Saturday, 25 June 2011

Hillary Clinton Gives Green Light For Israeli Attack On Gaza Flotilla | Intifada Palestine

Hillary Clinton Gives Green Light For Israeli Attack On Gaza Flotilla

by Ali Abunimah / Electronic Intifada

In comments yesterday, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton seemed to lay the ground – indeed almost provide a green light – for an Israeli military attack on the upcoming Gaza Freedom Flotilla, which will include the US Boat to Gaza.

Among the passengers aboard the American boat will be 87-year old Kindertransport survivor Hedy Epstein, and author and poet Alice Walker. In all it is expected that about 10 ships, carrying 1000 people from over 20 countries will take part.

Here’s what Clinton said in remarks at the State Department on 23 June:

Well, we do not believe that the flotilla is a necessary or useful effort to try to assist the people of Gaza. Just this week, the Israeli Government approved a significant commitment to housing in Gaza. There will be construction materials entering Gaza and we think that it’s not helpful for there to be flotillas that try to provoke actions by entering into Israeli waters and creating a situation in which the Israelis have the right to defend themselves.

Clinton must know that Gaza is not part of what any country recognizes as “sovereign” Israeli territory, and therefore neither are Gaza’s territorial waters. Any boats entering Gaza’s waters would not in fact be entering “Israeli waters” as Clinton claimed. Clinton also, presuming she is properly briefed rather than misled, must also know that last year Israel attacked the Gaza Freedom Flotilla when it was in international waters and GPS data showed that it was actually heading away from Israel.

By invoking Israel’s supposed “right to self-defense” against civilian boats trying to reach Gaza, we must understand that Clinton is telling Israel the United States will not stand in the way of another military attack.

And by citing Israel allowing construction materials into Gaza to make the case that the flotilla is “unnecessary” because “aid” can reach the Palestinian people in Gaza, Clinton is engaging in the ultimate obfuscation.

People in Gaza have been reduced to penury and rendered dependent on aid by decades of Israeli occupation, siege and military attacks. The issue is not the delivery of aid but freeing the people by lifting the siege. It is an abhorrent position to suggest – as Clinton seems to – that if people in Gaza receive enough calories or a few building supplies then we should not be concerned about Israel’s siege. The Palestinian people of Gaza are not caged animals for whom sufficient care consists of shoving rations through the bars of their prison.

Israel’s siege is intended as a form of collective punishment and has been declared illegal by the ICRC.

Israel, as The Electronic Intifada reported, is engaging in military drills to intercept this unarmed civilian flotilla. In light of Clinton’s statements, if any blood is spilled it will not only be on Israeli, but also American hands.

Prosecuting Flotilla Passengers Under “Material Support” Laws

Not content with tacitly encouraging Israeli violence, in another alarming development, the State Department has apparently threatened that Americans who board boats to Gaza could be jailed or fined for supporting terrorism. Haaretz reports:

The U.S. State Department said Friday that attempts to break the blockade are “irresponsible and provocative” and that Israel has well-established means of delivering assistance to the Palestinian residents of Gaza. It noted that the territory is run by the militant Hamas group, a U.S. designated foreign terrorist organization, and that Americans providing support to it are subject to fines and jail.

In effect, the US now seems to be defining any support for any Palestinians, including a besieged civilian population, as support for Hamas, and therefore support for “terrorism.”

This mirrors its use of such “material support” laws as a pretext to investigate and persecute Palestine solidarity, antiwar, and labor activists exercising their First Amendment rights at home.

Politicians plan boycott of pope's Bundestag speech - The Local

photo: DPA

Politicians plan boycott of pope's Bundestag speech

Published: 25 Jun 11 13:01 CET

Several Social Democratic parliamentarians are planning to boycott the speech Pope Benedict XVI is scheduled to give to the Bundestag in September. They accuse the pontiff of oppressing millions around the world.

The boycott call is contained in a draft document drawn up by Rolf Schwanitz, who has sent it to all his 146 fellow Social Democratic Party (SPD) members of the Bundestag and asked for their signatures. The document was made available to the Rheinische Post newspaper.

In it, Schwanitz slams the planned speech for September 22 by the pope in front of the parliamentary chamber, saying the Bundestag would be abused as a "decorative accessory" and was no place for "missionary work."

Schwanitz, who leads a working group called "secular members of the SPD," called the pope the "last absolute monarch" in Europe. He also said that the pontiff's stances on women's rights and contraception, gave him a good deal of the blame for "the ongoing global AIDS epidemic as well as the oppression, exploitation and stigmatization of millions of people."

In the text, Schwanitz said other SPD members had signaled they would be absent on the day the pope spoke. Party sources told the Rheinische Post that about a half dozen parliamentarians planned on going through with the boycott.

But the head of the SPD Bundestag group, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, has rejected the initiative and Thomas Oppermann, another high-ranking SPD parliamentarian, called the pope-critical document "unfortunate."

Conservative parliamentarians like Hermann Kues of the Christian Democrats have shown outrage at the boycott campaign.

"I am shocked over the ignorance and delusion here," he said. "Without Christianity, our country is simply impossible to imagine."

The Local/kdj

What do you think? Leave your comment below.

Your comments about this article:

14:15 June 25, 2011 by jbaker
The Politicians and the Pope share the same bath water.

Imagine this world without the Pope(Religions) or Politicians - maybe not better to some, but Less Controlling to all.

14:47 June 25, 2011 by AirForceGuy
How do these people get elected...?
15:22 June 25, 2011 by harcourt
AirForceGuy: didn't you know? He walks over a big hole with cardinals underneath (to prove he's a man) and then they blow some white smoke out of a chimney !!
16:00 June 25, 2011 by ukpunk1
"They accuse the pontiff of oppressing millions around the world." I'm not religious nor Catholic, so I was not oppressed.
17:31 June 25, 2011 by DOZ
Pure Evil!
17:56 June 25, 2011 by Jerr-Berlin
...nice little Easter bonnet though
18:30 June 25, 2011 by MJMH
Yet if the leader of some oppressed Arab or third world nation visits-where women are treated like children and half the country is starving-not only would all the Social Democrats be in attendance but they'd also be throwing money at the the dictator.

