Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Take Your Stand

I have to ask this question again: How is it that we had the national "fortitude" (or whatever it was) to impeach Bill Clinton for something utterly inconsequential to us as a nation and yet we don't appear to have the will to hold Dubya and Dick accountable for the myriad ways they have treated the Constitution and the Rule of Law with utter contempt? This completely blows my mind. Of course, the question is rhetorical. How could there possibly be an adequate answer?

As if all the damage done by the Bushies wasn't outrage enough, it appears that it would be just too much—too divisive, too negative, too unpleasant, too ineffectual—to hold them accountable. I'm hearing things like "They'll never do any time" and "Nothing will really come of it."

The vortex of this lack of political will is none other than the Democrats in Congress, the Bushies' so-called opposition. Fearing political fallout, afraid that many will see them as complicit in Bush's crimes, they would prefer that we just go blithely on, as if the nation and the Constitution hadn't just been given a huge eight-year-long collective kick in the gut. It's been said before: "Bush's fecklessness is not an excuse for Democratic dereliction of duty."

Barack Obama's nominee for attorney general, Eric Holder, told the American Constitution Society in June that "we owe the American people a reckoning." So here I am, arms folded, tapping my foot, cocking my eyebrow. Well? How about it?

I have read that Obama wants to "let sleeping dogs lie." Shouting here: THESE DOGS ARE NOT SLEEPING!!! They are savaging the Constitution and the Rule of Law. Under what circumstances could that possibly be OK?

In spite of the walloping Republicans took in November, Obama apparently feels he needs their support in order to accomplish his admittedly ambitious agenda. Fine. You're a very persuasive leader, Mr. Obama. Convince the Republicans in Congress that holding the Bush Administration accountable is the absolute best thing we can do, not as a measure of political expediency, but as a measure of restoring our very identity as a nation. Isn't upholding the Constitution something we can all agree on?

Shouldn't Republicans be as angry as the rest of us—if not more so? Isn't it Bush's fault that they took such a trouncing in November? They're still doing everything they can to put distance between themselves and Bush (witness Senator Bob Corker thumbing his nose at Bush during the auto bailout hearings). Wouldn't agreeing to the establishment of an independent investigation of the administration's crimes be an excellent way to distance themselves from Bush?

This is not just one issue among many. Yes, there are many, many pressing issues confronting us. But if we cannot uphold the Constitution and the Rule of Law, then we may as well just throw in the towel. This is ground zero, the foundation, the core of our being. Without it, we are not ourselves, we are not the United States of America. We are a third-rate autocracy, a powerful global thug.

Moreover, if we just let this slide, we are complicit in the crimes of the Bush administration. Our silence will condemn us, and not only us but our children and the founders of our country. Is this what they fought and died for? So that we could sit back and relax while the Constitution is flushed down the toilet by the Despot-in-Chief?

The point is not to get revenge, or to get a conviction or two, or even to drag what has been hidden (some of it well, some of it not at all) out into the light. The point is that we have a duty to stand up for what's right and good and true. The outcome is not ours to determine. We must take a stand, regardless of the odds against us or the likely result.

Here's an idea: Let's all rally around our beleaguered Constitution—all of us—and work together to repair the damage that has been done. Once we're done with this project, we can resume our partisan bickering. But can't we all agree, finally, on how precious and fundamental the Rule of Law is? This administration has treated not only the American people, but the Constitution of the United States, with utter contempt. They have shredded it, trampled it, spit on it, ground it under their heel. Such heinous transgressions cannot, must not, go unanswered.

Here, gentle reader, are some ways you can take your stand.

The folks at are very concerned about this issue. They have a petition, which you can add your name to here. Then ask your friends to do the same.

Bob Fertik at has also submitted a question to, which he'd like you and your friends to vote for:
"Will you appoint a Special Prosecutor—ideally Patrick Fitzgerald—to independently investigate the gravest crimes of the Bush administration, including torture and warrantless wiretapping?"
—Bob Fertik, New York City

At the end of the first round [of voting] on December 15, our Special Prosecutor question was #6, but Obama's team only answered the first five, including one on the legalization of marijuana [pretty sure the answer was a resounding "NO"].

The second round began on 12/30 and ends at midnight on 12/31. [That's tonight, folks!] Once again, marijuana legalization is #1. We need your help to make our Special Prosecutor question #1!
  1. Sign in at

  2. Search for "Fitzgerald"

  3. This will display several similar questions, so look carefully for "Bob Fertik"

  4. Look right for the check box, mouse over it so it goes from white to dark, then click to cast your vote

When you all gather around the bubbly this evening, waiting for the ball to drop in Times Square, make voting at one of your year-end festivities. is also asking you to vote on the issues that are of most importance to you. "The top 10 rated ideas will be presented to the Obama Administration on Inauguration Day, January 20, 2009, as the 'Top 10 Ideas for America.' We will then launch a national campaign behind each idea and mobilize the collective energy of the millions of members of, MySpace, and partner organizations to ensure that each winning idea gets the full consideration of the Obama Administration and Members of Congress."

Please vote here for "Appoint a Special Prosecutor for the Crimes of the Bush Administration" at That round of voting will also end tonight. A second round will end on Thursday, January 15, so make sure to check back and vote again before then.

Finally, write to your representatives in Congress and to local newspapers about how desperate the need is for action on this. Talk to your friends. Pester your parents. Stop strangers on the street. It's really that important.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Immigration and the Labor Market

I missed this New York Times editorial because it was published on Christmas Day, when I and many others were otherwise occupied, but fortunately I caught up with it eventually, and I hope many others will as well. What I'm jazzed about here is that the incoming administration seems to understand the direct link between immigration -- both authorized and un -- and the U.S. labor market. That is good news for everyone, not just immigrants.

The best news is that the proposed labor secretary, Hilda Solis, "has built a reputation as a staunch defender of immigrants and workers." According to the editorial, "what Ms. Solis and Mr. Obama seem to know in their gut is this: If you uphold workers’ rights, even for those here illegally, you uphold them for all working Americans. If you ignore and undercut the rights of illegal immigrants, you encourage the exploitation that erodes working conditions and job security everywhere. In a time of economic darkness, the stability and dignity of the work force are especially vital" (emphasis mine).

Here's my oh-so-radical notion of what needs to happen to fix our utterly broken and brutal immigration "system." People who are able to find full-time employment in this country should be allowed to live and work here. Period. If we're going to have a truly global economy, and there is no way to escape globalization, then people -- like commerce and goods -- should be allowed to go where the markets are, in this case, job markets. Like other markets, this one needs regulation and oversight. Fine. I'm not suggesting we just fling wide the gates and invite everyone else to gorge themselves on our pie.

We need a system whereby immigrants who are already working here can obtain authorization (for themselves and their children and spouses) to stay. And then we need a means whereby a limited number of migrants wishing to work in this country can come for a limited amount of time to look for work, in a limited job market (or markets) where such workers are needed. Employers need to cooperate with immigration services, whose job it would be to help employers find qualified workers and to help qualified workers find jobs.

