Friday, August 17, 2007


As we all know those who live in trailer parks across this land are not amongst the most wealthy of citizens. The subject of cruel jokes and seemingly targeted by tornadoes these folks go about their business with few amenities.

And increasingly they are getting tossed out on their cans in the name of development.

That's what's happening to the residents of the Thunderbird Mobile Home Park in East Boise, Idaho and they aren't happy about it. Besides the hassle and the indignity of being evicted, like residents in other mobile home parks, residents in this park can't afford moving expenses (see article below).

State laws generally allow mobile home park owners to close and convert mobile homeparks to other uses consistent with local zoning ordinances. Since a significant proportion of mobile home parks are located in non-residential zones, the park owners, often non-residents, and often corporations, will generally find that park residents can be displaced, the land cleared, and commercial or industrial uses superimposed, without review by zoning officials, or in other proceedings where residential interests can be heard and protected.

In Huber Valley, Utah the Boyer Co. wants to build a Wal-Mart and maybe even a Lowe's at the location of one such trailer park. Landowner Doug Heiner, who we assume will cash in on the deal, has offered each mobile home owner $1,000 to $4,000 to help with relocation.

Residents, however, have no idea where they will go. The few mobile home parks in the pricey Heber Valley are full, and homes and condos in the mountain town are out of reach.

"All these people are just going to lose their trailers because they have nowhere to go; they're just gong to lose their trailers," Sheila O'Neal , who lives in the park told the Desert News. She started a petition to ask the city to relocate residents or move the park to rezoned land. "They should have thought about us before they kicked us out on the street."

O'Neal, a single mother with two children, has no idea what she's going to do. She's been quoted $7,125 to move her Heber trailer to another location in the county. That price jumps to $12,000 to move her trailer to Provo -- too much on her limited income.

When the residents of Mobile Home Manor in Michigan were evicted with little notice, Linda VandenBroek said her father-in-law couldn't move his older trailer without it deteriorating, and couldn't afford the $1,500 demolition fee.

"When the time comes, we're all on our own," she said.

Both Linda and John VandenBroek said the only help they've received from Mobile Home Manor in finding a new place to live came as a short list of mobile park sites.

More than nine million families nationwide live it mobile homes. The low cost has made it possible for them to own their own place - something every American is supposed to strive for.

What is happening is that rising land values are pushing mobile home parks off coveted real estate. And residents of mobile homes often feel communities are all too glad to see them go because of negative public perception.

But you know what? Some of these residents aren't all that impressed with those who look down on them.

"I hate condominiums, townhouses and apartments! I just detest 'em," says 75 year-old mobile home resident Doris Onstad.

"I can play the piano as much as I want and nobody hears. If you're in a condominium, someone next door is going to hear you play," she told Minnesota Public Radio in a report last year. "Here, I can make all the noise I want and nobody hears me. I love it!"

Onstad moved into her mobile home nearly nine years ago, after her house in Grand Forks, North Dakota was destroyed by a flood.

She bought her mobile home for $9,500. As is the case with most mobile home residents, she owns the unit she lives in, but rents the lot on which it sits for just over $300 a month.

"Where else can you live for $310 a month? Where?" Onstad asks. "I couldn't afford an apartment. Wow, the minimum is over $600. Have you ever priced apartments? They're high."

And let me tell you as the housing crisis deepens there are going to be more and more people trying to find some inexpensive place to live.

Anyway, its time for the jokes about "trailer trash" and the like to come to an end. People who live in these parks are just like everyone else. They're trying to get by. They're trying to make a go of it.

But like regular folks everywhere when the big guys come along, their lives are expendable.

Thunderbird Mobile Home Park resident Bob McCusker spoke for many as he explained to the Idaho Statesman last week, "These are our homes. There have been babies born here. These are hard-working people. It ain't the fanciest place, but I have lovely neighbors."

But if the developers have their way, not for long!

The following is from the Idaho Statesman.

East Boise mobile home park residents face eviction

Bob McCusker and his neighbors in the Thunderbird Mobile Home Park in East Boise have just a few months left to uproot their lives.

A developer bought the land with plans to build new homes after residents are out of their trailer park this winter. McCusker, a self-described handyman, said he gets by on about $800 a month, and it's too expensive to move trailers or find different housing.

Thunderbird residents must now choose from a short list of very difficult choices: somehow scrape together enough money to move their trailers or simply abandon their homes — and investments in them — to find a new place to live.

By law, older trailers must be inspected and rehabilitated before they can be moved. Even still, it costs thousands of dollars to relocate even a newer mobile home. Those fees hit hard for many trailer owners, often the most vulnerable in the community — elderly, disabled and low-income families. So the redevelopment trend has state and local officials concerned and looking for permanent solutions.

The Governor's Manufactured Home Park Advisory Committee was created by then-Gov. Jim Risch in late 2006 after a developer bought the Coffey Mobile Home Park in Garden City and evicted its residents. Garden City officials came up with $90,000 in federal grants to assist the displaced residents, and local businesses donated money to help.

According to the Ada County assessor's office, there were 5,991 manufactured homes in the county last year, a 23 percent decrease from 2001. In Canyon County, the number of mobile homes on the tax rolls declined 10 percent in the past five years. Now, as many as 15 mobile home parks are for sale across the Treasure Valley.

Mobile home park residents being moved off land is a relatively new phenomenon, said Jerry Todd, spokesman for Boise's Planning and Development Services. Boise is a growing city with developers competing over land for valuable infill projects. Trailer parks represent some of the largest tracts of undeveloped open land inside the city and in surrounding communities.

"People in mobile home parks, for the most part, don't have those safety nets," said Deanna Watson, a member of the commission and executive director of Boise City/Ada County Housing Authority. "They have been making due with what they have got. But it makes them more vulnerable when the bottom drops out."

Todd said the loss of mobile home parks and affordable housing is a "continuing concern." City officials are supportive of what the governor's task force is working toward, Todd said.

The governor's commission is looking at a number of long-term solutions, including legislative actions and funding for the Idaho Housing Trust Fund. The trust fund was created in 1992 but has never received state funding. The task force is looking for sources to pay in.

"We are getting to the point where we talk about what needs to be done. We haven't formulated everything yet," said Penny Fletcher, an advocate and former mobile home owner who serves on the task force.

Originally, the task force considered only relocation assistance, Fletcher said. But in recent months other solutions have emerged. One such solution involves creating resident associations and a funding mechanism so trailer park residents can collectively buy the land their homes sit on.

In that scenario, trailer park residents would legally be given the first shot at buying their park if it's put up for sale, said Rep. Phylis King, D-Boise, a member of the governor's task force.

"I see this as affordable housing and work force housing issue," King said.

Development trend

Mobile home parks converting into subdivisions and commercial developments is an emerging trend. During the last housing boom, developers had a hard time finding vacant property for infill projects. Mobile home parks came under economic development pressure from builders of homes and commercial enterprises.

Communities benefit economically as new commercial or residential development replaces aging mobile home parks, but people who live on lower incomes lose affordable housing. Boise officials say it's been at least 20 years since the development of a new park.

Commercial real estate broker Gary Bates estimates as many as 15 trailer parks are for sale right now throughout the Treasure Valley.

Bates represents one owner looking to sell off multiple parks so he can retire. A commercial Web site lists prices for the parks ranging from a half-million dollars to well over $2 million.

Thunderbird is one of the parks Bates' client sold. Thunderbird residents want to ensure the new owner pays all the costs of their forced move. They want to set a new precedent.

Mobile and manufactured home residents often live on a fixed or low income, but typically don't use social services, said Deanna Watson, a member of the commission and executive director of Boise City/Ada County Housing Authority.

But they're rarely in a position to afford an expensive move if their mobile home park redevelops, she said.

State law requires only six months notice and there is no statutory requirement for cash assistance.

New owner, Trifecta Land Holdings LLC is working with city officials and has made an offer to residents of the Thunderbird to find a way to move about 30 trailers from a 10-acre site on Amity Road.

Boise officials also came up with $100,000 in federal funds to help Thunderbird residents find a new place to live.

McCusker said despite his relatively small income, he doesn't take any public assistance.

"I don't make a lot of money, but I don't need a lot of help," he said. "I am not a burden to society. If they move us out, we will become a burden to this city."

McCusker says he's concerned the city can't come up with cash every time a park owner decides to sell. He wants long-term solutions, perhaps even a city-backed program to buy long-term land for mobile and manufactured homes.