Self-hatred can be a very bad thing.

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More National

Schoolgirl 'murdered by ex-boyfriend over free breakfast bet' -

Rebecca Aylward (Pic:PA)

Rebecca Aylward (Pic:PA)

A schoolboy murdered a former girlfriend after he was promised a free breakfast if he carried out the killing, a jury heard today.

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Rebecca Aylward, 15, of Maesteg, near Bridgend, south Wales, was battered to death within weeks of the chilling bet with a friend.

Her alleged killer, 16, lured her to a secluded wood near Bridgend where he smashed her head with a rock, the court heard. To divert suspicion from himself, he had previously told her to let it be known she was meeting someone else.

But she failed to follow his directions and told her mother the name of the person she was meeting, the jury heard.

Greg Taylor QC began today by handing the Swansea Crown Court jury a list of terms used in texting and on MSN and Facebook.

Evidence from all those sources will play a key role in the prosecution case of what he called a "teenage murder".

"There is no doubt that Rebecca Aylward was murdered," he said.

"She was hit a number of times to her head with a rock in a forest at Aberkenfig.

"It was raining and she was left for dead lying face down on the wet forest floor in new clothes that had been bought for her the day before.

"The prosecution say that the boy who sits before you here committed this murder.

"The defence say that he had nothing to do with it and that Rebecca was killed by his best friend."

Police close to the location where body of Rebecca Aylward was found in a wooded area just outside Aberkenfig, Bridgend (Pic:PA)

Police close to the location where body of Rebecca Aylward was found in a wooded area just outside Aberkenfig, Bridgend (Pic:PA)

He added: "The question for you is who did it?

"The prosecution say that there is absolutely no doubt that he did it."

The teenager denies a single charge of murder on October 23 last year.

Mr Taylor said the teenagers had briefly been in a relationship about a year before the murder and had kept in touch.

The defendant used to meet every Saturday at a local cafe in the area with teenage friends where they had breakfast together.

At one such meeting he openly discussed killing the girl, his friends assuming he was joking.

They later told police he had a reputation for saying he was going to do things he never subsequently did.

But in a later text to one friend he asks: "What would you do if I actually did kill her?"

The friend replies: "Oh, I would buy you breakfast."

Mr Taylor said: "It is difficult to know, isn't it, if someone could be serious about something like that."

But the subject of the murder became a regular text topic between the friends.

Two days before the killing the defendant contacted his friend to confirm he would attend their breakfast date.

He adds: "Don't say anything but you may just owe me a breakfast."

The friend replies: "Best text I have ever had mate. Seriously, if it is true I am happy to pay for a breakfast."

The defendant adds: "I hope by then it will be done and dusted."

The friend replies: "I want all the details. You sadistic bastard." The text finished with a smiley face symbol.

The teenager adds: "Large breakfast with extras of everything."

His friend replies: "Sick, sick boy."

Mr Taylor outlined the events which he said led to the murder.

He said Rebecca met the defendant in Aberkenfig on the day of her death. He said the boy came directly from friends he had breakfasted with.

He led her into a densely wooded area in the town while still keeping in touch by text with his friends, Mr Taylor said.

When they asked him whether he was with her he texted back asking "define with", the court heard.

Mr Taylor said the defendant later called the friends to join him in the forest but only his best friend continued to the murder scene.

He would later tell police in an interview how shocked he was to discover the girl's dead body.

He said the defendant had asked: "Do you know how hard it is to break someone's neck? I tried and it is hard work."

Later the defendant is said to have explained to two friends: "She was facing away from me and I thought I would go for it. She would not stop screaming and I picked up a rock.

"The worst part of it was feeling her skull give way."

The teenager is then alleged to have told both his friends to delete all of their text messages and that he would delete his.

He allegedly explained that nobody would know he had been with Rebecca because he had told her to tell her mother she was meeting someone else.

Later the boys were to discuss on Facebook the fact that the schoolgirl was now missing and express sadness.

The court heard the defendant had later changed his Facebook profile to say that he was with two named friends and about to watch a film on TV.

"As if to say 'nothing special has happened today and here I am this evening watching the television with friends'," Mr Taylor said.

He said police were alerted to where the Rebecca's body was when the parents of one of the teenagers called them after he broke down at home.

Police tracker dogs located the body and quickly singled out a rock as being the murder weapon.

Forensic testing established it had hundreds of fibres from Rebecca's coat on it and also fibres from the defendant's jacket.

A post-mortem examination of the victim's body showed she had died from blunt injuries to the head which had broken the base of her skull in four places.

"In short, she had had her head smashed in," Mr Taylor told the jury.

The trial, which is scheduled to run for up to five weeks, was adjourned until tomorrow.

Cinema -- Screenwriting

The year is 1890. Directors, editors, and cameramen are making silent films with the help of a "scenarist," usually an ex-vaudeville actor who invents humorous situations. But where are the screenwriters?
"Screenwriting is the toughest craft, and when you write well, when you can create a good story, peopled with good characters that truly relate to each other, that evoke tears or laughter that is human and durable, then you can write your own ticket."

—Mel Brooks

These early films don't need them. Without sound, there is no need for dialogue.

All of that changed with the advent of sound for film in the 1920s. Suddenly, actors needed something to say. Writers flocked to Hollywood in droves from Broadway and from the worlds of literature and journalism. For a brief time in the 1930s, some of the world's most famous writers wrote Hollywood scripts: William Faulkner, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Bertolt Brecht, and Thomas Mann.

In 1932, William Faulkner earned $6,000 in salary and rights for a story, a substantial amount of money at the time. Just five years later, F. Scott Fitzgerald earned $1,250 per week, more money than he had ever earned in his life, and enough to get him out of the serious debt he had fallen into. Despite generous pay, the conditions under which these world-renowned writers labored were anything but ideal. Hollywood was a factory system, churning out movies at a furious pace. Screenwriters found themselves at the bottom rung of the studio ladder.

By the end of World War II, screenwriters were complaining about their place in the Hollywood machine. Leonard Spigelgass, editor of Who Wrote the Movie and What Else Did He Write (Writer's Guild, 1960), summed up the situation:

"Over the years we have been called hacks, high-priced secretaries, creatures of the director or producer, pulp writers, craftsmen, sell-outs, cop-outs, mechanical robots. No Pulitzer Prizes for us, no Nobels, no mention of our names...."