Immigration needs to be removed from the Department of Homeland Security and instead be its own entity. Issues of immigration are not issues of security. We are not being "invaded"; we are being helped by people who want jobs that most Americans are unwilling to take, people who are willing to work very hard, often in more than one job, just for the chance to feed and care for their families.

I assert that the the right to work should be considered a basic human right. Why some consider this a radical notion is beyond me. But if it's radical, well, then, so am I. I don't believe our borders need to be "defended," not from good tax-paying workers anyway. I believe workers should be welcomed, that workers already in this country will benefit from such a system -- all of them, immigrants and U.S.-born workers alike.

Progress on this issue is all the more likely because Latino communities all over this country helped to elect Barack Obama on November 4, pushing some previously "red" states into the "blue." Issues of fair immigration laws are near and dear to many in Latino communities. There's no doubt that Barack Obama knows that he cannot afford to ignore the pressing needs of immigrants and workers in this country. And from all appearances, he's already making a good beginning.

Of course, we must also directly address the fear, xenophobia, racism, and nativism that underlie the current policies of ICE raids and terrorizing immigrant communities, workers, and their families. That will be a much harder job than coming up with a workable and humane immigration system that would ultimately benefit everyone.

A Warning from the Universe

Years ago when I was in Amsterdam, many days I walked past a bridge with a huge sign on it, in English, that read "Abuse of power comes as no surprise." Much later I learned that it was a work by American conceptual artist Jenny Holzer. To me, that message seemed like a warning from the universe, and maybe it was. Every day I walked past it, it burrowed a little deeper into my consciousness and stayed there, ready for the day when I began paying attention to how power is used and abused.

Hardly a day has gone by, these past eight long years, when I have not thought about that warning. Driven by the ideology of the "unitary executive," the Bushies used the unending, ill-defined "war on terror" to amass more power than any administration in U.S. history. The founders of this country would have recognized the abuse of power for what it is, they would have been utterly horrified, and they would have known that loud, persistent, fierce dissent was the only antidote.

In my darker moments I have feared that, drunk with so much power, the Bushies would find some cataclysmic reason to assert that the transition to a new administration is too dangerous in these perilous times, that they would impose martial law and retain power, undoubtedly in the interest of national security. For the first time ever, we have standing troops in this country ready to intervene in the case of public unrest. I don't think I'm being paranoid here. I will breathe freely -- in every sense of the word -- when Dubya and Dick finally step down. Until then, I'm on edge. I don't trust them for a millisecond. Or, actually, I do trust them -- to subvert the rule of law and abuse their power to whatever extent they can.

In spite of my fears, it looks like the transition will indeed take place and that there will again be a peaceful transfer of power in the United States. The president-elect holds much promise; he is very popular, well liked, widely admired -- and rightly so. He has given us permission to hope for progress toward the ideals we cherish: liberty, justice, equity, peace, the rule of law, to name only a few.

The moment they assume office, Barack Obama and his administration will face crises and disasters and abuses on nearly every front. But these are not their only challenges. Obama is about to step into the most politically powerful role on this planet, his predecessor having substantially expanded the powers of the office. It is extremely rare for leaders to scale back their own power, but that is exactly what Mr. Obama must do. He must return this country to the rule of law, whether he himself would be a tyrant or not. He must unflinchingly demonstrate that no one--not even the president, and perhaps especially not the president--is above the law. He must work to restore the checks and balances of our government.

Of course, Congress must work with him toward this goal. And, most important, we the people must also. We must work to restore and defend the rule of law and the Constitution and to guard against abuses of power and the rule of tyrants. We put the fox in charge of the hen house when we let Dubya assume the presidency, a disastrous error that will take many, many years to remedy. By being alert and ready, by participating and raising our voices, we will do much to rectify all that has gone wrong in the last long eight years.

Our rights, our civil liberties, and the rule of law are not to be compromised under any circumstances. The founders of this country knew how precious and fragile liberty is, and many of them gave their lives for it. We can do nothing less than dedicate ourselves to restoring what has been lost and guarding it vigilantly until our last breath.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Winter Solstice Prayers

When I pray, I ask for exactly what I really want, not what seems realistic or possible or likely. In my experience, miracles are more likely when you look for them. Please feel free to add your own.

I pray that the women of this earth would be healed and strengthened and empowered and fulfilled, especially the women of Darfur, Congo, and Central America.

I pray that the children of this earth would be well nourished and well cared for, well educated and well respected, and that they would be seen as the miraculous treasures they are.

I pray for the end of violence, especially violence as policy. I pray for protection and healing and refuge for those living in lands ravaged by violence and war.

I pray for a worldwide end to bigotry. I pray that peoples of different races, and cultures, and backgrounds would stop viewing each other with suspicion and hate and would begin listening to, loving, and respecting each other.

I pray that every person and every family would have a good source of income, that everyone who wants to work would be able to work and would be fairly treated in the workplace and fairly compensated.

I pray that my country would return to the rule of law, complete with checks and balances.

I pray that my country and the world would have better leaders, leaders who would listen, and think deeply about the complex issues every nation faces, and that they would be granted wisdom and vision to help establish peace and prosperity and good will and understanding.

I pray that the people and communities whose lives have been devastated by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement raids would be healed and restored and provided for in abundance and that the ICE raids would end immediately.

I pray that people who want to work hard and support their families would be welcomed to this country with open arms and that we would all be able to see what a blessing they are to our communities and to our economy.

I pray that peoples of different faiths and cultures would learn to understand and respect each other.

I pray that we would learn to love and respect those who are different from us in any respect: skin color, language, nationality, culture, beliefs, body size, sexual orientation ...

I pray that we would all learn how to forgive each other and be instruments of healing and joy in each other's lives.

I pray that my culture would be freed from its rampant, insidious, toxic consumerism.

I pray that we would learn to cherish the earth and take care of it and bring it back from the brink of destruction before it's too late.

I pray that people all over the world would have their human rights and their human dignity protected and honored and upheld.

I pray that policies driven by greed, fear, bigotry, and arrogance would be replaced with policies driven by generosity, courage, fairness, and compassion.

I pray that we would all learn how interconnected we are and that we are more alike than we are different.

Finally, I pray for a special little blessing of joy for all those who read this.

Merry Christmas, feliz navidad, joyous Kwanzaa, happy Hanukkah, blazing solstice, happy diwali, and a rollicking whatever else you might be celebrating!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Christmas Gift List

In her Sunday Roundup today, Arianna Huffington requested help with her Christmas gift list. Here are my suggestions:
For Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld, prosecution for war crimes.

For Senator Bob Corker, a pay cut so that his salary and benefits exactly match those of the employees of the automakers based in Tennessee.

For Ron Gettelfinger, president of the UAW, a pay raise so that his salary and benefits exactly match those of Senator Corker before his pay was cut.

For Rush Limbaugh, a padded cell.

For Sarah Palin, lifetime memberships in PETA and the Sierra Club.

For Barack Obama, a progressive mandate. Oh wait, we gave him that already. Maybe he needs another one?

Saturday, December 20, 2008

The Auto Bailout and a Tale of Three Cars

Here are some strings I would like to attach to the auto bailout. Instead of insisting that GM and Chrysler dramatically reduce their debt and lower workers’ salaries, let’s insist that they make cars people actually want. No amount of bailout money is going to help until they figure this one out. Come on, people, it can’t be that hard.