"I sat with the mayor last Tuesday and asked ‘do you have $100,000 to give to every trailer park in the city,'" McCusker said. "A lot of people are going to lose their homes and have nothing left to get back into."


Here they come again. A "parade" of over 1000 loyalists is set to march through the republican village of Rasharkin...again. Every year violence accompanies the march Why the Parades Commission continually agrees to this provocation is unclear to me, but it does.

A letter written to the Ballymena Times from a resident of the area summed up the disappointment over the Parades Commission this way:

SIR - I am writing to express my great disappointment that I have in the current Parades Commission and their failure to take the views of local residents into account in areas like my own.
I live in a small cul-de-sac in Rasharkin which has over 80 residents and which is well over 80% Catholic. Every year the different loyal orders in the area take turns at coming off the main road and parading through the estate.

In more recent times we have had to witness a band brought in from Ballymena to march up and down this cul-de-sac playing 'The Sash' and last year an incident took place in the estate involving parade supporters which is to go court shortly.

This July a band paraded through the estate without having applied to do so and the Orange Hall here in the village was attacked - both these incidents were wrong and unjust.

Local people living in the estate are fed up with this behaviour from the loyal orders and a petition was given to the Parades Commission signed by an overwhelming majority of residents living here, calling for no parades of any sort to be allowed to come through the estate.

This has seemingly fallen on deaf ears and has gotten to the stage where the Parades Commission did not even bother to contact the local residents association to consult them on this year's Twelfth parade, which brought three bands into the estate.

If the Parades Commission has any wish to uphold community relations in Rasharkin they should ensure that loyal order parades stay to the main road, and do not go into sensitive areas like this. None of the loyal orders have ever consulted the residents of this estate to ascertain our views and to date refuse to engage in dialogue to resolve this issue.

When bands go out to play and the loyal orders march they do so to appeal to a certain audience. There is clearly no such audience in a small cul-de-sac as this and residents therefore see these parades as nothing more than a sectarian coat-trailing exercise, especially since the parade organisers won't talk to residents.

It seems that the Parades Commission will not place determinations on parades like this as they think that the less determinations they place the better their 'performance record'.

This therefore is put before the rights of residents to live free from sectarian harassment.

What they are doing is remarkably short-sighted and unless they take a tough stance against those who refuse to engage in dialogue these problems will only fester and worsen over time.

-Yours faithfully,

Rasharkin resident

The following comes from North Antrim Sinn Féin MLA Daithí McKay.

Catholic residents move out as loyalists take over Rasharkin for night

The Parades Commission has agreed to allow over 1,000 loyalists to assemble in the nationalist village of Rasharkin tonight which will result in many Catholic families being forced to leave their homes for the evening. The Parades Commission has put no restrictions on the parade which has been passed to include 40 bands and well over 1,000 loyalist supporters.

This year many residents are again being forced to leave their homes, especially in the wake of some of the intimidation that occurred in the village last year.
North Antrim Sinn Féin MLA Daithí McKay said this morning:

"This is a totally unacceptable situation. The violent actions of loyalists at this parade in the past three years, including an assault on a Catholic woman, the burning of tricolours on the street and a litany of sectarian incidents have clearly been ignored to the amazement of local residents.

"The Parades Commission has decided not to put in place any legally binding code of conduct which would have meant that loyalists taking part in this parade could be brought to book for sectarian behaviour and intimidation. It is clear that loyalist paramilitaries are involved, indeed some of the bands are quite open about their connections with both the UDA and UVF.

“People here are disgusted that the Parades Commission has refused to view evidence of how the Pride of The Maine band broke the law on numerous occasions at a parade in Rasharkin last week, and that there will be no restrictions or deterrents to stop this band coming through the village and doing the same thing again tonight.

"There is no doubt that this Parades Commission decision has not taken into account the right of residents to live free from sectarian harassment and the question has to be asked why Rasharkin is being treated differently by the Parades Commission than other areas in the north. It is bizarre that the Parades Commission’s advice and code of conduct has been broken by parade participants for the past three consecutive years but they still refuse to do anything about it."


Attorney General Patrick C. Lynch of Rhode Island called on North Providence police to turn over the results of any investigation into the injuries suffered by demonstrator and IWW member Alexandra Svoboda while marching (without a permit)to demand that Jacky’s Galaxie restaurant stop purchasing supplies from a company in New York that it says has a poor labor record. The IWW says, "...the restaurant chain that is being supplied by HWH in New York City, a supplier who is notorious for its slave labor conditions of up to 110 hours per week without basic labor rights (minimum wage and overtime)."

“The photographs I have seen depict a serious injury and are certainly very troubling,” Lynch said.

The IWW states:

"Roughly 30-40 wobblies and supporters were marching towards a restaurant in North Providence when the police began following them en mass. They told the marches to move to the sidewalk, while this was initially ignored, the marchers listened to the police and began slowly moving to the sidewalk.

The police then surrounded the marchers in their squad cars and began getting out. With the police in full force, they began attacking the marchers, one fellow worker, Alex Svoboda, was pinned down by the police during her arrest and suffered a dislocated leg. Jason, another wob, was also arrested in during the police' attack."

The local IWW invited members from across the Northeast to join another march this weekend down the center of Mineral Spring Avenue to call attention to what it says is the “prevalence of police brutality” in Rhode Island.

The following is from WJAR (Rhode Island)

AG Will Review Protester's Injury

Members of a labor group gathered outside the attorney general's office Thursday to press for his involvement in investigating their claim of police brutality against a protester.

The Industrial Workers of the World accuse North Providence police of using excessive force against Alexandra Svoboda during a demonstration on Saturday.

Police said Svoboda, 22, was combative and hit officers with some drumsticks. The group had gathered outside an Asian restaurant to protest labor practices.

The woman suffered serious leg injuries. She was photographed on the ground.

"The photographs constitute only a snapshot, however, of the end-result of a series of incidents whose chronological facts need to be fully explored and developed before any conclusions are reached," Lynch said in a statement released Wednesday.

Lynch said he will ask North Providence police to turn over the findings of their investigation for review. He has asked the state police to help.

The IWW wants misdemeanor charges filed against Svoboda dropped and monetary compensation.

Thursday, August 16, 2007


Holy Moley, it's after five and I have not done the OD. Sorry folks, but it is entirely possible the same may happen tomorrow. Y'all should know that I've taken on this little project in order to earn a little cash and it may cut into OD time for a while. But keep checking back!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007


Apparently the camp-in by homeless and supporters described below in Santa Cruz is still going on today. Outside of Indymedia I've been totally unable to find any other news about it. A report today posted at Indymedia reads in part, "...reportedly 50 people cycled through and some spent the night. I'll be meeting with them in half an hour. To offer support call HUFF (Homeless United for Friendship & Freedom) at 831-423-4833 or go to The protesters will probably be setting up their own website soon. Two sleeping tickets on Sunday night, and none since.

The following comes directly from
Indymedia Santa Cruz. It was last updated yesterday.

Efforts to Turn the Tide of the Downtown Police State

After six weeks of organizing for a federal lawsuit against the sleeping ban outside Vice-Mayor Ryan Coonerty's Bookshop Santa Cruz, Coonerty remains mum on the basic issue: The judicially-established fact that nighttime sleeping bans violate the federal and state Constitutional prohibitions against cruel and unusual punishment. More than 16 months ago, such a ban was overturned in Los Angeles on Skid Row. A year ago, Richmond changed its law to comport with this ruling (the Jones decision). This spring San Diego settled with its homeless community, agreeing not to enforce laws against sleeping and camping at night.

On August 12th Free Skool Santa Cruz offered a Know Your Rights workshop on the sidewalk in front of Bookshop Santa Cruz. The workshop was followed by a teach-in to end the sleeping ban in Santa Cruz at City Hall. The teach-in included songs, stories, food and a Guerilla Drive-In screening of Sir! No Sir!, David Zeiger's documentary chronicling the largely forgotten anti-war activities of American GIs and other members of the military during the Vietnam era.

About 30-40 folks slept out on the City Hall grounds to urge Mayor Reilly to abide by the Jones decision and stop ticketing homeless people for sleeping and covering up with blankets at night. Sargent Harms and another member of the Santa Cruz Police Department arrived at 6:10 AM to roust the protesters. Several responded by asking "Please direct me to a legal place to sleep" and the police had no answer. After giving two tickets and calling for back-up (Officer Brandt and two others), Harms adopted a posture of "friendly cooperation" with the protesters, while his companion videoed the whole area and everyone in it. On August 13th, about 15-20 protesters voted to return to City Hall with more support and possibly move their protest onto Pacific Avenue to raise its profile.