Screenwriters continued to earn little prestige for their hard work, until the filmmaking system experienced some important shifts.

The status of movie stars began to increase, and writers often found them to be powerful allies. Occasionally, stars would request a script by a particular writer, as happened with Katherine Hepburn and the movie Woman of the Year. Hepburn brought the script to the attention of studio head Louis B. Mayer, and the script's writers, Ring Lardner Jr. and Michael Kanin, received $100,000 for its use.

A few writers also managed to obtain creative control over their work. John Huston, a well-known filmmaker who began as a writer, demanded a clause in his contract with the studio that would give him the opportunity to direct. A screenwriter gained more respect if he demonstrated a real talent for directing.

Increasingly, writers became more important players within the studio system. Even so, some left the security and good pay of the studio to freelance for whoever held the reins—studios, stars, or other players. By the late 1940s, screenwriting was a lucrative occupation.

Back to: "Introduction"   Next: "Writers Under Fire"

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View Latest Missouri River Flood Update:
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Nightmare derails Ledyard immigrant’s American dream - Norwich, CT - The Bulletin

By the numbers: Haitian diaspora

In 1960, there were less than 5,000 Haitians in the United States, a number that jumped to more than 535,000 in 2008, and is believed to be more than 1.2 million after the 2010 earthquake. There are an estimated 3,000 Haitians in the Norwich area. Many have come here to work at the casinos.

Underground America: Permanent Anxiety - The

Underground America: Permanent Anxiety

Peter Orner bio ↓  ·  May 5th, 2010  ·  filed under Peter Orner, books, politics, rumpus reprint

“The Arizona law is not the problem. The problem is that we continue, on all sides of the political spectrum, to not listen to those most directly affected by immigration policy: immigrants themselves.”

The following is an introduction I wrote for a collection of oral histories, Underground America: Narratives of Undocumented Lives, published in 2008 by McSweeney’s/ Voice of Witness. The book was translated into Spanish and published in 2009 under the title: En Las Sombras De Estados Unidos co-edited by myself and Sandra Hernandez.

I pretty much stand by what I wrote in 2008. In fact, the situation for most undocumented people remains largely the same now as it did then, with the possible exception that the dehumanization of these undocumented people has become more fanatical, as we see in this outrageous new law in Arizona.

But it should be said that the Arizona law is not the problem. The problem is that we continue, on all sides of the political spectrum, to not listen to those most directly affected by immigration policy: immigrants themselves – people who deserve to be heard not talked about incessantly as if they aren’t in the room. In our book, Underground America, we sought to listen.

It should also be said that in spite of President Obama’s strong words condemning the Arizona law as well as his repeatedly signaling that the administration would implement a more humane immigration policy, the fact is that the federal government has continued to pursue many of the Bush administration’s enforcement policies. So – in some ways this Arizona law gives us those on the left or center left in this country a chance to pat ourselves on the back. See – look at those right wing lunatics in Arizona! We aren’t like that!

No, we aren’t. But the U.S. under Obama, in spite of apparent good intentions, has yet to do anything especially meaningful to stop what remains a human rights crisis in this country. Word among many in the immigration community is that the government has stepped up enforcement against employers who hire undocumented immigrants as opposed to the Bush way of only going after the workers themselves. A good sign. The government is also working to create a new civil detention system that is not – as it is now – based on a criminal justice model. Again, a step in the right direction. Undocumented immigrants are not criminals. Under federal law, those who cross the border illegally are committing a civil, not a criminal, offense.

One last thought, and something I tried to address in this introduction a couple of years ago. The complicated issue of mixed families. So many of the people we met and interviewed for our book have one or more U.S. citizens in the family. Among the worst direct results of wrong-headed immigration policy (and again not only absurd, apparently unconstitutional laws like the one that passed in Arizona) is that the law separates family, divides mother from daughter, wife from husband, brother from sister. Our book tried to show that above all else, the immigration issue is about families.


Permanent Anxiety

In the fall of 2005, I represented an asylum-seeker in a case before the Immigration Court in San Francisco. It was my first case since I left the law to write fiction. My client, Eduardo, was from Guatemala. In the 1980s, the Guatemalan army carried out a campaign of systematic murder against indigenous people like Eduardo. His father was killed, but Eduardo, his mother, and sister were spared death. Instead, they were held captive for nearly a decade in the home of a paramilitary officer. It was in this house in a slum far from his native village that Eduardo and his sister grew up.

In Eduardo’s own words:

We stayed in his house. Even when the man was gone, we didn’t leave the house. We didn’t play with other children in the area. When I was about five years old, I pastured cows with my sister. Sometimes we would lose one and stay out until five or six in the evening to try and find it. If we couldn’t find it we’d tell the man, shaking with fear. He’d take out a whip and beat us, leaving our backs bloody. Or he’d use an extension cord or television antenna. When my mother tried to defend us, he would shove her and threaten her with a machete. Anytime there was a problem, that man would hit my mother and tell her he was going to torture her, quarter her. One day I asked my mother what “quarter” meant. She told me, “It’s when they remove pieces of a person’s body when they’re still alive.”

When he was fourteen, Eduardo’s mother managed to have her son smuggled to Guatemala City, where, for the first time, he went to school. Seven years later, his mother and sister also escaped. It was then that his former captor made it known through his network of paramilitary contacts that he was looking for Eduardo. So, at twenty- two, Eduardo fled Guatemala, making his way north through Mexico to the U.S. border. There he swam across the Rio Grande into southwestern Texas, where he was arrested on the north bank. Eduardo requested asylum and was placed in temporary detention, a place he later said was a lot like jail. Later, with the help of lawyers and relatives, he was released and eventually made his way to California where I took over his case.1

Given the details of his story and the fact that being granted asylum rests primarily on a few basic principles—including whether the asylum seeker has been persecuted in the past on the basis of at least one of several factors, among them ethnicity, and whether he reasonably fears that it might happen in the future—I went into the hearing with confidence. It was the confidence, I learned, of a naïve lawyer. That day in October 2005, the judge rushed through the case, comporting herself with an air of I’ve heard all this before. The entire hearing took less than an hour, with roughly twenty minutes devoted to Eduardo’s story.