Focusing on the UAW and workers' wages lets Detroit off for its failure to manufacture better, more appealing cars. Moreover, lowering compensation so that it would be more comparable to that of employees of the foreign-owned manufacturers would reduce the cost of a car by approximately $800 according to the New York Times. "An extra $800 per vehicle would certainly help Detroit, but the Big Three already often sell their cars for about $2,500 less than equivalent cars from Japanese companies, analysts at the International Motor Vehicle Program say. Even so, many Americans no longer want to own the cars being made by General Motors, Ford and Chrysler" (emphasis mine).

My own experience as a car owner is a case in point. My first car was a used Dodge Omni I named Captain Quirk because it had more than its share of peculiarities. I can't remember exactly what it was I needed to do every so often under the hood to get the thing to go, but I actually acquired a small amount of car-specific mechanical prowess out of necessity. Everything started to go wrong when the odometer reached about 80,000 miles. All at once Captain Quirk became altogether unreliable.

My next car was a used Dodge Colt. I can’t even remember its name, if it even had one. It also began falling apart at about 80,000 miles. When I finally traded it in, the salesman actually laughed when he saw it. It wouldn't start in the rain -- something about a cracked distributor cap, I think. It was essentially useless. The car dealer was doing me a favor to take it off my hands.

I traded the Colt in for a brand-new 1992 Toyota Camry, which I named Claire, after a friend who had a very old Volvo that was like a member of her family. I knew right away that Claire was a car I would drive for many years and many miles. Just like my friend’s Volvo, Claire became a member of the family. When Tom and I got married, his family dressed her up as a Holstein cow (Wisconsin humor), complete with an inflated rubber glove as the udder.

I’m still driving Claire to this day. She has more than 180,000 miles on her, and the only major repair she has ever needed was to have the radiator replaced. She looks fine, she's comfortable, and she drives beautifully. She has reasonably good gas mileage. I plan to drive Claire until she falls apart beneath me. I’m hoping for another hundred thousand miles or so.

Apparently many Americans have had car-owning experiences not dissimilar to mine. Cars made by the Big Three have been a pain in the arse. Cars made by Japanese-owned companies in particular have been a pleasure to drive, whether or not we are goofy enough to consider them a member of the family.

So, Big Three, your mission is to utterly transform yourselves, inside and out and from every angle. First, build some really great cars that are safe, affordable, comfortable, fuel-efficient, user-friendly, and have plenty of eye appeal. Excise the planned obsolescence. All it ever accomplished was to teach us that you make crappy cars.

Then, hire yourselves some crack marketing wizards. Retire the names Chrysler, GM, and Ford. Just get rid of them. They’re history. All the lemons we have bought from you have left a very sour taste in our mouths that we won’t soon forget. Rebrand yourselves altogether. Come up with zippy new Japanese names, not only for the models but for the companies themselves. We’ve come to associate Japanese names with quality cars. Go with that; exploit it. There’s no trademark on the Japanese language or on Japanese names.

Finally, consider moving your base of operations to another city. Sorry, Detroit. These companies have messed up so badly that the name of the city where their products were manufactured has become synonymous with lemon.

Ultimately, if you Big Three don’t figure out how to make cars Americans want to buy, then all the bailouts in the world aren’t going to keep you from going under.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Hate Speech on HuffPo: "A Nation of Overweight Porkers"

Frank Schaeffer posted "Why Is the USA Screwed -- Maybe Forever?" on the Huffington Post today. It's one of those "where are we going and why are we in this handbasket" diatribes, a cheery little screed morosely listing all that is wrong with our culture and why we are utterly doomed forever.

There I am, innocently reading along, when I hit a list item that sends me reeling. So I wrote a diatribe of my own back to Mr. Schaeffer. It took me forever to edit it down to HuffPo's limit of 250 words. I'm not going to link back to the article because I'm angry and don't want anyone benefiting from blatantly hateful language. But here is the link to my comment. If you happen to be incensed as well, feel free to post a comment of protest yourself. Here's what I wrote:
I take serious exception to this: "Why are we a nation of overweight porkers, incapable of losing weight[,] who may well have shorter life spans than our parents (declines in smoking aside)?" Here, Mr. Schaeffer, your ignorance is showing, along with your bigotry.

In spite of the so-called obesity epidemic, life spans continue to increase. You assume that the thin are in some way morally virtuous and that the fat are not. You also assume that fat people eat more than thin people do, but there is no evidence for that. There is, however, a clear correlation between ill health and a sedentary lifestyle, especially when combined with poor nutrition. But that correlation applies to people of all sizes.

Please, before you indulge in any more fat hatred, educate yourself. Start with The Diet Myth by Paul Campos.

Fat people are not part of what's wrong with our culture, but the stigmatization of fat people is. If shame made people thin, no one would be fat. The problem is not "overweight porkers." The problem is our obsession with body size, our knee-jerk judgment of people who are larger than average, and our refusal to accept that good people come in all shapes and sizes.

Insulting fat people does not do anything to alleviate what's wrong with our culture. And don't you ever call me a porker again, Mr. Schaeffer. You owe me an apology.

A Better Auto Bailout

At last, W has seen his way clear to give GM and Chrysler their bailout: $13.4 billion now and another $4 billion to be made available in February. Alas, the overseer of the bailout will be none other than our esteemed Treasury secretary, Henry Paulson. And we're giving him this oversight because he's done such a crack job of overseeing the Wall Street bailout? Heckuva job, Hank! I'm sorry, but I wouldn't trust that guy to oversee my bank account, and it's not much to crow about.

In any case, not bailing out GM and Chrysler would have had disastrous consequences for the economy, not only in the United States but all over the world. This bailout, unlike the one for Wall Street, comes with stipulations, and apparently there will be consequences if the stipulations aren't met. According to the New York Times, "The loan deal requires the companies to quickly reduce their debt by two-thirds, mostly through debt-for-equity swaps, and to reach an agreement with the United Automobile Workers union to cut wages and benefits so they are competitive with those of employees of foreign-based automakers in the United States."

I suppose that last bit is meant to appease the Corker crew in the Senate, who scuttled the auto bailout last week in their attempt to skewer the UAW. What's with the obsession with the wages of the auto workers? Do these folks just not like it when workers are well compensated? Do they loathe the middle class? If so, how the hell did they get elected?

Do you really want people representing you in Congress who think they know how much you should and shouldn't be paid and want to be sure you aren't making too much? Does it bother you that your elected officials care more about castrating the UAW than they do about preventing a worldwide economic depression?

That the American people take this buffoonery sitting down is absolutely beyond me.

Here's a great idea my husband came up with for an auto bailout that would actually work: provide very low-interest loans, or even handouts, for Americans to buy U.S.-made cars. This would help Detroit, stimulate the economy, and actually help Americans in need who are hurting because of the economic crunch. The loans/handouts could be made available to people most in need, people with a good driving record, particularly no DUIs.

Furthermore, a Main Street auto bailout would give the American people a chance to vote with dollars regarding which of Detroit's products they find most appealing, possibly even encouraging automakers to produce cars people actually want.