Okay, so it comes as no surprise to the average working person down at the plant that the guys sitting in the air conditioned offices back at corporation headquarters make a gazillion times more than they do. It doesn't matter that the backbreaking work, the dangerous work, the boring work, etc. etc. is done in plant. Hey, that's the way the system works.

If you don't like it organize.

And then you wake up and learn that even in the union the same situation prevails. Workers make the least money, union honchos the most.

And for a while who cared as wages were rising and benefits were increasing.

But that isn't the case any more. Wages aren't rising, benefits are going away.

But the union leaders, well, they're still doing okay for themselves (see article below).

And we wonder why unions have lost the respect of those they are supposed to represent.

Of course, it not just the union presidents big salary that has caused the decline in union membership, but I'll tell y'a what your average worker would be alot more impressed if their union leaders lived a little more like they do.

The funny thing is that the justification given by union big shots is same as that given by corporate CEOs. You gotta pay more to get the really top notch leaders.

Wouldn't it be nice if those running unions were doing it because they just cared about workers...and not earning top bucks.

Wasn't there once even a time when that was sort of what happened...a long, long time ago in a place far, far away? I'm not sure that that time and place ever existed. If it did, it wasn't for long.

Is it any wonder so many workers are just not interested in joining the union when the lifestyle of their leadership and the lifestyle of their bosses is a lot more alike then either is with their own?

Not to me.

Until real workers actually control their own organizations - whatever they may be called - it is pretty unlikely that any of this is going to change.

The following article is from the Detroit News.

Labor bosses don't share workers' pain
In tough times, leaders still gain as workers lose ground

Mike Wilkinson and Ron French / The Detroit News

In the past five years, pink slips have descended upon tens of thousands of union workers in Michigan, while others have seen their health care and pension benefits gutted and wages frozen or cut.

But in many cases, labor's pain stops at the union hall door.

During the toughest economic times for organized labor in decades, union leaders are more likely to keep their jobs and get raises than the members they serve. A Detroit News analysis of U.S. Department of Labor data revealed a growing pay divide between labor bosses and the rank and file who pay their salaries with their dues.

Michigan's biggest unions represented 60,000 fewer workers in 2006 compared with 2002. While membership plummeted 14 percent, jobs at union halls remained safe, dropping less than 1 percent.

Workers who kept their jobs saw the disparity between their paychecks and those of their union bosses grow. The pay gap between the state's 50 top-paid labor leaders and union workers has grown by $18,000 since 2002 -- an economic chasm expanding by almost $10 a day. Records supplied to the Labor Department by the unions themselves show that the state's 50 top-paid union officials now earn an average of $186,000. More than 1,000 labor officers and staffers in Michigan made more than $100,000 in 2006, more than twice as much as the average union worker.

The pay disparity is taking a financial toll on many union halls across the state. Fewer workers generate less in dues, the lifeblood of a union. With dues down and union officer pay up, a greater percentage of union budgets is going to pay labor leaders. That leaves less cash for worker protection, negotiating and organizing.

The data, which doesn't include leaders of most public-sector unions, raises questions about whether labor leaders are sharing the economic struggles of their members. "It takes scarce resources from within the labor movement and starves activities that are desperately needed," said Mark Brenner, co-director of Labor Notes, a pro-labor monthly magazine that tracks union pay.

Pay gap grows within unions

Union leaders and members have long complained about the millions paid to CEOs in salaries and perks. For instance, Alan Mulally, president and CEO of Ford Motor Co., was paid more than $28 million last year -- that's over 450 times more than the average line worker at the company. And Michigan's top corporate titans had their average pay more than double since 2001, The News reported in May.

Less known to the public -- and to many union members -- is the growing pay gap within many unions.

In 2006, the highest-paid union official in Michigan was Grosse Pointe Park's Walter "Ralph" Mabry, the former executive secretary-treasurer of the Michigan Regional Council of Carpenters. He was paid more than $410,000 last year -- up $26,000 from the year before. That's a 6.7 percent pay hike at a time when his union lost 5 percent of its members, records show.

"That's silly," said Peter Morici, a business professor at the University of Maryland, about Mabry's pay. "Those are the kind of things that make them (union officials) look bad."

Mabry's pay was set by the union's executive committee, comprised of about 70 voting delegates. According to a statement from the union issued Monday, the regional council has annual revenues of about $22 million and 100 full-time employees.

"The bottom line is that the MRCC membership is well represented by a strong organization whose operations are efficiently managed by its officers and staff, who receive fair compensation for the work that they do," the statement read. It was provided by the carpenters' public relations firm.

Mabry, who could not be reached for comment, was sentenced last year to 24 months in federal prison for conspiring to receive more than $120,000 in "extraordinary benefits" for work on his home. He stepped down the day he was sentenced. He is currently out on bond as he appeals the conviction.

Mabry isn't the only union leader in Michigan who rakes in a big paycheck. Consider:

Five officers from Michigan locals of the United Food and Commercial Workers, the union that represents grocery workers at Meijer, Kroger and Farmer Jack, were paid more than $200,000 last year. Top union pay at local grocery stores reaches about $40,000 for a butcher, with most cashiers, baggers and stockers making far less.

Luigi Battaglieri is the executive director of the Michigan Education Association, the union that represents more than 150,000 teachers and other education professionals in the state. Last year, Battaglieri was paid $334,174, including a lump sum for unused vacation and sick time he cashed in after he resigned as president to become executive director.
The teacher union's executive director pulled in nearly double the pay of Michael Flanagan, Michigan's state superintendent for public instruction. Flanagan took a 5 percent pay cut in 2005.

Battaglieri declined to comment for this story, but an MEA spokeswoman defended the pay of the union's top leadership, saying it is necessary to attract qualified professionals.

Willie Hampton, head of Local 79 of the Service Employees union in Detroit, saw his pay jump 25 percent from 2002 to 2006, reaching $155,874. During that same time, his union has lost 30 percent of its membership. Hampton did not return calls seeking comment.

Alex Shulman, the local's chief of staff, said Hampton's salary, as well as other staff members, was set by the executive board and then approved by the members. In most unions, workers ultimately approve the pay of their leaders.

Roles changed over time

Labor leaders have come a long way since Samuel Gompers took a pay cut from his cigar-making job to help create the American Federation of Labor in the late 19th century. He helped forge the AFL into a 4-million-member powerhouse that sought to win better conditions and higher wages for workers.

Most union leaders were paid little or nothing through the 1930s, when fiery labor organizers were left-leaning activists who believed all workers should be paid the same, said Roland Zullo, a research scientist who has studied union leader pay at the University of Michigan's Institute for Labor and Industrial Relations. "Historically, these were the kind of folks who would do a lot of work for you for little money," he said.

As unions became more established, labor leaders turned their attention from organizing to collective bargaining. "Negotiating a contract requires legal and economic expertise," Zullo said. "You began to see a professionalization that you didn't have before."

For many of today's union leaders, it's been years since they last worked the assembly line or taught in a classroom. And some are lawyers and accountants.

As union leadership became more of a white-collar job, some leaders began to collect management-level pay.

The exact size of those paychecks is sometimes difficult to determine. Many union officials get paid from one source, such as their local or the international union office. But some get paid by from multiple sources -- a local, an area council, the international office, even another union.

For instance, Teamsters Local 337 in Detroit paid President Larry Brennan a $101,000 salary in 2006. But he also received $18,000 from Teamsters Joint Council 43 and another $50,000 for being an international representative of the union, for a total salary of $169,000.

Then there was the $12,000 in allowances, $15,000 in business expenses and another $4,400 in "other" compensation. All told, the Teamsters paid Brennan $200,701 in 2006.

Brennan did not return calls seeking comment.

Such salaries, while dwarfing those of the rank and file, have seldom raised eyebrows. As long as membership and benefits were growing, it seemed no one complained, Zullo said.

But with Michigan enduring a brutal economic restructuring, labor boss salaries are under increasing scrutiny. Today, unions have seen their ranks dwindle to the lowest levels since World War II. Once one of the best-paying states in the country, Michigan has dropped to the middle of the pack, a fall that has run parallel to the drop in union membership.

"They're really up against it. They're in a situation where there are no easy answers," said Lowell Turner, a labor expert at Cornell University in New York.