Asylum denied.

Afterward, as Eduardo and I sat there dumbfounded, staring at the empty judge’s chair (in my memory, it keeps spinning after she departed), the opposing government counsel came over and said, not without sympathy, that Eduardo had been credible and that our case had been a strong one. She suggested that the judge might have just simply seen one too many Guatemalans that day.

One too many Guatemalans. Over the next few months those words would haunt me. Maybe Eduardo’s essential problem was his very existence. Perhaps the court had already met its quota of Guatemalans that day. Perhaps no matter how sympathetic Eduardo’s plight, it wouldn’t have mattered. His presence alone pushed the judge over some imaginary line.

Even so, at least the courts acknowledge people like Eduardo. His story was heard, if only for twenty minutes. Afterward, I began to think about all those other people out there implied in the phrase one too many Guatemalans, which seemed to me another way of saying one too many stories.

Of course, not everyone who enters this country illegally has a good case under U.S. asylum law. Poverty, for instance, no matter how severe or degrading, is not considered a cause for asylum under current American law. Still, I couldn’t help thinking how many stories—legally tenable or not—go untold. The truth is that many millions of immigrants in this country, the so-called undocumented, are never heard from at all.

I may have lost Eduardo’s case,2 but as a writer I believe strongly in the power of stories to render absurd certain distinctions drawn by our laws.3 I also have faith that a reader—a genuinely open-minded reader, willing to walk in someone else’s shoes—will set aside more than twenty minutes to hear a life story.

With the help of a dedicated team of graduate students in the Creative Writing program at San Francisco State University, as well as a group of volunteer lawyers, writers, and independent filmmakers, I began searching for stories. These stories became a part of Voice of Witness, a series devoted to publishing the oral histories of people—around the world—who have had their human and civil rights violated.

Our interviewers spread out across the country to listen and collect the stories of more than thirty people. We went to New York City and Washington, D.C. and Chicago and Houston. We traveled to Dodge City, Kansas; New Bedford, Massachusetts; Biloxi, Mississippi; and Mount Vernon, Washington. We talked to people in living rooms, on the street, in public libraries, in nursing homes, and once in the parking lot of a putt-putt golf. We received valuable assistance from generous individuals we met along the way, including an endlessly resourceful Catholic nun in western Kansas, a poet in Galesburg, Illinois, an airport shuttle-bus driver in Washington, D.C., and many other people who work directly with undocumented immigrants.

There were also times we did not have to go looking very hard to find stories. A number of our direct connections were made through friends and family. Consider your own life. What is the degree of separation between you and someone who lacks documents that allow them to stay in this country legally?

Our process was hardly systematic, and this book is not a comprehensive examination of the life of undocumented immigrants in the United States in 2007. We are, after all, talking about a segment of the population that is estimated to total somewhere between twelve and fifteen million people.

Although statistics show that a significant proportion of the undocumented come from Latin America, we cannot begin to talk honestly about this population without recognizing that they hail from across the globe. What follows in this book are the accounts of individuals from more than a dozen countries, including Mexico, China, South Africa, Colombia, Peru, Pakistan, Guatemala, and Cameroon. As we gathered these stories, recurrent patterns began to emerge, the most predominant being that many of our narrators could not depend on the basic legal protections most of us take for granted. In story after story, the law was something to fear, not something to call upon for help.

Not only is the law not there to help undocumented people, it forces them to live in a state of permanent anxiety. The sheer number of undocumented immigrants makes it impossible for the government to enforce immigration laws uniformly.4 This arbitrary enforcement leads to incredible paradoxes. Some of the narrators in this book are in college and live more or less openly; others toil on farms and in factories for fifteen hours a day and hide away at night. One narrator owns various businesses, employs many legal workers, and has assets worth almost a million dollars. Another is a cleaning lady whose daughter died in federal custody while chained to a bed.

The lack of legal protection afforded to undocumented immigrants,5 as well as the capricious enforcement of laws, has led to serious human rights abuses, both by the government and by those who exploit the vulnerability of people who lack the rights of legal residents and citizens.

We were surprised by the willingness of people to talk to us. One academic expert on labor and immigration issues told us we were wasting our time, saying that the undocumented would never put their stories on record. Yet we discovered that most people we approached were not only were willing to tell their stories, they welcomed the invitation to speak and be heard. For many of them, it was the first time anybody had ever asked them to really talk about themselves.

For the protection of our narrators, some of their names have been changed. It would have been far safer for them to remain silent. Lately, there have been cases in which the government has appeared to retaliate against undocumented people who have dared to speak up,6 to say, as Adela does in the second to last story in this book, Here I am. See me. But the individuals you are about to meet took a risk in talking to us and allowing their stories to be shared with the public—because they wanted you to read them.

In the beginning, we thought of organizing the book by occupation. The table of contents would look something like: 1. Migrant Farm Worker 2. Meatpacker 3. Construction Worker 4. Nanny 5. Day Laborer. We abandoned this idea after one of our narrators, the man who calls himself El Mojado, put it this way: “One job? Last year I worked in a dairy. Now I lay carpeting. I used to work in a body shop. Before that I was a meatpacker… I’ve sold chickens.” Or take Inez, who told us, “I’ve lived here for three years. The Hudson Valley, New York. At first I picked cherries. I got to be as dark as this chocolate brown sofa. So much sun. After a while a girl asked me to work with her on housecleaning. You see how all my life is work? I’m in a restaurant now. I work from five at night until twelve. I wash dishes for however many hours they need me. I don’t stop washing until my hands are rubbed raw.”

Yet the men and women whose stories you are about to read cannot be summed up by the jobs they do, no matter how hard or how many hours in the day they work. In fact, the only thing that truly links them together is their lack of federal immigration status, in other words certain pieces of paper. An undocumented person is not undocumented at all. We use the word because it sounds more polite than illegal. But of course they have documents: family photos, diplomas, driver’s licenses,7 love letters, emails, credit card bills, tax forms, child’s drawings, homework…

That the people in this book are an integral part of this society and this economy is indisputable. This is not a politically correct position; it’s reality. The first American combat casualty in Iraq was a Guatemalan man who entered illegally into the United States as a teenager in 1997. His name was José Gutiérrez. Two weeks after his death, the United States granted Lance Corporal Gutiérrez posthumous citizenship in honor of his ultimate sacrifice for his country.8

Nothing can be done to “solve” the problem of their existence until we own up to the truth that just as undocumented people are not truly undocumented, they aren’t even a separate, scapegoatable population. They’re us. They always have been and always will be.