I was so overwhelmed with the brilliance of Tom's idea that I invited him to post on the Worley Dervish from time to time, if he's willing. Here's hoping he takes me up on my offer.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Today's Torturous Reading

I was distressed earlier this week that so few seemed to be taking note of Cheney's blithe admission in the ABC interview that aired on Monday (Dec. 15) to having authorized torture. Things are looking decidedly less distressing today, in the sense that more people are taking notice. Of course, the news itself could not be more distressing.

If you read nothing else, be sure to read Glenn Greenwald's post: Demands for War Crimes Prosecutions Are Now Growing in the Mainstream

And if you go on to read only one more thing, the New York Times weighed in today on its editorial page: The Torture Report

At Think Progress: Cheney Defends Torture: It "Would Have Been Unethical or Immoral" for Us Not to Torture

At the Huffington Post, David Latt: Cheney Taunts Bush, Pardon Me or Else

At Harper's, Scott Horton: The Torture PresidencyBlogger: The Worley Dervish - Edit Post "Today's Reading"

And finally, I believe every American should read the report released last week by the Senate Armed Services Committee, Levin, McCain Release Executive Summary and Conclusions of Report on Treatment of Detainees in U.S. Custody

Update: On her program tonight Rachel Maddow interviewed David Rose, author of Tortured Reasoning. Rose points out that not only is torture morally repugnant; it just doesn't work. The intel gained from it is generally useless.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Appoint a Special Prosecutor for the Crimes of the Bush Administration

Members of are voting for the causes they most want the Obama administration to pay address. I believe that holding the Bush administration accountable for its crimes is of paramount importance to our democracy (see my previous posting on Facebook).

Please go to and log in (or register if you haven't already).

Then go to this idea for change: Appoint a Special Prosecutor for the Crimes of the Bush Administration and vote for that idea.

Then e-mail it to your friends, post it on Facebook, Digg it, and promote it in any way you can.

There is no political will for this in Washington, and Obama won't do it unless we push him. This looks like another good way to push for the change we need.

Update: You can just click the widget to the right. Easy shmeezy!

"U.S. Vice President Admits to War Crime"

In yesterday's Daily Dish, Andrew Sullivan declares "U.S. Vice President Admits to War Crime." Well at least somebody understands the implications of Dick Cheney's recent interview with Jonathan Karl of ABC News.

Is it just me, or should Cheney blithely, casually admitting to authorizing torture interrogation tactics at least register in the media? Why this isn't being splashed all over every front page in the nation (and around the world) is completely beyond me. If this isn't big news, what is? And yet, it doesn't even seem to be treated as news at all. If it weren't for Rachel Maddow and Andrew Sullivan (anyone else? if so, please let me know), the ABC interview would have escaped my attention entirely.

In his interview with Karl, Cheney says, "I think those who allege that we've been involved in torture, or that somehow we violated the Constitution or laws with the terrorist surveillance program, simply don't know what they're talking about."

Huh? Am I the only one who is confused here? I thought it was well and widely understood that waterboarding is indeed torture. And, as Rachel Maddow pointed out on her show last night, the United States has prosecuted individuals who performed waterboarding as war criminals. Apparently Cheney feels free to define terms in whatever way suits him. Never mind that the rest of the world believes that waterboarding is torture and that torture is, well, bad.

In answer to Karl's very next question -- "Did you authorize the tactics that were used against Khalid Sheikh Mohammed?" -- Cheney says, without missing a beat, without an iota of hesitation: "I was aware of the program, certainly, and involved in helping get the process cleared. . . . It's been a remarkably successful effort. I think the results speak for themselves."

Excuse me? the results? Let's think: It is widely acknowledged that torture does not produce good intelligence. What it does do is engender hostility toward the United States, which does not have the effect of making us any safer. Just the opposite. Moreover, the international profile of the United States has been defiled by this reprehensible practice.

Does anyone else think Cheney seems a bit, oh, say, sociopathic? According to Wikipedia, a person with an antisocial personality disorder, otherwise known as a sociopath, shows "a pervasive pattern of disregard for, and violation of, the rights of others."

Karl goes on to ask Cheney, "In hindsight, do you think any of those tactics that were used against Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and others went too far?" Cheney's cheery, unflapped reply: "I don't."

Karl: "And on KSM, one of those tactics of course widely reported was waterboarding . . . even that, do you think was appropriate?" And again Cheney replies with his head held high: "I do."

Cheney's demeanor is every bit as alarming as his admissions. He's not hedging at all. He's proud, he's defiant, he's enjoying himself! You can tell he thinks this waterboarding is great stuff. Very successful tactic. Nothing wrong with it whatsoever.

This is a dark stain on our history that must be addressed legally and morally. We can't just go skipping along because, hey, we have some new guys coming in and we promise they won't do this nasty stuff. Oh yeah, we were just reeling from 9/11. We've come to our senses now. We promise we won't do it again. Does anyone really think that's an acceptable response?

Crimes of this magnitude must be addressed by the nation: in public, in a court of law. Otherwise we are all complicit in this monstrosity. It is a disgrace in which we all share. This is utterly, altogether, and in every way unacceptable. People of good conscience should not allow this to go unchecked, not to mention unnoted.

No more of this! We have to stand up against torture or it will eat away at our identity as a nation. As it is, this country is altogether unrecognizable to me. And I do not tolerate this horror without loud and repeated protest. Enough! Not on my watch! Not in my country!

Update: Glenn Greenwald is also duly outraged. Glenn rocks!

Update 2: The Guardian gets it!

Update 3: And check out this great post on the Lost Albatross: Disproportionate Force

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

So Much for Post-Partisanship?

I don't understand why the auto bailout is unpopular with the public. It seems evident that the ramifications of allowing the U.S. auto industry to tank will be felt deeply and painfully in every nook and cranny of this nation -- and around the world -- and would be a decision deeply regretted for a long time to come.

Of course, this bailout should be handled better than the Wall Street one. Let's start with a little accountability. Please? But with good oversight, the revitalization of the U.S. auto industry could have all kinds of far-reaching positive effects: greener vehicles, the end of planned obsolescence, better fuel economy.

I'm appalled that the Senate Republicans are so crass as to be willing to let the entire world economy tank for the sake of taking a political shot at organized labor. They are unconscionable bullies. I hope they have miscalculated on a grand scale and that their enormous hubris winds around and bites them in the butt big time.
About Auto Bailout
Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

MoveOn: Restore the Rule of Law

I wrote a few days ago in my Facebook notes about the importance of holding the Bush administration accountable for the various ways it broke the law. There is nothing more important facing our country in this moment; all our other crises pale in comparison--yes, even the rapidly downward-spiraling economy. Because a thriving economy can't offset the horror of living in a dictatorship.

Besides vigilantly upholding and safeguarding the rule of law, we have no other means of protecting ourselves from tyranny, and tyranny is more imminent than many may imagine. (For a truly terrifying account of just how imminent, check out The End of America: Letter of Warning to a Young Patriot by Naomi Wolf.)