With reduced membership and dues, Turner says union expenses should come down -- including leaders' pay. "If your members are taking a 10 percent pay cut, the leaders should be taking a 10 percent pay cut," Turner said.

It doesn't always happen that way.

The members of Madison Heights-based Local 876 of the United Food and Commercial Workers had a difficult choice in 2005. With Farmer Jack trying to survive in the cut-throat grocery business, members were asked to accept benefit cuts. The union agreed to a 10 percent pay cut.

After workers approved the pay cut, Victoria Collins, then-president of the local, tried to console members. "We know this contract was a tough sacrifice for many of you and commend all of you for an agreement that protects your co-workers and their families," she said at the time.

That year, while 10 percent of workers lost their jobs and the rest took the pay cut, Collins' pay as president of the Madison Heights-based local jumped 29 percent to nearly $170,000. Her $38,000 raise was itself more than the annual salary of most Local 876 workers.

"I voted for the pay cut (in 2005) because I wanted to keep my job," said Diane Burt, 52, who worked at the Farmer Jack in Wixom for 27 years. "If we voted it down, they might have shut us down right then."

Within months of the pay cut, workers received letters from their union notifying them that union officials had "voted themselves raises," Burt said. "We were pretty upset they were using our dues to feather their own nests."

Following the recent sale of Metro Detroit Farmer Jack grocery stores, many Local 876 members face uncertain futures. Some found lower-paying jobs at Kroger or Busch's. Burt is unemployed.

"They (UFCW leaders) were in it for themselves," Burt said. "They pushed us aside when it was over."

Collins moved to the UFCW headquarters in Washington, D.C., where she was paid $205,754 in total compensation in 2006, according to reports filed by the union. She left the UFCW recently and officials there were uncertain where she now works. Attempts by The News to contact her were unsuccessful.

Expert suggests salary cap

The University of Maryland's Morici believes most top union officials are working hard for organized labor, not themselves. He pointed to John Sweeney, head of the AFL-CIO, the labor umbrella organization which has nearly 10 million members. His total compensation topped $291,000 last year, including a salary of nearly $250,000. A CEO with similar responsibilities would typically make several times that amount.

"You can say what you want about these people, but they're not greedy," he said.

Then, he suggested a caveat for organized labor: "Nobody should make more than John Sweeney."

Nationwide, more than 100 others did. In Michigan, only Mabry and Battaglieri reached Sweeney's pay grade. But more than four dozen make more than $150,000, including three Teamsters, eight from the UFCW, 12 from the UAW, and 18 from the MEA, the state's largest teacher union.

Labor Notes' Brenner recently suggested a $100,000 salary cap for union officials, saying unions could save millions of dollars that could be better spent on organizing.

"It's an enormous missed opportunity," he said. But any discussion of saving money by trimming dues-funded salaries, Brenner said, is a nonstarter.

In Michigan, unions spent $4.3 million on salaries over $100,000 in 2005, the last year for which records are complete. The UAW spent $1.8 million above it; the Michigan Education Association nearly $1.1 million.

Karen Schulz, an MEA spokeswoman, questioned whether an "artificial cap" would cause labor organizations to lose talented staff members. "I don't think that would go over very big with folks," she said.

Last year, 123 MEA staff and officers had salaries that exceeded $100,000.

Several retiring MEA employees also saw their annual pay pumped up by cashing in on unused vacation and sick time.

"MEA officers and staff know that they're well paid and we work hard to give our members their money's worth," Schulz said.

There's some good news, too

Not all the labor news is bad. Union workers continue to earn more than nonunion workers. The average Michigan union worker in the private sector earned $23.75 an hour in 2006, compared with $21.37 for nonunion workers. And at some locals, officers and union staff have felt the wrath of the budget axe.

In Flint, UAW Local 659 has watched its resources dwindle with every shift reduction and layoff. Once home to more than 15,000 engine and metal fabricating workers, the local now has about 3,700 members -- and 800 of them make $13 an hour, far below the UAW norm.

The cuts have been devastating for the local, which once had two active halls. With the loss of every worker, the local loses up to $55 a month in dues.

"It's been difficult," said Walt Duvernois, president of the local.

Since becoming president two years ago, Duvernois has been forced to make cuts. Pay has been cut and some office workers have been laid off.

There once were five full-time union officers, now there are two. The local is also considering the sale of one of its halls.

Despite the cuts, some continued to do well: two secretaries with Local 659 made $101,000 and $95,000 last year.

He lauded the women but criticized his predecessors -- calling them "greedy, really greedy" -- for granting high salaries to some union hall employees. Another secretary was laid off and a fourth took a $20,000 pay cut last year. More cuts loom, he said.

"You never condemn a person for what they make," he said. "But you've got to be a realist. We've got to keep the hall open."

You can reach Mike Wilkinson at (313) 222-2563 or


In the area of rights for gays and lesbians South Africa appears to have a long way to go. Despite constitutional guarantees of equality and equal protection for all, the reality is far different.

Addressing Rainbow UCT, the University of Cape Town's gay and lesbian rights organisation on gay rights The Independent reports Supreme Court of Appeal Judge Edwin Cameron said there was a substantial disjunct between constitutional promises of equality for all and the realities on the ground.

"We have come very far. We have much to rejoice about and we did embrace a democratic constitution. But we have failed to relate those into meaningful realities.

"There is rampant racism, rampant inequality and prejudice against gays and lesbians. We have a long way to go before the constitutional promises are translated."

Cameron who is openly gay the issue of sexual orientation was one that tested the commitment of putting the past in the past.

South Africa celebration of National Women's Day last week was in fact overshadowed by the debate about homophobia in the country which has intensified since the recent murders of several lesbians.

Sizakele Sigasa, 34, and 23-year-old Salome Masooa's bodies were found in a field in Soweto in late July.

The Director of the Pietermaritzburg Gay and Lesbian network, Anthony Waldhausen told the Independent the killings were a shocking, but not unfamiliar image in South Africa, in the light of the recent increase in violence and rape against women and men who were either suspected of supporting, or who supported, lesbian and gay rights. He said:

"Violence against lesbians and gays is un-South African. Here, oppression and discrimination have no place, still there are parents who reject or kick children out on to the streets. Siblings, friends and communities sometimes hurt, beat, rape, torture and even kill lesbians and gays.

If they survive all this, they face further victimisation at in the hands of the police and even the courts. This is not justice at all."

The following is from Rainbow Network News.

Lesbians Targeted For Murder In South Africa

The recent brutal murders of three lesbians show that South Africa’s constitutional promise of equal protection has yet to become a reality, the Human Rights Watch said in a recent letter to President Thabo Mbeki.

On July 8, the bodies of Sizakele Sigasa, age 34, and Salome Masooa, age 24, were found in a field in Meadowlands, Soweto. Sigasa had been shot six times; Masooa had been shot once. Sigasa was openly lesbian and an activist for the rights of people living with HIV/AIDS as well as lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people’s rights.

In another case, believed to be unrelated, the body of Thokozane Qwabe, age 23, was found in a field in Ladysmith, KwaZulu-Natal, on July 22. She had multiple head wounds and was naked. Local nongovernmental organizations have informed Human Rights Watch that, based on how the bodies and clothing were found, they suspect rape in both cases.

“Despite legal commitments to equality for all, lesbians in South African townships are still targeted for rape and murder,” Jessica Stern, researcher in the LGBT Rights Program of Human Rights Watch, said in a release. “Poverty, prejudice, homophobia and sexism are building a new pass system, where many women dare not walk openly on the street.”

Police have refused to speculate on whether the victims’ sexual orientation was a motive for the murders. They have detained, but not arrested, four people in connection with the murders of Sigasa and Masooa, and have reportedly arrested and charged a suspect in Qwabe’s death.

South Africa’s 1996 constitution contains landmark equality protections that made it the first constitution in the world to bar discrimination based on sexual orientation. However, inequality as well as violence persists.

A mob murdered Zoliswa Nkonyana, a 19-year-old lesbian, in a Cape Flats township in March 2006. A friend walking with Nkonyana escaped and later recounted how the mob accused them of being “tomboys” who “wanted to be raped.” More Than a Name, a joint report of Human Rights Watch and the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, documented the experiences of lesbians who survived rape or lived in perpetual fear of rape, as well as partial or inadequate investigations by authorities into allegations of homophobic abuse.

“Lesbians’ lives are not expendable,” Stern said.