Peter Orner

Although there is much pain in these stories, Underground America is not a compendium of suffering. This is a book of voices. Our narrators are neither uniformly saints nor sinners. When they are not being detained or deported, when they are not hiding from ICE agents, the border patrol, or Minutemen, when they are not being abused on the job, when they are not being preyed upon by those who take advantage of their lack of status—the people in this book are struggling the best they can to get through the day, to keep their families safe, to make a little money, maybe even to save some. Is there anything more American than this? It’s only that they must keep silent. And there’s nothing very American about not being able to speak up.

Consider this book one attempt to help them find their voice, our voice.


1 I was working as a volunteer with the Immigration Unit of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil rights, a national organization with an office in San Francisco. The Lawyer’s Committee matches lawyers with people in need of assistance with their asylum cases. I was assisted on Eduardo’s case by Leticia Pavon.

2 The good news for Eduardo is that it wasn’t lost for good. On appeal, his case was overturned and he was granted asylum, in an extremely rare reversal by the Board of Immigration Appeals. He is now living and working in California.

3 There may a legal difference between an asylum-seeker trying to prove persecution and what I might call an economic refugee, but I contend that in the face of a desperate human being, the difference becomes almost meaningless. Further, many legitimate asylum-seekers often do not even apply for fear of deportation should they lose, choosing instead to risk living here as an undocumented person.

4 Nor do I believe we would if we wanted to. If we genuinely decided, as a nation, that undocumented immigrants were in fact criminals deserving, en masse, of jail time and deportation, we could carry this out. We’ve accomplished difficult collective objectives in the past. We could organize a massive effort, a Marshall Plan, a moon shot, to root out every single illegal alien in our cities, our towns, our colleges, our primary schools. Instead, because we lack the political and social will, we choose to terrorize the few, and allow the majority to live in fear. But the undocumented are not—to use a term I must have picked up in law school—per se criminals no matter how much we treat them as such.

5 Or the perceived lack of protection. Many of our narrators will not go to the law even when it could help them, such as when they are victims of violence. Also, undocumented workers have the right to a minimum wage and safe working conditions. To see how this works in practice, see Abel’s story, a man who works in the fish industry in New Bedford, Massachusetts.

6 The most prominent recent case of possible government retaliation involves Elvira Arellano, 32, mother of an American-born son. After her deportation order, she refused to leave the country and moved into a Chicago church. She was arrested and deported to Mexico after leaving the church and traveling to California to promote her cause. See The New York Times, August 21, 2007, “Illegal Immigrant Advocate for Families is deported.” In another case, a Vietnamese family of an undocumented student was jailed temporarily after their daughter commented publicly on the DREAM Act, a pending bill in Congress that would open a path to citizenship to undocumented children who came to the U.S. with their parents. See USA Today, “Immigrant’s Family detained After daughter Speaks Out,” October 16, 2007.

7 In HI, ME, Md, MI, NM, Or, UT, and WA.

8 CBS NEWS, 60 Minutes II, August 20, 2003.

This Rumpus Reprint is from Underground America: Narratives of Undocumented Lives, published by Voice of Witness.

Define American

24 Jun 2011

America's Shameful Moments

This article was cross-posted from the Huffington Post.

In grade school I was taught that the United States is a melting pot. People from all over the world come here for freedom and to pursue a better life. They arrive with next to nothing, work incredibly hard, learn a new language and new customs, and in a generation they become an integral part of our

24 Jun 2011

"Overwhelming" - A short update on Define American from the team

There is no way our small team here with Define American can possibly describe the last few days.

"Overwhelming" would probably be the word that comes closest - and we mean it in the best possible way.

On Tuesday night, before the big "coming out" on Wednesday morning, we honestly weren't sure whether anyone would

22 Jun 2011

My "Illegal" Brother Defines American

Ron Paul brought us together …in Building 45 of the Google-Plex in the summer of 2007.

It was an exciting time for us poli-tech geeks, as we were several months into seeing just how much could be done with all the internet had given us for something as big as a presidential campaign. A couple of still-small "startups" like Facebook

Nightmare derails Ledyard immigrant’s American dream - Norwich, CT - The Bulletin

Editor's Note: This version has been edited from the original print version.

Wesley Louis Jean stepped from a plane this past New Year’s Eve and placed his feet squarely on American soil, then fell into the arms of his wife and children and gave thanks for surviving a nightmare that had lasted nearly eight years.

“There was many tears,” said Jean, 43, a soft-spoken native of Haiti who makes eye contact only hesitantly. “It has been a nightmare.”

Jean’s nightmare began in January 2003, when legal blunders sidetracked his search for a green card to establish permanent residence in the United States. It culminated with a case of mistaken identity, his incarceration, imprisonment and deportation to Haiti.

A supervisor on the gaming floor at Foxwoods Resort Casino, Jean was unaware of any problems when on Jan. 30, 2003, agents with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement asked to speak with him during his coffee break. Jean was compliant and said he wanted to cooperate in any way possible.

“I had no idea what was going to happen,” he said.

Without warning, Jean was handcuffed, placed in the back of a vehicle and taken to the Hartford Correctional Center. Unable to make a phone call or contact his family, Jean spent the next six months there before being transferred to an institution in Louisiana, and then to Haiti in August 2003.

Jean grew up under the regimes of the Duvalier family. First, Francois “Papa Doc” Duvalier, and then his son Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier. During the decades of their rule, ending in 1986 with the exile of Baby Doc, Haitians became accustomed to official corruption, kidnappings and political murder that took the lives of tens of thousands, and destroyed the lives of even more.

Fake passport

In 1988, at 20, Jean felt that to stay in Haiti would bring him only heartache. He began his plan to come to the United States, and in so doing made the biggest mistake of his life. Jean came up with a plan to use someone else’s passport.