I think Obama is unlikely to break the law or disregard the Constitution in any of the ways Bush has done. I believe Obama values the rule of law and intends to uphold and defend the Constitution. But I get the feeling there is very little political will on the part of Obama or the Democrats in Congress to investigate and prosecute the crimes committed by the Bush administration. And I believe that it's critically important that we do so.

Sooo.... that means it's up to us, the general rabble, to effect a groundswell demand that the Bush administration be held accountable. In thinking about how we could possibly do this, my first thought was to write letters: to our representatives, to President-Elect Obama, to newspapers. Still, it's a very tall order to create a noisy enough clamor to get Congress and the new president to act on something so difficult when we're in the middle of so many other national crises (Iraq, Afghanistan, the economy, etc. etc.). All well and good. Letters do help, and I will be writing mine and posting them here.

But this morning I got an e-mail from asking about what is the most important goal MoveOn should focus on right now. When I saw that timely query, I thought "hmmm... how to create a groundswell..." No matter what you think about MoveOn, you have to admit the organization has a lot of members and a fair amount of political clout.

There are lots and lots of important issues that MoveOn could focus on, but many of them will get plenty of attention with or without MoveOn's support: health care, the economy, closing Gitmo, ending the occupation of Iraq. But holding the Bush administration accountable won't happen if we leave Obama and the Dems to their own devices. So that's why I think MoveOn should focus on that, because without the clamor of the rabble (i.e., us), it just isn't going to happen.

So I'm asking you to go to MoveOn and add your voice to mine about the importance of focusing on restoring the rule of law. Here's the link: Here's what I'd like you to enter:

1. MoveOn's top goal in 2009? (10 words max)

Restoring the Rule of Law; prosecuting Bush administration crimes
2. Category
Accountability for Bush
3. You can add your own explanation for why you think MoveOn should focus on the issue you chose. I quoted myself, and you can feel free to quote me too if you like:

If we don't hold the the Bush administration accountable, there's absolutely nothing that will prevent future leaders from believing that they also are above the law. It's an invitation to tyranny. If we're really against torture, extraordinary rendition, warrantless surveillance, the undoing of habeas corpus, the establishment of the "unitary executive" (read: king), then we must act. If we don't, it will be clear to the world, to our children, and to our future leaders that we really don't have the courage of our convictions when it comes to the rule of law, we really don't care if they chew up our rights and civil liberties and spit them out. We absolutely cannot afford to let this slide. Nothing less than the future of freedom is at stake.

If you do add your vote to mine on MoveOn's site, would you please post a comment here letting us know that you did? Thanks! Let's get this groundswell going!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Everything I need...

"Everything I need is available to me in abundance." I mean to really believe that. Really really.

At the very bottom, the rock-bottom basis of everything, at the very innermost core, I think life asks each person certain questions over and over again. And this is one of the most important ones. Do you have everything you need?

There is no factual basis for the answer to this question. It is altogether a matter of faith. It is not a matter of your circumstances. You could be among the richest people in the world and still believe that scarcity stalks you. You could be among the most abused and impoverished people on the planet and still believe that what is of the utmost importance is available to you in abundance.

If you believe in a world of abundance, then you can afford to be generous, in every way imaginable. Your generosity and your sense of security will drive the decisions you make: who you love, who you support, who you vote for, what you do with your money.

If you believe in a world of scarcity, then you are likely to view each human being you encounter as competition. Your fears and uncertainty will drive your decisions.

Most of the people who are in positions of power in this world believe in scarcity: economists have based all their theories on it, politicians, CEOs, administrators . . . Pretty much everybody accepts without question that we live in a world of scarcity. But we're always drawn to people who really, really believe in abundance. They are the most generous, comforting, reassuring, empowering people we meet in our day-to-day lives. The deeply ingrained core belief in abundance is immediately recognizable, even if we are unable to articulate what it is we have encountered. We know intuitively that it is good, and transformative, and trustworthy.

I think about this question a lot, so I'll revisit it here from time to time. For now, it's enough to ask the question out loud and to think about it. There are few questions in life that are more important.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Should We Hold the Bushies Accountable?

Should we hold the Bush administration accountable? Or should we just let them slink away quietly while we get on with the business of trying to put right all that has been made wrong? Can we just reestablish the rule of law without going through all the unpleasantness of investigations and trials? Should we stir up controversy and unleash the anguish of political rancor and partisan conflict? Aren't the American people fed up with being so divided? Is it enough just to learn all the abuses that went on, or do we need to actually press charges and bring the perpetrators to trial? Can't we just go on as if the nightmare of the last eight years never happened?

Glenn Greenwald on the Bill Moyers Journal had this to say: "What happens if you allow serious law breaking to go unpunished is you're telling political leaders, current and future, that there's no need for you to abide by the law. There's no reason for you to consider yourself constrained or limited in what you do. Because even if you commit crimes while in office, we're going to be too afraid of creating divisiveness... And the damage that comes from that is infinitely worse than whatever this divisiveness is that so many people are afraid of when citing why we should let these criminals go free."

Continue reading the Moyers transcript: Part of the difficulty is that the Democrats, who are now and soon to be in power, are reluctant to hold this administration accountable because many of their leaders have been complicit in the crimes that have been committed. Congress has ceded much of its power to the "unitary executive," willingly, almost joyfully. There are few national politicians who are blameless in the great debacle that has overtaken our government.

However, in spite of the lack of political will on the part of the Democrats, we cannot possibly undo the damage that has been done without holding the Bush administration accountable for its actions. The damage that would be done by not holding them accountable would be much worse than whatever controversy is stirred up by establishing an independent investigation and prosecuting those who believed they were above the law and acted on that belief.

This nation needs better politicians, leaders who cannot be so easily bought and sold and silenced. We are never going to get them without doggedly pursuing justice, however uncomfortable the pursuit may make some of us, especially those of us whose reelections are on the line. But it's not up to them. It must not be up to them. It's up to us, the American people, to insist that our leaders be held accountable. And now is the time when we must make our voices heard or be condemned by our own silence.

Why on earth is it OK to hold Bill Clinton accountable for lying under oath, lying about something that's altogether inconsequential to the American people, but we should not pursue accountability for what is perhaps the most unlawful administration in American history? How can this possibly make any sense? Has our government just become a stage for the theater of the absurd? Are our rights and liberties really so insignificant to us that we can just let this go because it's not politically expedient for our elected officials?

It's entirely possible to appoint an independent, nonpartisan investigator to bring to light the crimes that have been committed. That's not to say that there won't be those who would try to politicize the process anyway. But the actions of the investigation can and should be above politics and above reproach.

If we don't hold the Bush administration accountable, there's absolutely nothing that will prevent future leaders from believing that they also are above the law. It's an invitation to tyranny.

If we're really against torture, extraordinary rendition, warrantless surveillance, the undoing of habeas corpus, the establishment of the "unitary executive" (read: king), then we must act. If we don't, it will be clear to the world, to our children, and to our future leaders that we really don't have the courage of our convictions when it comes to the rule of law, we really don't care if they chew up our rights and civil liberties and spit them out.

We absolutely cannot afford to let this slide. Nothing less than the future of freedom is at stake.