Human Rights Watch has called on the South African government to ensure that the ongoing investigations of these murders are thorough and impartial, and can lead to the identification and successful prosecution of those responsible. It also emphasized the importance of recognizing that the victims’ sexual orientation and gender may have been a motivating and aggravating factor in the crime. It urged the government to reaffirm equality before the law and to launch public education campaigns to eliminate homophobic prejudice in all walks of life. It called on police and other authorities to work closely with groups working for LGBT and women’s rights in pursuing investigations, developing effective policies, and in building trust with their communities.

Human Rights Watch also urged constitutional bodies charged with promoting equality—including the Human Rights Commission and Gender Equality Commission—to take up issues of sexual orientation and gender identity meaningfully and directly.

© 2007; All Rights Reserved. Article provided by

Tuesday, August 14, 2007


Small town America used to give Bush and friends all their support for his war in Iraq. No more. I'd like to say its all out of concern for America's foreign policy, or about imperialism, or something so noble. However, its about something else. It's about their sons and daughters who are paying the price, often with pride, but paying the price all the same.

They've just damn tired of burying their kids in a war they are being forced to see as lost.

Last February, KXMBTV in Bismarck, North Dakota reported on the impact of the war on small towns. They reported that nearly half the more than 3,100 U.S. military fatalities in Iraq have come from towns with fewer than 25,000 people. And one in five are from hometowns of less than 5,000 people.

And, of course, the vast majority of those towns had average incomes well below the national average.

Recently, a poll commissioned by the Center for Rural Strategies found:

War support is declining. Forty-five percent of rural respondents said the country should "stay the course" in Iraq, down from 51 percent in 2004.

Rural people have a personal connection to the wars. Sixty percent know someone serving in the wars. One quarter say they have a family member serving in Iraq or Afghanistan.

These are the people who yearn to be proud of their country, who don't shirk their duty to serve and defend it. The highest rates of enlistment in the country are from rural areas and small towns. These are the people who want to believe their President cares about them. These are the people who are directly finding out that he doesn't give a hoot.

And yet the same poll quoted above found that despite their very human losses rural America remains a deeply conservative place and there is little evidence of shifting ideologies in this survey.

These people are clinging to something.

Now, I'm not here to defend the ideology of small town and rural America that leads to all this. Not at all.

But if it is ever to change, we'd best find a way to deal with it and that just might mean, horror of horrors, mingling with these folk often dismissed as just a bunch of red necks.

The following is from the Garden City, Kansas Telegram.

A soldier's return

It was to be about three weeks from the first part of August that Garden City resident Travis Bachman, stationed in Iraq, was supposed to come home to his wife, Amber, and two children.

He'd told her he couldn't wait to come home, to spend time with them, including his son, Tyler, 4, and 8-month-old daughter, Kaleigh, and to be a family again.

On Thursday, Bachman, 30, came home, but not in the way Amber Bachman, her parents, Tom and Kathy Howard, and Travis' parents, Rodney and Connie Bachman, had hoped for. It wasn't suppose to be like this.

Amber Bachman said she'd flipped her calendar to "August," so excited because it wouldn't be too much longer before she'd be picking him up. That was shortly before she got the news.

Bachman, a sergeant first class for the Kansas National Guard, was killed Aug. 1 when an improvised explosive device went off near his vehicle, according to the Adjutant General's Department.

For about a week, various events led up to Bachman's homecoming, including workers from his former place of employment, Home Depot, showing up at the couple's home to make needed repairs. And crimson and cream ribbons -- Bachman was a fan of the University of Oklahoma -- are being displayed throughout the neighborhoods along Sioux Drive, Pawnee Road, Apache Drive and Fair and Summit streets.

It all led up to the moment Thursday morning when Amber Bachman, her children and the rest of the Howard and Bachman families stood, along with community members, as the side door of the Kalitta Charters plane, which had just landed at Garden City Regional Airport, lifted.

The raising of the door gave way to shiny, black shoes that could be seen stepping about within the plane as officials prepared to unload the casket containing the body of Travis Bachman and take him to Garnand Funeral Home, 412 N. Seventh St. His funeral will be at 10 a.m. Saturday at First Southern Baptist Church. Burial and military graveside rites will be at Valley View Cemetery.

Sunlight gradually hit the casket, covered with an American flag, as it was slid from the darkness within the plane and out onto a platform, which was then lowered for members of the military to carry to the hearse.

"I'm more at peace knowing he's at home," Amber Bachman said Thursday.

She said her first thought when the plane arrived was that "this really is happening," but "there was no more anticipation of him coming home."

The morning began with Legion Riders and Patriot Guardsmen meeting at Country Corner, at Campus and Fulton, making sure everyone knew their duties.

"Let's roll," said Ralph Rojas, of the Patriot Guard, with bike engines starting up at about 10:46 a.m. and those participating heading to the airport.

The Patriot Guard, a national organization, was formed to honor fallen U.S. military personnel and oppose the Westboro Baptist Church, whose members often protest at the funerals of fallen military service members. The church's members protest at funerals of soldiers killed in Iraq, declaring the deaths as God's punishment for the nation's tolerance of homosexuality. According to a press release from Westboro Baptist Church, members of the church will start picketing Bachman's memorial service at 9:15 a.m. Saturday.

Rojas said Patriot Guard members don't consider the presence of the Westboro picketers when planning a mission.

"We're not there for them," Rojas said. "We're there for the families."

As the riders rolled down the highway, they signaled with their right blinkers, pulling into the turn lane and then into the airport drive, passing light poles adorned with the crimson and cream ribbons along the way. Riders mixed with area residents outside the airport, facing the runway and standing in silence as the casket was removed from the plane and readied for transport. The sound of digital cameras clicking, locking in the image, could be heard.

The hearse could be seen from the back of Arnold Riggs' motorcycle as he rode in the color guard as a member of the Patriot Guard and Legion Riders with Harry H. Renick American Legion Post No. 9.

About 100 riders, with the help of the Garden City Police Department, Finney County Sheriff's office and Kansas Highway Patrol, encircled the vehicle carrying Bachman's body during the procession from the airport down U.S. Highway 50.

The procession exited the highway and took the bypass around to Main Street. Vehicles pulled alongside the road and stopped as the procession passed, with some residents standing outside of their vehicles with their hands or hats held over their hearts. The procession was greeted by business owners and area residents lining Main and Pine streets.

"He gave his life for his country," Riggs said of Bachman.

Riggs joined the Patriot Guard at about the time of the funeral for Garden City resident Spc. Clint Upchurch, 31, who died after the convoy he was leading in Sammara, Iraq, hit a mine in January 2006. Riggs said he'd never served in the military but that his father, grandfather and uncle were in the armed forces.

"That's my way to serve," Riggs said of his participation in the Patriot Guard.

Riggs said the purpose of the riders and events such as Thursday's was to honor those who'd fallen and celebrate the freedoms they died for. He said that while the community was always glad to see the riders, they also were glad to see the community.

"We all celebrate freedom together," Riggs said.

Jeff Draper, an officer with the Garden City Police department, stood near some shade with his wife, Misty, and their four children, looking across the way to Garnand Funeral Home, where officers stood guard and family and friends spoke to and comforted one another. Draper, who serves under Travis' father, Rodney Bachman, at the department, said he and his family attended the procession to show support and respect for the cause and for a man who gave his life for others.

"He's done something a lot of us wouldn't be able to do," Draper said of Bachman.

Rojas rode with other Patriot Guard members about eight months ago to welcome Bachman home when his daughter, Kaleigh, was born. On Thursday afternoon, Rojas and Tim Parker, Patriot Guard ride captain for Garden City, folded the U.S. flags flown on the backs of their motorcycles for Bachman's procession to the funeral home. Both said they were pleased with the community's turnout during the procession.

"The community stepped up," Rojas said. "It takes everybody -- the entire community to welcome these soldiers home."


I remember the rampant racism at my high school (which by the way was 100% white) back in the day. Think things have changed much in the last forty years. Read the article below about what a group of high school kids in Connecticut have documented.

The following article comes from the Hartford Courant.

Survey By Teens: Racism An Issue
Major Role Seen In Schools, Media


Racism still plays a major role in schools and in the news media, according to research conducted by Hartford teens this summer.

That conclusion, presented on Friday, is based on interviews and 133 surveys administered by a group of 30 area youths aged 14-18 to their peers.

Ninety percent of respondents said racism still exists.

Almost half - 48 percent - said whites are usually depicted in the news media as owning businesses. The same percentage said African Americans are usually depicted as murderers.