“It was a dumb thing, but I was desperate to leave Haiti,” he said, from his in-laws’ Gales Ferry home.

His wife, Holly, held his hand as he told the story.

“He was just trying to get a better life,” she said. “Like lots of other people who came to this country.”

Arriving in Florida, Jean immediately admitted his use of the fake passport and asked for political asylum.

After three months in jail, Jean was released while his claim for asylum was investigated. He migrated north and made his home in Norwich, where his mother was living. A lawyer was hired to help with his immigration, he got a job, and he met the woman who became his first wife. They had two children.

By 1994, Jean was working at Foxwoods and had a promising future. In June of that year, he received notice that the Connecticut Immigration Court had denied his appeal for asylum. Within a month, he filed an appeal. As they waded through the legal aspects of immigration, his wife filed a I-130 form — a petition for an alien relative — which was approved in 1996.

The constant stress of the immigration process took its toll, however, and by 2000, with no end in sight, the two agreed to divorce.

The divorce disrupted the immigration process. Although the I-130 status had been granted, neither Jean nor Jody knew to file a form I-485, an adjustment form for their divorced status.

Let down by lawyer

Attorney Rita Provatas, Jean’s legal representative now, said more problematic was the fact that Jean’s first attorney had not continued to process his application. Jean thought his immigration was proceeding smoothly, when in fact, the process of deportation already had begun.

“Wesley was shocked and bewildered,” Provatas said in his court documents. “He thought his paperwork was well in progress.”

After his divorce, Jean met Holly Davidson, and things began to look good. He was earning $22 per hour at the casino, and in December 2002, he and Holly put a deposit down on a Norwich home and began thinking of marriage.

All that would end with the visit by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents a month later.

Back in Haiti

In fall 2003, Jean found himself back in Port-au-Prince, the city from which he had escaped 15 years before. It was little different.

“I felt in danger most of the time,” Jean said. “There were no jobs. No way to earn a living, and everyone was still very poor.”

Still, for someone without a criminal record, and who was willing to work, there were jobs here and there, and Jean took what he could find while he worked through the legal system.

Back in Norwich, Holly and her family began the process of bringing Jean back to Connecticut. Holly worked a low-paying job, spent hundreds of dollars, and then more hundreds, on forms and visas. She saved and borrowed and flew to Haiti, where the two were married on Oct. 4, 2004. Provatas kept the legal proceedings fresh and filed paperwork as needed.

After more than a year in Haiti, Jean was ready for his visa, but the U.S. Consulate in Port-au-Prince refused to issue it.

“No one told me why it was refused,” Jean said. “I was just told that I could not get one.”

The process was repeated in 2006 and in 2007.

Wrongly accused

In 2008, Holly asked for help from the office of U.S. Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman, I-Conn. Lieberman’s office contacted Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and looked at the records against Jean. They found a note in Jean’s file concerning an unsubstantiated claim of smuggling.

“After several years, it was determined that they had wrongly accused this Wesley Jean,” Provatas said.

A letter to Lieberman from Peter Edge, acting director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, called the mistake unfortunate.

“Research into law enforcement records … revealed that there were two Wesley Jeans in the system and that both of their records had been combined into one case file,” Edge wrote, adding that having been made aware of the error, his agency would work diligently to correct the problem.

But corrections in a large bureaucracy take time. Nearly 18 months went by before Jean got word he could come home.

Claudia English, of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Boston Field Division, refused to comment on how the files were commingled, or why it took more than a year to fix the problem.

On Jan. 12, 2010, Jean stood outside in the afternoon sun and looked at the house where he lived in Port-au-Prince. He remembered thinking of his mother, who had died, of Holly and of his children. He had been gone for more than seven years, and his children were no longer babies.

“I felt they were slipping away from me,” he said. “Perhaps, I thought, I would never see them again.”


And then the Earth began to move. It was an earthquake, and Jean watched his house crumble into dust.

“People were screaming, dying,” he said. “It was horrible.”

“We didn’t know what happened to him,” Holly said. “There was no way to communicate. He could have been dead because of a mistake in some paperwork.”

Like a million others in Haiti, Jean was reduced to living in a tent. Unlike many, however, Jean did what he knew best. He worked. Jean worked with the United Nations as an interpreter, and helped many people as the crisis unfolded. He had fled Haiti because of the terrible conditions, and now he found himself in conditions far worse than he could have imagined.

As 2010 progressed into spring, and then summer, Jean kept himself busy with his relief work.

“I could help people,” he said. “Doing nothing was not an option.”

Back in Connecticut, Holly continued to work with Provatas.

“We worked, but you couldn’t get anyone to work with you,” Holly said. “ICE took their time fixing the problem, but wouldn’t explain anything to us.”

By November, they thought he would be home for Thanksgiving, but that passed. They hoped for Christmas, but a last-minute glitch stopped him. Finally, on New Year’s Eve, Jean stepped aboard a plane and, without looking back, left Haiti for the second time in his life.

Back in Connecticut

Today, Jean and Holly are trying to put their lives back together. Jean has a job back at the casino, but at a lower level.

“It took me a few years to work up to where I was when they took me,” he said, referring to Immigration and Customs Enforcement. “I must now work back up again. That’s OK. I will do it.”

Still, Jean lives with a fear he cannot seem to shake. Each morning, he wonders if someone will be waiting to put him in a car and take him to a prison.

“It’s something I live with,” he said. “I am always afraid.”

Provatas has told him that cannot happen now because he has a green card, but Jean is unsure.

“I didn’t believe you could be taken away,” he said. “But I was wrong.”

For the present, they are together, but their life is on hold. Jean is trying to get to know his children with Holly.

“I am their father, and I need to be there for them,” he said.

 They are living with Holly’s parents, and between legal bills and the debt accrued trying to bring him back, they will be struggling for some time.

“I still think this is the best place to live,” Jean said. “I love it here, and I will stay here and build a good life.”

College football lineman lifts car to save man’s life | Off the Bench

▶ Reggae Cymraeg by Vates

This is Devon | Injunction to move by the end the of month

Injunction to move by the end the of month

Wednesday, June 22, 2011
Profile image for Mid Devon Gazette

Mid Devon Gazette

A COUPLE living an "off-grid" lifestyle say they face prison unless they move from their own land in Willand and return to an existence in the benefits trap.