Friday, December 12, 2008

"Herbert Hoover Time"

Robert Borosage hits the nail on the head today in the HuffPost.

The UAW is being unfairly blamed for Detroit's financial difficulties. Undoubtedly, the auto industry is suffering on account of multitudinous stupidities: mismanagement, lack of vision, skyrocketing health-care costs. Not to mention the economic downturn. I heard on the radio the other day that auto sales went from $17 million to $10 million in one year. Ouch. What industry would that not hurl into crisis?

But it is absolutely fatuous for Republican senators, among them McConnell and Corker, to blame the workers. And even worse to flush the whole damn economy -- that is, the WORLD economy -- down the toilet in order to wage class warfare.

This is absolutely one of the worst outrages coming out of the U.S. Senate in an age of outrages. Corker should be impeached on the spot. This behavior is nothing short of traitorous; it betrays the trust of the American people. If the American auto industry goes under, don't think for a minute that the effects won't be felt by Corker's constituents. Along with the rest of the world.

Please, show your support for the UAW. Making them the scapegoat for Detroit's economic woes is nothing short of atrocious. The suffering this class warfare will unleash will be felt far and wide for a long time.

It's shocking that the next best hope is that Bush appears to be considering bailing out Detroit from the original $700 billion bailout package. That would be good sense, amazingly good sense, considering the source.

I hope this atrocity rears up and bites McConnell and Corker and their pals in the butt.
*raising my fist in defiance and solidarity -- forever*

Sunday, November 16, 2008

The State of Our Expectations

I have read that Obama's transition team is concerned about the public's elevated expectations for the new administration. I would like to assuage their fears.

(1) W did nothing if not lower the bar. If Barack can promise he will wake up every morning and engage, we'll be happy. If he can promise that he won't magically morph into W, we'll be overjoyed. If he has goals other than to line the pockets of his cronies and grind the country into the muck, we'll be over the moon.

(2) We know there's a lot of work to do and it's a complicated morass Barack is inheriting. We're all just amazed that he wants the job, and we promise to help however we can. "A new spirit of service and sacrifice" he asked for this week. Yes sir, coming right up.

(3) We've been going in the wrong direction for so long -- seems like much longer than eight years -- we know it will take a massive effort from all of us to turn ourselves around. Just going in the right direction, albeit slowly and deliberately, will be an enormous relief.

(4) W and his pals treated the people of this country with thinly veiled contempt. It took us a while, but finally most of us are returning the sentiment. Barack, continue to respect us, as you did throughout your campaign, and we will continue to respect you.

Don't worry. We know you're not the messiah. You're just the right guy at the right place at the right time, and we're the ones who've got your back -- because you've got ours. *fist bump*

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Revolution Has Arrived -- And We Are It!

The New York Times: How Obama Tapped Into Social Networks' Power

I love finding myself in the midst of this revolution. We are only just beginning to scrape the surface of the power of online communities. I could feel it among my friends on Facebook. One day I just started friending everybody I encountered in various Facebook groups who had a pro-Obama profile picture or who had Hussein as their middle name. I figured, "What have I got to lose?" I was amazed at how often my friend request was accepted. Then we started sharing articles, columns, notes, blogs. It was amazing to have all this help finding important information.

"Special-interest groups and lobbyists will now contend with an environment of transparency and a president who owes them nothing." Whoa, how awesome is that?!? Has there ever been a president who wasn't beholden to special-interest groups and lobbyists? At last, WE THE PEOPLE are the special-interest groups and lobbyists. It's good news for democracy in the United States!

"While many people think that President-elect Obama is a gift to the Democratic Party, he could actually hasten its demise. Political parties supply brand, ground troops, money and relationships, all things that Mr. Obama already owns." This is even better news than the disempowering of special-interest groups and lobbyists. I long to see the end of the artificial left-right dichotomy. It's time for us to grow up and develop a truly representative government that respects and listens to its constituents.

The notion that just because the Republicans have spent the last eight years running the country into the ground, then the Democrats are the ones to save us is utterly ludicrous. The Dems are surely just as capable of running the country into the ground as the Republicans are. It's time for representatives to actually represent us. It's time for our government to be by the people and for the people -- no more sticking it to the people. And its time for the people to have the power to hold the government accountable and to have their voices heard above the constant whine and spin of parties, special-interest groups, and lobbyists.

Rock the revolution!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

A Brief Race Relations Primer for a New Era

It's been very moving to see everyone's response to Obama's election: Jesse Jackson with tears streaming down his face, Oprah jumping up and down like a teenage girl at a rock concert. We're all a little giddy. But, alas, wild enthusiasm can occasionally lead to serious foot-in-mouth disease and other similar disorders. So here are two little guides to help us avoid making missteps in the throes of our giddiness.

A few gentle reminders for us white folks: "No We Can't, White Folks: Five Things White People Shouldn't Do."

And a few gentle reminders for black folks: "No We Can't, Black Folks: Five Things Black People Shouldn't Do."

I have one more thing to add to both lists: Listen to each other.

Oh, and one more: Respect each other.

And this: Give each other the benefit of the doubt. See the best in others rather than expecting the worst.

And finally: Love each other! Be excellent to each other!

Beyond a doubt, we have made progress, but we still have a long way to go. So let's get going! I'm no expert on this stuff, but I believe that much of what we have yet to accomplish can be achieved only on a personal, person-to-person level. Love and respect can't be legislated into existence. They have to be lived. And now is the time. This is a new day in the USA!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

If I Could Hug Each and Every One of You Right Now,

I would. I have never in my life cried tears of joy over the results of an election. This is just amazing. I love all of you! Even those of you who voted for McCain! There's more to come, but at this moment I am convinced -- we did it! Thank you so much to all of you who worked so hard on this election, for all of you who voted, for all of you who haven't given up on the USA. If I had fireworks, I'd light them. If I had champagne, I'd pop the cork. God bless America indeed! And God bless each and every one of you!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

This Is Our Moment

"A New Progressive Era," by Robert L. Borosage

According to Mr. Borosage, "If Obama is elected, he will have the moment, mandate, momentum, and moral armament to launch a new era of bold progressive reform." It is not only Obama who will have the moment and momentum and moral armament.

Much more important, we the people will have the moment and the momentum and the moral armament. We can't just sit back on Nov. 5 and expect Obama and the new administration do all the work.

The work that needs to be done to recover from the devastation wrought by the neocons is much too much for just one guy, even if he does work in the oval office. We can't just put our trust in Obama. He's got some good stuff goin' on, but he's not the messiah. He's just a guy. A good guy. But to restore the Constitution, the balance of power, our civil liberties, a just and fair immigration system, a tortured economy, our standing in the world -- just to name a few -- we need to continue to be as engaged after the election as we are now.

We must continue to push for change and raise our voices about what really matters and what will transform us into a much better Republic than we have been for the last eight years, the last eighty years. We need to use the momentum we've built up, both online and on the streets, through writing letters to our representatives and to local and national newspapers, through blogging and online communication and education, through our involvement on whatever level best suits us: community-wide, nationwide, worldwide.