More than 85 percent of those surveyed attended Hartford public schools, and nearly the same percentage were either African American or Hispanic.

The research is the result of the six-week Summer Youth Research Institute, a program that instructed Hartford youths in social research. The results were presented at the Institute for Community Research in Hartford, which ran the program.

The youths who did the research split into three groups, one focusing on interviews, one on surveys and one on visual research, which culminated in a documentary film.

Many of the young researchers said they hadn't thought much about racism before conducting the research.

"To tell you the truth, racism was the last thing on my mind. ... [The research] opened my eyes," said Jonathan Rosario, a 16-year-old Bulkeley High School student who is Puerto Rican and will be a junior in the fall.

The students chose racism as their research topic and focused on its effects in education systems, the news media, and attitudes and behaviors. Racism was personal for many of the teens, who had stories about dealing with racism.

"I was in science class, and one of these Caucasian kids said, `Something smells,' and another one answered, and said, `It must be black people,'" said Jodi Joseph, a West Indian 15-year-old who will be a Cromwell High School sophomore in the fall.

"We brought it to the guidance counselor ... and they said they were going to do something about it, and they never did."

Almost one of every four teens surveyed said they had been picked on by a teacher or a staff member because of their race or ethnicity.

There is plenty of explicit and implicit racism in the news media, as well, the researchers said.

"Newspapers constantly talk about violence. ... We don't need to read all that. ... I want to know the good in Hartford. What's the good in Hartford?" Rosario said.

The respondents also said African Americans are depicted by the news media as going to jail, fighting and murdering more than any other ethnic or racial group. Whites, on the other hand, are depicted more often as graduating from college, being the boss at a job, helping the community and owning a business, they said.

The responses in some of the open-ended interviews surprised some of the students.

In defining racism, respondents used the word "power" a lot, Rosario said. "It's a lack of power, or people are looking for power."

The summer program has existed in some form for more than a decade, said a spokesman for the Institute for Community Research, a nonprofit that conducts research and promotes equal access to health, education and cultural resources.

The students were paid for their work through funding from the Summer Youth Employment and Learning Program of Capital Workforce Partners, which receives support from the state Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services.

But for some of the teens, it's more than a job.

"This is not just something to do over the summer," Rosario said. "This is a learning program."


Palmyra Cove Nature Park (PCNP) is 250 acres of green in a highly developed area on the Delaware River just south of the Tacony Palmyra Bridge. With its woodlands, wetlands, tidal cove and wild river shore line, PCNP serves as an important feeding site for migratory birds.

Now, parts of the park soon will become a dump site for Delaware River-bottom dredge spoils. Oh boy!

Today the Army Corps of Engineers has plans to clear a path, 12 feet wide, for a pipe that will pump silt, clay and mud from the river into the park. The corps uses Pennsylvania dump sites for dredging projects on the north end of the Philadelphia-to-Trenton shipping channel. New Jersey has to take spoils from the southern end according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. The Corps plans to clear-cutt trees and fill as much as 70 acres of healthy wildlife habitat, including two functioning tidal wetlands, with the river dredge spoils.

The New Jersey Audubon Society says:

Dumping dredge spoils on this site would destroy Palmyra Cove's three non-tidal wetlands and mature upland forest habitats that harbor 216 bird species. The site provides essential habitat for hundreds of migratory bird species throughout spring and fall migration and for many imperiled species including the state-endangered Pied-billed Grebes.

More than 100 people crowded into the headquarters of the Burlington County Bridge Commission yesterday for a hearing of sorts on the issue. “Take a step back, do the environmental review, do a true public review and listen to the all of the good ideas in this room and all the good ideas in the agencies,” one frustrated resident said.

After 60 minutes federal and state spokespeople decided they had answered enough questions and took off. The crowd was less then happy. They, in fact, staged a near sit-in.

The group
Delaware Riverkeepers warns:

The Corp's plan to destroy these 22 acres is only the start. There are 50
adjacent acres that will too soon be filled unless the public outcry is so loud
that our elected take a stronger stand and demand that their inquiries for
alternative sites and a public hearing is acted upon by the Corp and NJDEP. How
many species, including some endangered and threatened, have to use/nest in a
natural area before it becomes more valuable to New Jersey than a dredge
retention basin?

The following is from the South Jersey Courier Post.

Protestors, Army Corps gather in Palmyra

PALMYRA - Today, the Army Corps of Engineers began work preparing a site for dredge spoils in the Palmyra Cove Nature Park.

The workers were met by a group of about a dozen protesters, who did not make a serious effort to block the Army Corps' efforts.

The Army Corps plans to scoop mud from the bottom of the Delaware River and dump it on part of the nature park.

The state Department of Environmental Protection has OKed the plan.

More than 100 people crowded Monday into the small meeting room of the Burlington County Bridge Commission, most of them to speak against the $2.3 million plan.

Monday, August 13, 2007


Over the weekend activists converged outside of Asheville NC for the Southeast Convergence for Climate Action. The camp was hosted by Southern Energy Network, Rising Tide, the Nuclear Information Resource Service (NIRS), and Energy Justice Summer. Related protests took place in London, and in Washington State.

The Convergence was a week of trainings, workshops, and strategy sessions focused on building a no-compromise movement against the fossil fuel industry and “false solutions” to climate change like nuclear energy, “clean coal,” and carbon trading.

Environmental protesters who had originally planned to demonstrate at the Progress Energy plant in Skyland instead took their message to the front door of Bank of America in downtown Asheville, North Carolina chanting and carrying signs that said “Coal Kills.” About 15 Asheville Police officers in riot gear lined the front of the bank while at least 30 protesters stood in Patton Avenue.

Some of the marchers went on inside.

The following is from "It's Getting Hot In Here" blog.

Lock Down at Bank of America to Protest Coal Investments

Today a massive police operation was deployed in Buncombe, Henderson, and Transylvania Counties to prevent activists from protesting a dirty power plant responsible for climate change. Dozens of uniformed and undercover cops surrounded the site of the Southeast Convergence for Climate Action as a police helicopter hovered over the site.

In addition, dozens more police were deployed at Progress Energy’s Skyland coal power plant to prevent legitimate protest against dirty energy and climate change. “This shows which side of the climate debate the government is on. They have spent tens of thousands of dollars to protect the coal industry today. Clearly if the government wanted to address climate change, they would be sending the police in to arrest the heads of Progress Energy for perpetuating the greatest threat humanity has ever faced - climate change,” an anonymous polar bear said.

In spite of the overwhelming police presence, Climate Convergence activists took a bold direct action against Bank of America over concerns regarding their investment throughout the coal cycle and their promotion of climate injustice. Although there was much speculation regarding a protest action at the Progress Energy Skyland coal-fired power plant, protestors surprised the downtown office of Bank of America.

Two activists locked down inside the main lobby and other activists blockaded the entrance to the downtown branch of Bank of America. The protest included a large, lively group of concerned citizens dressed as canaries and polar bears. Activists carried signs and banners that read: “Bank of America Stop Funding Climate Change,” “Bank of America Stop Mountaintop Removal,” “No Coal, No Nukes, No Kidding” “Bank of America Climate Criminal.”


The Casper Star Tribune reports that some 200 people gathered in a Wilson, Wyoming field Saturday afternoon for a "Peace Rally" to protest the Iraq war and send a message to Vice President Dick Cheney, who owns a home just up the road.

"We organized it because of the war in Iraq and what an injustice it has been," Walt Farmer, retired Air Force captain and registered Republican said. "The Vice President has received a pass in Jackson long enough. We want to let them know we don't approve of the war or how they play fast and loose with the Constitution."

A 10-foot tall effigy of Cheney, with a fishing pole in one hand and a spouting oil well in the other, was brought on the route. Rally-goers toppled the statute as a symbolic gesture of their disapproval of the vice president.

Jennifer Love of Jackson said she came to the rally because she's tired of the war.

"I feel like the administration has just turned their head and continued to take vacations," she said. Cheney typically spends the month-long August recess in Jackson Hole. Love and others said they were displeased that Cheney would disrupt other people's time in the outdoors with his helicopters flying overhead.

“It’s time to let him know that we disagree,” said organizer Walt Farmer of the Vice President, “Other people in the country need to know that just because this is his quote on quote home town, he doesn’t get to pass through here freely.”

Vice President Cheney is in Jackson Hole on vacation and spoke at the new Grand Teton National Park Visitor Center dedication ceremony earlier that day. According to organizer Jim Stanford, they chose not to protest at that event out of respect for the park.