Stig and Dinah Mason bought Muxbeare Orchard after a sudden windfall allowed them to quit their impoverished lives on a Hertfordshire council estate two years ago.

The Masons have transformed what they described as a derelict four-acre plot into a haven of self-sufficiency boasting a 400 sq m allotment, a polytunnel and greenhouses to grow fruit and vegetables, chickens for egg production and an orchard they have regenerated by planting around 14 new apple trees of various species.

The couple, who have two boys, aged eight and nine, say because they moved onto the site in order to work the land, Mid Devon District Council is turfing them off as officers do not consider them to be conserving an agricultural area.

They faced magistrates on March 31 when they were served with an injunction to leave within 28 days from June 1.

Dinah, 35, who spent a year with her husband clearing four-foot high nettles and thistles which engulfed the four-acre site, said: "How anybody can say the orchard was being conserved before is beyond my comprehension."

Dinah works while Stig, 34, as well as making sure the children get to school on time, tends to the land on a daily basis where peas, potatoes, garlic, strawberries, raspberries and various produce have been growing since 2009.

Vegetarians Stig and Dinah claim council officers offered them bed and breakfast accommodation in Cullompton at taxpayers' expense and suggested they live on take aways, which are likely to cost around £20 for each family meal.

Dinah's income currently provides the family with everything they need which they cannot grow themselves but is unlikely to stretch to cover kennelling costs for their dog, Moo.

They say they currently receive no state hand-outs but by giving up their "off grid" way of life, they fear they will end up in a council house, claiming housing and council tax benefits, as well as seeking grants to help pay for high utility bills.

Stig, chairman of the Willand Composting Scheme and a member of the primary school's PTFA, sells eggs, produce, and hopefully cider in the future but explained that planning permission to live and work on the land was refused in 2009 which they are appealing against.

He said one of the council's reasons for refusal was based on a belief the couple had did not have a "sound enough business plan."

As well as plans to sell more produce locally, the couple say it is only likely to take them a further two years to get to a stage where they will be able to grow six to eight months' worth of vegetables.

Dinah, who is a community care worker, cub leader and also a member of the PTFA, said: "To live in an agricultural area you need to have a financial need, but this gives us enough to live on, but our whole ethos is not about making money.

"The council is saying by us living here it becomes mixed-use and is therefore no longer deemed agricultural."

Dinah was bequeathed money from the sudden death of her aunt and £47,000 was spent on the land to create the smallholding where wood burners and solar panels provide their energy needs.

Dinah said removing them from their land will render them homeless and is concerned they will have to pull their children out of Willand Primary School if they have to move out of the area.

But several people from across the country have written to the council in support of the family's retention.

Anne Wallington, whose family has had an interest in the village for 44 years, wrote to the council in support of the Masons by praising their hard work in reclaiming what was "rapidly becoming derelict land." David Thompson, who also lives in the village, said "they are trying to live up to the Government's pledge to take better care of the environment and this is the last orchard in the vicinity of Willand."

John Clarke, planning enforcement officer, said: "To get planning permission to move onto agricultural land, you have to prove first there is a need for someone to live there, for example, to tend livestock and look after crops, and second, that the enterprise can provide living income for at least one worker.

"Neither condition was met and therefore took the necessary action to protect the nature of the rural landscape and prevent unlawful habitation."

The council said it cannot comment on individual cases of housing need and said bed and breakfast accommodation is offered if people are homeless.

Muxbeare Orchard • foreword

A foreword by Dinah & Stig...

"We had a choice of squandering our lives stagnating on a council estate in the suburbs of London, or taking a leap of faith and moving our family somewhere to get in touch with nature and the rhythms of the seasons.

"We want a healthy lifestyle for ourselves and our children, giving them the best start we can offer. Building our own home, working with the land to run an organic smallholding that gives back to the community of which it is part, we feel is the better of the two lives.

“We are restoring a traditional orchard, hay meadows, and hedgerows to restore the special landscape and celebrate the rich working history of the ancient veteran trees rich in wildlife and wild flowers.

“The restoration of the orchard apples will produce fruit for ourselves and the local community and will serve as example to other landowners in our area who might wish to restore their orchards. The remaining few trees of our traditional orchards will be land managed. We wish to create a wildlife enhancement scheme ensuring the long-term social and environmental and economical sustainability of Muxbeare Orchard."


“Our focus will be to take care of our orchard and land; this will benefit the species of wildlife that we find in the orchard and ancient hedgerows.

“We are very concerned that the value of traditional orchards to wildlife is threatened by clearances and unsympathetic management. Too much tidying up of dead wood removes the habitat of rare species indigenous to that region. We will be taking a sympathetic management approach that concentrates on replanting to provide continuity of habitat, prolongs the live of old trees and may even prolong fruiting life.

"Key species that thrive in traditional orchards include the Lesser-Spotted Woodpecker, bats and insects. In particular, the larvae of the Noble Chafer Beetle lies on the dead wood of fruit trees. The Noble Chafer is a rare species listed in the UK Biodiversity Action Plan, which gives management targets for the country’s most endangered wildlife.

“Rejuvenating Traditional Ancient Special Orchards aims to raise awareness about the importance our and other orchards in Devon and Willand area, to encourage the reporting of findings and to demonstrate best practice in the management of difference species with the replanting of old orchards, renovating the orchard in the landscape surroundings. The Muxbeare Orchard will encourage healthy local food, with apples and apple juice making.

“Muxbeare Orchard is all that has survived, making it a unique rare place with rare plants and animals.

"Agriculture in the 21st Century has been subsidised by a mixture of price-fixing, tariffs, and import quotas due to the Common Agriculture Policy (CAP) of the European Union."

Our farm is a micro-service which will encourage a local food economy

"It is our intention to preserve the orchard and the countryside. Most people who do work on the land cannot afford to live there since the commuters have driven the price of housing up, and there is now a reverse commute situation with farmers and labourers living in cheap lodgings in the towns and driving out to their place of work.