One of the most important things we can do is to pay attention and to respond to what we see. Ask questions. Question authority. Drag what's hiding in the shadows out into the open. That's what our cybercommunity is really good for. Let's get rid of the electoral college before the next presidential election and make it so that votes count all across the country and not just in battleground states. Let's close Guantanamo and end torture. Let's work together to discover sources of fuel that are less costly (in every respect).

We have a lot of work to do, people. We really are the ones we have been waiting for, and this is our moment.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Trickle UP

Why is it that you never hear about trickle-UP economics? It seems to me that this is much more common (and obvious) than the other sort, the feudal fantasy of trickle-down economics. Without the people willing to work minimum wage in this country, would anybody have any money at all?

This line of thought started this morning when I read this editorial in the New York Times: The City Life: Regulating the 99-Cent Store.

I've never taken an economics course, and much of the time economics makes as much sense to me as voodoo. Thank God for Paul Krugman. Thanks to his insightful and well-written column, comprehensible to the economically uninitiated, I have at least begun to think about economics with something less akin to revulsion. But I have a lot of questions; there is much that puzzles me.

Disclaimer: I have a knee-jerk inclination to identify with lost causes, underdogs, the marginalized, and the disenfranchised. These are the corners of the world I find the most interesting, the most appealing, the most compelling, and no offense to my rich friends (all two of you, I think), but I find more to respect in those corners as well.

Since I began hanging around with my friends from the Hispanic/Latino congregation at my church, I have come to know people who have the fiercest work ethic I have ever encountered. (Gross generalization alert!) They'll work for anyone who will give them a job, they'll work whatever hours, under whatever conditions. And across the board, they do it for one reason: for their families. They just want to be able to keep their kids alive, to buy them milk and tortillas and beans. And even so, they will give you the shirt off their back if you ask for it.

The way I see it, this is the kind of work ethic that made this country strong, economically, morally, spiritually, collectively. But these are the folks that some want to bar from entrance, even though many who employ them need their services desperately (in spite of their unwillingness to pay them a just wage or provide them with health care). I suppose that with the economy in the tank, there will be more and more Americans willing to take jobs that until now only the economically desperate have been willing to take.

Some of my friends may now find that they have no recourse but to return to their home countries. That would be bad for us, because these folks are good for America. They have the fiercest of family values (the real kind, not just trotted out when it's politically expedient). They are kind, generous, inclusive, and committed to their community. We need more people like this. We shouldn't be shunning them and driving them away.

Anyway, to return to my question, what about trickle-UP economics? I've never seen a business that could function without its low-wage grunt employees. And the businesses that recognize the value of their workers -- janitors, clerks, and engineers alike -- are generally the ones that flourish, aren't they? Don't people just naturally want to do business where people are happy, growing, and invested in the well-being of the company they work for? But even the businesses that don't treat their employees well, could they survive without their janitors and clerks?

So, Mr. Krugman, can you please explain to me why no one ever talks about the theory of trickle-UP economics?

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Neocon Jobs

McCain keeps saying he's for change, and last night he said he isn't George Bush. But the ideology he clings to as though he were a drowning man grasping at a dead weight for support is the same ideology that landed the U.S. (and the rest of the world along with it) in the huge mess it's in now.

McCain flip-flops more than any politician I've ever listened to. He barely says a sentence without contradicting himself. He's going to freeze spending. He's going to pay down the deficit. And he's going to lower taxes. Does he think we're really buying that? Who does he think he is: Houdini?

I am deeply offended by his obvious contempt for Obama. His facial expressions, interruptions, and the rolly eyes trick are petulant to the point of absurdity. If he won't listen to his opponent during the debate, what makes anyone think he would ever listen to any of us?

During the last debate he looked like he was on the verge of blowing a gasket every time he had to shut up and let Obama talk. The man can't control himself, and he can't control the rabble who come to his mob fests. Do we want four years of him appealing to the lowest common denominator, motivating people with hate and fear and preposterous allegations of terrorism against anyone he doesn't like or who doesn't agree with him?

And what does the tenor of McCain's and Palin's rallies say about their leadership? Obama has the good sense to quiet his supporters when they boo McCain. "We don't need any of that," he said. "What we need is to vote." And the crowd cheers and leaves its uglier sentiments behind. Whereas, after McCain and Palin fan the flames of hysteria, fear, and racism, cries from the crowd of "terrorist" and "kill him" pass by with nary a blink nor even the mildest of rebukes. Sure, one day (out of how many?) McCain tries to calm his supporters' fears, but he does it so ineffectually that it just frustrates them. When he said Obama was a decent family man, his rabble actually booed him. Great leadership, that.

And what's with his whining about a "character attack against Governor Sarah Palin" from Rep. John Lewis? Lewis had the temerity to call McCain and Palin out on their blatant appeals to fear and racism, so McCain's response is to paint himself and Palin as victims? Huh? And even though the Obama campaign had absolutely nothing to do with Lewis's remarks, McCain wants him to repudiate them? Huh? Next he'll be saying that his campaign deserves kudos because no one has been using the "n" word. That tactic would be only slightly more transparent than the tactics McCain and Palin have been using. Does McCain think we just don't get it? Does he really think we're just that ignorant? He called Lewis's remarks "beyond the pale." That's just what I think of his appealing to the mob's racism. Utterly beyond the pale.

No way this guy should be in any position of leadership much less in the most powerful position on the planet. Anybody with anger management issues like his shouldn't be trusted anywhere near the red button. And Lord help us if something happened to him and Palin took his place as president. I couldn't agree with Tina Fey more: I'd have to leave the planet, or at the very least barricade myself in the house and unplug my TV and my computer for fear I might catch a whiff of her.

I know there are many who feel that at 72 McCain is too old to be president. I do not. I know there are some who are plenty vigorous and sharp and capable at 72. I wouldn't want to exclude them from running for the presidency or to vote against them just on the basis of their age.

I don't have nearly as much of a problem with McCain's age as I do with the oldness of his hard-line ideology. McCain apparently thinks we won't recognize the Bush doctrine when he spouts it. He apparently believes that we don't realize how much damage the Bush doctrine has done in virtually every area of public life. He thinks we don't get it. But he's the one who doesn't get it. We've been there, we've done that, we've been screwed royally, and we are well aware of what and who has done the screwing. Enough already! No more neocon jobs!

Sunday, September 7, 2008

What Happened in Postville?

This is an information sheet I prepared on what happened in Postville, Iowa, on May 12, 2008, what was then the largest immigration raid in U.S. history. More information can be found at

On May 12, 2008, hundreds of agents from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), an investigative arm of the Department of Homeland Security, raided Agriprocessors Inc., the largest kosher meatpacking plant in the United States, in Postville, Iowa (population 2,273).

At the time of the raid, Agriprocessors employed 968 workers, about 75 percent of whom were thought to be unauthorized immigrants, the majority of them from rural regions of Guatemala, a country known for human rights abuses and beset by crippling poverty. The raid took place at 10 a.m.; 390 workers were arrested (314 men and 76 women). Only five of the 390 arrested had a prior criminal record. Warrants had been issued for 697 workers.