The following is from New West Politics.

War Protesters March on Cheney’s Home in Wyoming

WILSON, Wyo. — Demonstrators gathered Saturday afternoon at the rustic crossroads of U.S. Highway 22 and the Village Road to protest the war in Iraq and local resident Vice President Dick Cheney.

Following anti-war speeches and folksy, 60s-style sing-a-longs, the crowd of about 250—ranging in age from toddlers in strollers to a 92-year-old woman—marched peacefully along the mile-plus county bike path before assembling outside the gates of the tony Teton Pines Country Club where the vice president owns a home.

Cheney, who earlier in the day attended the dedication of Grand Teton Park’s new visitor center, honoring the late Senator Craig Thomas of Wyoming, did not appear at the rally or the protest outside his residence.

Military veterans, friends, families, at least one politician and unaffiliated individuals carrying anti-war signs and other messages – some demanding the vice president’s impeachment and accusing the White House of lying about why America invaded Iraq — attended the event.

“No more blood of children. Not theirs, not ours,” read one cardboard and black marker sign hanging around the neck of a young boy standing near a makeshift stage.

During the pre-march rally, a towering effigy of the vice president, carrying a fishing pole and squirting oil derrick, and smaller bust of President Bush, with red devil’s horns, was unveiled to hoots, hollers and other expressions of approval prior to performances by musicians and speakers.

Nick Rowley, a veteran of the war in Bosina who said he served in the military for six years and left just before 9/11, spoke at length about what he thought supporting the troops in Iraq meant.

“What you all are doing here is you’re here supporting the troops,” Rowley told the crowd. “We need more of that…As soldiers we make a promise to fight for freedom and we expect to be sent into harm’s way only when necessary and for the right reason.”

About the official rationale for going to war, Rowley added, “It’s all based on a lie. The morale (among the troops) is not good. It’s only getting worse and no one is doing anything about it.”

Outstretching his arms while rubbing his thumbs along his fingertips, Rowley continued, “We’re there for money, for oil, for Halliburton. We’re not there for freedom or any American reason.”

The vice president’s former employer, oil service giant Halliburton, was as much a subject of criticism and ridicule at Saturday’s event as Cheney himself.

Other guest speakers and artists attending the anti-war rally included state Rep. Pete Jorgensen, (D-Jackson), writer Alexandra Fuller, Jackson lawyer Kent Spence and musician Peter Chandler.

“You don’t know me, but Cheney I know you,” a musician, strumming a guitar, sang. “Operation Iraqi Liberation spells...”

“O-I-L,” the crowd loudly rejoined before Fuller, a South African native who now lives in Wyoming, took the stage.

“We need to find creative ways to make peace,” Fuller said. “Our leaders have let us down. I genuinely think that they think they could go over (to Iraq) and scribble (out) anyone who didn’t look like us. That’s middle-school thinking. I don’t want to live in a middle-school world.”

Jorgensen encouraged those dissatisfied with the status quo to let their congressional delegation not in attendance—Republicans Barbara Cubin, Sen. John Barrasso and Sen. Mike Enzi—know how they felt. He also warned the crowd composed of many baby-boomers and seniors that politicians want to “put Social Security in the stock market.”

“Who’s bailing us out? Europe and China,” the state lawmaker cautioned before telling those present to “pick a candidate, I don’t care who, that generally agrees with you then vote next November.”

Event spokesman Jim Stanford, a former Jackson Hole News & Guide reporter and campaign aide to Wyoming Gov. Dave Freudenthal (who did not attend), said the peace rally was organized about a month earlier with the help of Jackson resident Karen Hogan.

On Thursday nights on the Jackson Town Square, Hogan and others have assembled to protest the war.

In recent days an unnamed group had taken out full-page advertisements in the local press announcing the march. The ads also blamed the vice president for the deaths of American soldiers and Iraqis and for taking his August vacation in Jackson Hole and going fishing, a favorite Cheney past time, “while Iraq burns.”

Since his arrival here earlier this week, Cheney has come under fire from locals complaining about black helicopters, presumably part of the vice president’s security detail, flying overhead and disturbing their peace. During his four-decade Washington career, Cheney’s frequent August vacations in Jackson had never been met with such bold and outspoken public dissent before today’s rally.

According to the News & Guide, the vice president’s office declined to comment on the event. But Joe Schloss, chairman of the Teton County Republican Party, dismissed the notion that any one administration official could be responsible for the deaths of troops during wartime. Schloss also told the paper that protesters were looking for a scapegoat in the vice president.

Asked about Democrats in Washington recently voting with Republicans to extend the White House’s controversial rewrite of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, allowing the government to intercept and eavesdrop on the communications of Americans without warrants, Jorgensen said, “I didn’t understand how that happened at all. It looks to me like the Democrats rolled over and there’s no excuse for that.”

Regarding accusations by some rally-goers that Cheney and Bush lied before sending troops to invade Iraq, Jorgensen added, “From my point of view...I think (Bush and Cheney) misrepresented the reasons for why they went to war and the intelligence for WMD. I don’t think they’ve been honest about anything.”

The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence revealed last September that U.S. analysts were strongly disputing the alleged links between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda while senior Bush administration officials were publicly asserting those links to justify invading Iraq. However, the committee, run by chairman Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV, (D-W.Va.), has not issued its phase two report on whether the White House deliberately manipulated available intelligence before going to war.

Comparing the current administration to age-old tyrants, Spence encouraged the crowd to remember that America was founded by those who he agreed rightly resisted the unjust rule of a British king.

“We are there (in Iraq ) based on a fraud by Cheney and Bush,” Spence said during a speech that also criticized Halliburton’s questionable war contracts and profits.

“Blood money!” a man shouted as Spence spoke.

Spence’s law firm, founded by his famous father Gerry Spence, is currently suing Halliburton and others on behalf of the family of a mineral field worker who died in Wyoming several years ago.

Decked in a cap, shades and green army jacket with his last name over the breast pocket, Stanford told rally-goers readying to march, “Today we have struck a blow against apathy..., which is how we got into this mess. We have struck a blow against fear and tyranny!”

Stanford also spoke of the rights and duties of citizens to promote robust dialogue through peaceful assembly and civil dissent.

Responding to a question about what the “W” to his “Worst Ever” sticker on his black briefcase meant, local resident Capt. Bob Morris, who served during Vietnam, said “W stands for W, President Bush.”

Gazing from under his floppy straw hat, Morris continued: “The invasion of Iraq is greater than all previous blunders put together.” Compared to the Vietnam War, Morris clarified, “That was worse than all previous blunders before this.”

Before bicycling off after the half-mile queue of marchers headed for Cheney’s home, Morris handed this reporter his handwritten speech, which he did not deliver at the rally. It is reprinted here in its entirety.

“Our occupation of Iraq is a recruiting and training bonanza for al Qaeda,” Morris wrote. “One of their spokesmen has said they hope that we’ll stay. When finally we leave, there’ll be chaos and probably regional war. But the longer we stay, the worse it’ll be. On the other hand, let’s celebrate our 1991 liberation of Kuwait—brilliantly done by Defense Secretary Cheney. Let’s be grateful to him for that. If only he had rested on his laurels.”

Upon rolling the wobbly, 11-foot tall effigy over a mile to the front gate of Cheney’s residence, shouting protesters waved anti-war signs at passing and honking motorists, as U.S. Secret Service officers sitting in a black truck and sheriff’s deputies looked on, while Stanford hung a lasso around the effigy’s neck.

To the chants of “No more war,” Stanford, Spence and others toppled the Cheney effigy a second time, knocking the head off as it smashed into the pavement. The delighted crowd applauded and hollered in mock victory as a man draped in a white beach towel, waving an American flag, kicked the effigy’s head toward the busy street.

During the early days of the Iraq war, American soldiers and Iraqis memorably toppled a statue of Saddam Hussein that had stood in Baghdad.

No arrests were reported during the rally and march. And by 3 p.m. most of the protesters had disbanded, returning up the bike path to their cars and the bus stop at the Stilson Ranch subdivision.


For years conservatives have used crime and the so-called "revolving door of justice" as a key "wedge" issues. They organize around it. They gather support. The use it to show just how tough they are compared to the wimps on the left.

Meanwhile, over here on the left, we condemn their law and order campaigns as a mask for what we say is a racist appeal. Very often it is just that.