"This means that the old local economy, in which those who lived on the land also worked there and vice-versa, has been severely damaged, and with it the system of mutual support and commitments to the locality that was so vital in making the countryside what it is.

"Local shops and pubs expire, young people leave for the towns, and old people become increasingly isolated, deprived of services, transport and the means of survival."

Encouraging the small and local – family farms vs agribusiness

"The family farm is the backbone of the rural economy, and the most important generator of the distinctive British landscapes. Fiscal policy must be designed in order to make the family farm once again viable. This means abolishing the regulations that make it unprofitable, and encouraging the local food economy, local slaughterhouses and farmers’ markets. Many of these regulations proceed from the EU.

"Each out-of-town superstore cuts the market share of in-town food shops by up to 50%, and means an average loss of 276 full-time jobs in towns and high streets."

Friday, 24 June 2011

With Pottermore, J.K. Rowling Gives Harry Potter The (Very Lucrative) Elixir of Life

With Pottermore, J.K. Rowling Gives Harry Potter The (Very Lucrative) Elixir of Life

  • Jason Kincaid

    3 hours ago

    Around 4 AM PDT this morning, Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling unveiled the latest addition to the massively successful series: a website called Pottermore, which will feature, among other things, Harry Potter eBooks (which have never been legally available to date) and thousands of words of new content describing the characters and world of Harry Potter.

    But while the site now features a handful of screenshots, Rowling and the accompanying press material were still pretty vague about what exactly Pottermore is. Fortunately, as a long-time fan myself, I have a few guesses. So let’s try to cast some light on what this all means. Imperi- err, Lumos!

    First, the biggest immediate news: this will mark the first time Harry Potter novels will be available in eBook formats. Rowling has indicated that the books will be DRM-free and will be available for all eBook devices including the Kindle and iPad, though it’s a little unclear how exactly this is going to work. Obviously this is a big deal (the books have sold more than 400 million print copies worldwide). I doubt people are going to rebuy the books the way some of them have with Apple’s launch of The Beatles on iTunes, but going forward the electronic editions will undoubtedly prove immensely popular.

    But today’s announcement was about more than eBooks. It’s about the future of the Harry Potter brand, which just got a new home.

    It’s a little weird to think about, but up until now there’s never been any officially sanctioned home base for Harry Potter fans.

    Fan sites like Mugglenet and The Leaky Cauldron have given aficionados a place to get daily news updates and interact on forums. But just redirects to a Warner Brothers site about the upcoming Deathly Hallows Part II film. That comes out in less than a month so it’s going to be stale soon, and even if Warner transforms it into a central hub about all of the films, it’s still going to leave fans wanting — especially since many  of them care more about the books than the films.

    Which brings us to Pottermore. As soon as the midnight showing of Deathly Hallows ends, millions of fans are going to walk out of the theatre with the uneasy feeling that they don’t have anything Harry Potter-related to look forward to — ending a streak that’s gone on for a decade now.

    Pottermore is the answer to this.

    Here’s how the site is being described in the press release:

    For this groundbreaking collaborative project, J.K. Rowling has written extensive new material about the characters, places and objects in the much-loved stories, which will inform, inspire and entertain readers as they journey through the storylines of the books. Pottermore will later incorporate an online shop where people can purchase exclusively the long-awaited Harry Potter eBooks, in partnership with J.K. Rowling’s publishers worldwide, and is ultimately intended to become an online reading experience, extending the relevance of Harry Potter to new generations of readers, while still appealing to existing fans. As the Pottermore Shop develops, it is intended that it should include further products designed specifically for Harry Potter fans, offering a potential outlet for Sony products and services related to Pottermore.

    (Yes, that bit about keeping the series relevant to new readers is a little depressing — since when do fantastic books require an online supplement? But I digress…)

    Looking at the screenshots, I’m reminded of J.K. Rowling’s official site, which she launched while the books were still being written. Through the site Rowling sporadically revealed clues about the upcoming books using basic puzzles (in 2004, for example, she unveiled the title of Book Six). The site is also littered with tidbits of trivia about the characters, as well as FAQs and debunked rumors.

    Pottermore sounds like it will share some of the same characteristics. Like Rowling’s official site, Pottermore appears to mix a combination of hand-drawn illustrations and occasional animation, as opposed to a flashy interface. And, like Rowling’s official site, there will be a wealth of new content for fans to discover.

    The site is launching to private beta testers on July 31 (which coincides with Potter’s birthday in the books), and will be broadly available in October. Over the ensuing months and years, Rowling will be gradually adding more content to the site, fleshing out back stories and adding additional interactive features.

    Some of this will be contributed by users — the press release notes that users can submit “comments, drawings and other content in a safe and family environment.” And the screenshots also depict some social features, like seeing where in each book each of your friends is. Also note the inbox, which is an owl with a number badge pinned to it.

    And.. err.. none of that sounds that thrilling to me. Granted, I’m hardly the target demographic, but even the 12-year old version of me (which is when I started reading the books) probably would have shrugged his shoulders at this. New content? Great — definitely enough to keep me coming back once a month or so to look for new tidbits. Being able to follow along with my friends? Bleh.

    But I’m guessing the real meat of the site will come through the partnership with Sony. No, a Harry Potter MMO was not announced today, but the demand is there, and Sony certainly has experience with massively multiplayer games — it created Everquest (which, for those of you who aren’t gamers, was the most popular predecessor to World of Warcraft). Sony is describing this as “a pioneering partnership that will help shape the future of story-telling” and will span years, and I’d be very surprised if an MMO isn’t on the roadmap. Update: Wired UK points out that Warner Brothers owns the rights to Harry Potter video games. And while the press release says that Warner will be a collaborator as the project moves forward, it doesn’t indicate just deeply involved they’ll be. In other words, that MMO may be less of a given — there may be deals that need to get worked out, or perhaps Warner would do a game independent of Pottermore.

    There will undoubtedly be other products as well. Some will bomb, just as some Star Wars products have bombed. But there’s still going to be a huge demand for new Harry Potter games and media, and they now have a launchpad that fans will be checking in on regularly for years to come. And some of those products will rake in boatloads of money.

    Or maybe it really is just a Harry Potter-themed pseudo social network. In which case, pass the firewhiskey.

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