The raid instantly turned Postville into what resembled a ghost town and continues to have a devastating impact on the local economy. The community has lost more than a quarter of its population. Many Latinos who were not caught in the raid fled or went into hiding. In the wake of the raid, many other U.S. communities with similar demographics have experienced rumors of raids and widespread fear that their community would be next.

Those arrested “were frisked and told to remove any sweaters or heavy garments. Handcuffs were placed on their wrists and attached to their waists. Their feet were also cuffed.” According to one eyewitness, workers were lined up “like cattle” (Des Moines Register, May 14–15, 2008).

Investigations of worker abuse, employment of underage workers, and violations of labor laws at the plant were interrupted if not altogether halted by the raid. Immigrant workers were generally underpaid, according to the Des Moines Register: “Another plant worker told federal officials that undocumented workers were paid $5 an hour for their first few months before receiving a pay increase to $6 per hour. The minimum wage in Iowa is $7.25 an hour.”

Since the raid, a low-level manager at Agriprocessors, Juan Carlos Guerrero-Espinoza, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to hire illegal immigrants and one count of aiding and abetting the hiring of illegal immigrants. He faces a possible ten-year prison sentence and a maximum $500,000 fine. A second supervisor, Martin De La Rosa-Loera, pleaded guilty under an agreement with prosecutors to aiding and abetting the harboring of undocumented immigrants. He faces up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. In August, the Iowa Division of Labor Services cited Agriprocessors for 31 safety violations and proposed fining the company $101,000.

In the wake of the raid, rumors circulated that federal agents were going door-to-door in Postville in search of illegal immigrants. With helicopters prowling overhead, many of the workers’ families, frightened that ICE would come for them next, took refuge at St. Bridget’s Catholic Church. By evening nearly four hundred people had gathered there; they stayed for the next six days because they were afraid to go home.

Hundreds of families were torn apart by the raid, and fear was rampant in the community. Postville’s school superintendent said that about a third of the elementary and middle school students were absent the day after the raid: “We had 10 percent of our entire community arrested in 12 hours. . . . It’s just like having a tornado that wiped out an entire part of town.”

Parents and teachers struggled to answer children’s questions: “Are the black helicopters going to come back and kill us, too?” Others feared that their parents would be taken away as well. Panic broke out in the high school as news of the raid arrived via text messages on students’ cell phones.

Of those arrested, 56 mothers were released on humanitarian grounds, to care for unattended children. Those released were fitted with GPS ankle bracelets that serve as tracking devices so that ICE can monitor their whereabouts while they await prosecution. The bracelets, which are tight and dig into the ankle and irritate the skin, must be worn 24 hours a day. While they wait in legal limbo, not allowed to work or to return to their home countries, the mothers have no means of supporting their families other than accepting charity. According to one mother, “Before, we tolerated everything they did to us at the plant. We worked very hard, but we lived free. Now, we have no work. We are not free. And we have no idea what will happen to us.”

Immigration proceedings usually involve civil, not criminal, statutes; but 260 of the workers from Postville were charged with the felony of “aggravated identity theft” and “Social Security fraud,” charges that apply to the use of someone else’s identification in order to commit a crime, not in order to procure employment.

“Ben Stone, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa, said the organization has gathered information indicating that detainees [were not] given adequate time to meet with attorneys ‘and that defense attorneys [were] being overwhelmed (with) requests to represent far more clients than is advisable—or perhaps even ethical’ ” (Des Moines Register, May 14, 2008).

Many of those charged are the sole support for their families, not only family members living here in the United States but also those living in their home countries. Their primary concern throughout the proceedings was the well-being of those depending on them for their survival.

Federal officials set up temporary courtrooms in the National Cattle Congress fairground in nearby Waterloo, where those arrested were held, processed, tried, and sentenced with unprecedented speed.

The workers were denied meetings with immigration attorneys and were fast-tracked through criminal court proceedings that took only four days for all 269 of them.

Criminal defense attorneys warned of violations of due process. Cases were not reviewed individually, and no individual circumstances were taken into account. All the cases were treated exactly alike. The system was designed for the wholesale imposition of guilt. It is unlikely that the workers understood the charges against them.

Each of those charged was offered a deal: If you plead guilty to “knowingly using a false Social Security number,” the more serious charge of “aggravated identify theft” will be withdrawn and you will be sentenced to five months in jail followed by deportation without a hearing.

The workers had no choice but to accept the plea agreement and to waive their right to have their case reviewed by an immigration court before deportation, thereby losing whatever chance they may have had to gain authorization to live and work in the United States.

The deal also ensured that the workers would have little chance of legally reentering the United States.


Nigel Duara, Grant Schulte, and William Petroski. “ID Fraud Claims Bring State’s Largest Raid.” Des Moines Register, May 13, 2008.

Susan Saulny. “Hundreds Are Arrested in U.S. Sweep of Meat Plant.” New York Times, May 13, 2008 (

Ben Stone, “Statement Concerning Due Process after ICE Raid in Postville, Iowa.” ACLU of Iowa, May 13, 2008 (

Grant Schulte, Jennifer Jacobs, and Jared Strong. “Day After Churns Up Charges, Emotions.” Des Moines Register, May 14, 2008.

Nigel Duara. “Informed about Raid, Many Employees Hid.” Des Moines Register, May 14, 2008.

“Raid Prompts Questions about Government Actions.” Des Moines Register, May 15, 2008.

William Petroski and Grant Schulte, “Detainees Charged, Shuffled to Jails.” Des Moines Register, May 16, 2008.

Grant Schulte. “Detainees to Be Jailed, Then Deported in Deal.” Des Moines Register, May 20, 2008.

Jane Norman. “Immigrants Feel Distress, Shock, Nun Says.” Des Moines Register, May 21, 2008.

“270 Illegal Immigrants Sent to Prison in Federal Push.” New York Times, May 24, 2008 (

Erik Camayd-Freixas, “Interpreting after the Largest ICE Raid in US History: A Personal Account.” June 13, 2008 (

Julia Preston. “An Interpreter Speaking Up for Migrants.” New York Times, July 11, 2008 (

Editorial: “The Shame of Postville,” New York Times, July 13, 2008 (

“Court Interpreter Breaks Confidentiality Code to Speak Out for Workers Rounded Up in Largest Immigration Raid in U.S. History.” Democracy Now! July 14, 2008 (

Editorial: “‘The Jungle’ Again.” New York Times, August 2, 2008 (

Monica Rohr. “A Small Town Struggles after Immigration Raid.” My Way, August 16, 2008 (

Lynda Waddington. “Agriprocessors Cited for 31 Safety Violations.” Iowa Independent, August 22, 2008 (

Bekah Porter. “Religious Groups Provide Shelter from the Storm.” Dubuque Telegraph Herald, August 24, 2008.

Tony Leys. “Culver Wins Praise for Rebuking Meat Plant.” Des Moines Register, August 25, 2008.

Henry C. Jackson. “Town Wonders If It’s Next to Face Immigration Raid.” Associated Press, August 26, 2008 (

Susan Donaldson James. “Immigration Raids Cripple Small Towns.” ABC News Online, August 29, 2008 (

Associated Press. “Iowa: Defendant Wants Judge Removed.” Dubuque Telegraph Herald, September 4, 2008.