However, ordinary citizens are really concerned about crime, in their cities, in their neighborhoods, coming into their houses. And that concern is not always racist. In fact, it generally is not. The issues of crime is a concern to all races , but touches mostly poor and working class Americans more than anyone else.

Its impact on the poor and the working people is as one report from South Africa stated is, "severe and pernicious since the thugs and other petty criminals feed off - and often with extreme violence - those who have little, rendering them poorer in more ways than can be described." That fact is equally true for us here in the good old USA.

People want to get rid of their fear of violent crime now. While we talk of long range solutions, the right talks of jails and more police power.

Of course, we are correct to analyze the root causes of violent criminal actions if we are ever to alleviate the problem.

However, having said that, it is time that the left stand up to the immediacy of the situation in so many people's lives. Victims and potential victims of criminal assault can't wait, so to speak, for the Revolution. They can't wait another fifty years to rid to take the bars off their windows, to unlock their doors, to go for a walk at night. They deserve better than that.

It'd be nice if we woke up to that fact and, at least, demonstrate that we understand it.

While the right fills up prisons with mostly non violent offenders, others whose crimes are more brutal often get a pass. It's absurd.

Do we have a suggestion?

It doesn't seem like it.

It seems that we are afraid to deal with the issue for fear of appearing to cave in to the right wing hocus pocus, for fear of being labeled racist, or uncaring, or dumb.

But go into the urban neighborhoods. Ask around. Hell, ask your next door neighbor what they think and you'll get an earful.

People are tired of reading about some rapist whose been arrested fourteen times before, about some wife beater whose ignored time again a restraining order, about some poor old lady whose been assaulted on the street by some loser who was just released from jail after serving little time for his fifth conviction of violent assault.

And they aren't just tired of it, tired of being victims. They're pissed off. And because only the right seems to be concerned with them, they look to the right for answers.

Meanwhile those most impacted by violent crime think of the left as concerned about the well being of the guy who shot their brother or raped their daughter, but not about them.

So they become easy marks of right wing rhetoric...since its the only thing out there.

The longer WE don't deal with the issue of violent crime, the more hay the right will make out of it...and the longer the very folks whose interests we always say we are looking out for, will be victimized by it.

We should be the one's speaking to those marching on Night Out Against Crime, or at anti-crime rallies. Our voices should be heard. Most of the time though we can't get ourselves involved in something so mundane and so identified as a right wing issue.

The unfortunate fact is, some behavior, such as a random act of violence, especially when it is demonstrated time and again, deserve real punishment. Like removal from society, i.e. jail! We ought not to be afraid to say that.

It's time we listen to working folk, to poor folks, be they black, brown, white, yellow, or doesn't matter...These are the people whose lives are most impacted by the violence on the streets of their neigbhorhoods.

The crime is too often we refuse to hear them. We're too busy with larger matters.

The following piece is from the Clarion Ledger in Jackson, Mississippi.

Arrested, released
... arrested again

By Chris Joyner

For years, frustration has mounted in Jackson over Hinds County's perceived revolving-door system of justice, and a recent review of city arrest records lends some credibility to that claim.

Take, for instance, 37-year-old Donald Norris. Starting in 1988, Norris has been arrested 28 times and was charged with 15 felonies, including 11 for felony drug possession.

But Norris has been indicted in Hinds County only twice. In 1996, he pleaded guilty to cocaine possession and received a two-year sentence, all but six months of which was suspended, and was sent to a rehab program. He was indicted again in 1998 on cocaine possession charges, but that case never went to trial.

Norris describes himself as a recovering addict and said most of those charges came from when he was young.

"I don't do that anymore," he said.

He was arrested in October on cocaine and marijuana possession and simple assault charges, then again June 23 for an outstanding warrant and a contempt citation for unpaid fines. When asked how he could face so many felony charges without going to prison, Norris said he thinks the outcome was fair.

"I don't need to do no time. That stuff is not that serious," he said.

The data on Norris and 34 others is from a study by The Clarion-Ledger of arrests made by the Jackson Police Department over a 24-hour period in June. Most of those arrested during that day were held on misdemeanor charges and released shortly thereafter, in part because of jail crowding.

More than two-thirds of those picked up that day had been arrested before. A dozen have past multiple felony charges.

Records showed just nine indictments out of 59 total felony charges, despite those arrested having a long string of prior arrests stretching back two decades.

Five of those resulted in a verdict, and those verdicts produced scant jail time.

"That is the problem. That is exactly the problem. Not only with people who are arrested for felonies but also people who are arrested for misdemeanors," said Jackson Mayor Frank Melton, who routinely harangues the criminal justice system on the issue of repeat offenders.


Of those in The Clarion-Ledger sample, Jackson resident George Carmichael was arrested the most times, having been picked up 33 times since 1987, always on misdemeanor charges.

That Carmichael has never been charged with a felony makes him somewhat unusual among people clogging Jackson's criminal justice system. That he remains free and was arrested again does not.

With so few felonies resulting in an indictment, the blame for problems inside the Hinds County justice system would lie in one of two places. Either police are not making solid arrests, or prosecutors aren't building cases that can convince a grand jury.

Each side points a finger at the other.

"Once we arrest them and the case goes to the DA's office then it's her case," Jackson Police Chief Shirlene Anderson said.

"We've been trying to explain to the public that the police are making the arrests," Melton said. "After the arrest and investigation is done by the police, what happens after that, we have no control of it."

Chief Assistant District Attorney Philip Weinberg shrugs off the mayor's criticism.

"The mayor says a lot of stuff that has no effect on us and very little veracity to it," he said.

Prosecutors receive a number of "low-quality" cases that would stand no chance if brought to a grand jury, he said. It's up to the arresting agency to build a proper case.

"If there is not enough (evidence), it is sent back to the law enforcement agency who prepared the case," he said.

Some felony arrests never make it to the district attorney's office, and those that do commonly take three or four months to move from the Jackson Police Department across the street to District Attorney Faye Peterson's office, Weinberg said.

"People get arrested all the time and then end up getting cut loose. It's totally subjective with each case," he said. "There are a lot of felony arrests that never end up with a prosecution. We don't even get a lot of them over here."

According to a report posted on the Web site of Peterson's re-election campaign, Peterson's office returned 318 cases to their arresting agencies "for further investigation."

According to the report, half of those cases were reworked by the agency and returned to Peterson's office for prosecution.

Weinberg said his office takes to the grand jury more than half the cases delivered to it. "There are far more that get indicted than we send back," he said.

Peterson, in office since 2001, will face Jackson lawyer Robert Shuler Smith in a runoff later this month. Smith said it's the district attorney's responsibility to fix problems with the system, not just return cases.

"I don't know how so many cases slip by and they are not addressed. It's either intentional, or it's negligent," he said. "Either you go there and you clean it up, or you don't."

Records examined by The Clarion-Ledger date to the late 1980s, predating the administrations of Peterson and Melton.

Jackson resident Linda Kay Mangum was arrested for the sixth time in 14 years when police picked her in the early morning hours of June 23 for violating laws on open containers and possession of drug paraphernalia. She was released two days later from the crowded Hinds County Detention Center in Raymond.

A review of her arrest record shows she has been charged with felony counts of house burglary, possession of crack cocaine and shoplifting, but her Hinds County Circuit Court records show meager jail time.

In 1998, on her third arrest for house burglary, Mangum pleaded guilty and received a five-year sentence, four years of which were set aside. She also received credit for the nearly four months she waited in the county jail, leaving her with a little more than eight months to serve.

Coincidentally, Smith, a public defender at the time, was Mangum's attorney, and Ed Peters, who has endorsed Smith, was district attorney.

In 2006, Mangum was back in Hinds County Circuit Court on a probation violation for another burglary. She received six more months and another year of probation.

From The Clarion-Ledger's sample, Mangum's experience is the rule, not the exception.

Trisha Raymond, executive director of the crime watchdog group SafeCity, said the paucity of indictments and convictions is "scary." And there is plenty of blame to go around, she said.

"You can only indict according to the evidence that you receive. A case isn't indictable unless it has decent evidence, which goes to the investigative procedure," she said.

Raymond said the most common complaint among residents victimized by crime is that police are not responsive.

"We hear way too often that a crime isn't being investigated, and there is no follow up," she said. "That's a huge part of the breakdown."

At the same time, she said arresting and rearresting the same people hurts police morale. Only public pressure will disrupt that cycle, she said.

"The media and organizations like us have to shine light on the problem. Hopefully people get angry enough that they demand better from the government," she said. "Personally I think we are reaching this point."