people talk sense. As Steve Gilliard quotes:

Regardless of your feelings or beliefs about sending more U.S troops to Iraq, you must accept the painful truth that anything we do to salvage or strengthen the existing Shia-dominated government in Iraq redounds to the benefit of Iran. If we weigh in on the side of the Sunni insurgents we run a serious risk that the Shias will attack us in strength and, at least for the short time, cut our supply lines that run through the heart of Shia territory. Moreover, anything we do to militarily challenge Iran will weaken our influence in Iraq and jeopardize the mission of our forces in Iraq.

George Bush has made his choice and it is calamitous.
. . .

Bush and Cheney don’t have a learning curve, it is a flat line.

Today’s cartoons give The Decider a rough time.

The US President has just named Ghana as one of the countries that will receive part of a US 1.2 billion dollar malaria initiative focused on 15 countries.

Accra, Dec. 15, GNA
. . .
Ms Sue K. Brown, Charge d’Affaires of the U.S Mission to Ghana, who briefed the media in Ghana on a White House Summit on malaria, said the initiative called for an ambitious public-private effort to strengthen and expand malaria control efforts in Africa.

The initiative ensures the provision of new effective drugs to rural clinics, at least two doses of medicine for pregnant women to protect themselves and their unborn babies.

It also provides distribution of long lasting insecticide-treated bed nets that prevent mosquito bites and the availability of insecticides to spray on the inside walls of homes to kill mosquitoes that transmit the disease.

She said the initiative since 2005 had reached and saved more than six million people in Angola, Tanzania and Uganda and a series of proven programmes would be launched in other countries to prevent millions of deaths.
. . .
Major Courage Quashigah (rtd) Minister of Health) said Ghana was likely to spend more than 500 million dollars a year in the prevention of malaria.

He noted that malaria was an enemy to human health and impeded economic development considering the huge amount of money spent annually on it.

This is wonderful news. I hope the money is truly forthcoming, and is spent effectively.

The Unapologetic Mexican makes a particularly valid point:

DON’T EXPECT REPUBLICANS, especially, to ever want to have a serious discussion on racism. Why would they? Without a constant shovel to the furnace of the diseased psychological and spiritual undercurrents of so much of our politics and policies, they just wouldn’t have much to run on.

Hatred and fear have been the main theme and fuel of the Republican campaigns for decades, running on peoples fear of “other.” It became particularly virulent and institutionalized with Papa Bush and Lee Atwater, and has steadily gotten worse since then. That is the much vaunted southern strategy which Ken Mehlman apologized for, even as he continued it, paying for ads that successfully played on fear of interracial sex in the Harold Ford race. After all, a platform of: we loot the treasury for personal gain, while you go deeper and deeper into debt and the country falls apart, is not a winning theme. Since the truth won’t sell, fear and lies have to take its place. And since 9/11, the Republicans have been doing most of the terrorists work for them, doing as much as possible to keep the voters afraid.

I had thought the phrase “they all look alike to me” had become a joke. That to say it was to admit to being so obviously ignorant and uninformed as to be laughable. But Senator Trent Lott, R(acist)-MS, said this about the Iraqis when he spoke about the Sunnis and the Shiites killing each other:

Why do Sunnis kill Shiites? How do they tell the difference? They all look the same to me.

And Senator Conrad Burns, R(acist)-MT, in what was described as evidence of his sense of humor, belittled his critics:

They call me racist. Don’t even own a car.

Apparently for Burns, if you do not own a car, you are not qualified to express an opinion in what used to be the land of the free.

In a speech enunciating the principles for which he has worked tirelessly, respect for human rights, and the rule of law, Kofi Annan bid farewell to the UN from Harry Truman’s presidential library in Independence Missouri. In his words, quoted in The Guardian:

“More than ever today Americans, like the rest of humanity, need a functioning global system through which the world’s peoples can face global challenges together,” he said. “And in order to function, the system still cries out for far-sighted American leadership in the Truman tradition.”
. . .
“As President Truman said, the responsibility of the great states is to serve, and not dominate, the peoples of the world,” Mr Annan said.

President Bush may be imagining himself as Harry Truman, and although Annan did not mention Bush, he made it abundantly clear that Bush has acted against the principles that have made the United States a symbol of freedom and justice. History will be far more harsh with Bush than it has been with Truman.

“When power, especially military force, is used, the world will consider it legitimate only when convinced that it is being used for the right purpose, for broadly shared aims, in accordance with broadly accepted norms.”
. . .
“When it [the US] appears to abandon its own ideals and objectives, its friends abroad are naturally troubled and confused.”

And I would add that a majority of its friends and citizens here in the US are troubled and confused.

The AP reports that Citizenship and Immigration Services has been working on redesigning the citizenship test. Their goal is:

Instead of memorizing facts and details about American government and history, new immigrants will be assessed on their grasp of the nation’s ideals.

The questions are to be open ended and allow for a variety of possible answers. However, given the recent hysteria over immigration, which seems to be driven in large part by a fear of brown people, I wonder if the new questions are designed to keep brown people from becoming citizens, the way the literacy tests were administered in the past, to keep brown people from voting. In the literacy tests different questions were administered, and different answers allowed, depending on the color of the would be voter’s skin. Leaving the immigration test answers open to a number of interpretations makes this possibility particularly worrisome.

“Some of the questions are just off the wall,” said Fred Tsao, policy director at the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights in Chicago. “Other questions I found unusual. And the range of information that’s being asked for is much broader.”

You can see more about the new test by googling: US Citizenship and Immigration Services.

It is also worrisome that the questions seem to require more knowledge about our government than some of the current leaders of our government possess. The first question cited as an example is: Why do we have three branches of government. The answer is so that no one branch is too powerful. But I don’t think the current US President or his cronies understand that particular aspect of the “nation’s ideals.”

And they hit the spot as usual. See them here.

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