December 29, 2008

The Slave Next Door

I found this over on Mock Paper Scissors in an entry dated 12/28. Thanks Betsy--I guess.
Shyima was 10 when a wealthy Egyptian couple brought her from a poor village in northern Egypt to work in their California home. She awoke before dawn and often worked past midnight to iron their clothes, mop the marble floors and dust the family's crystal. She earned $45 a month working up to 20 hours a day. She had no breaks during the day and no days off.
The trafficking of children for domestic labor in the U.S. is an extension of an illegal but common practice in Africa. . . . Some girls work for free on the understanding that they will at least be better fed in the home of their employer.

Around one-third of the estimated 10,000 forced laborers in the United States are servants trapped behind the curtains of suburban homes . . . .
The family brought [Shyima] back to their spacious five-bedroom, two-story home [in Irvine, California], decorated in the style of a Tuscan villa with a fountain of two angels spouting water through a conch. She was told to sleep in the garage.

It had no windows and was neither heated nor air-conditioned. Soon after she arrived, the garage's only light bulb went out. The Ibrahims didn't replace it. From then on, Shyima lived in the dark.

While doing the family's laundry, she slipped her own clothes into the load. Madame slapped her. "She told me my clothes were dirtier than theirs. That I wasn't allowed to clean mine there," she said.

She washed her clothes [hand-me-down t-shirts] in a bucket and hung them on a line next to the trash bins.

It never occurred to her to run away.
"I thought this was normal," she said.
Tens of thousands of children in Africa, some as young as 3, are recruited every year to work as domestic servants. They are on call 24 hours a day and are often beaten if they make a mistake. Children are in demand because they earn less than adults and are less likely to complain. In just one city— Casablanca — a 2001 survey by the Moroccan government found more than 15,000 girls under 15 working as maids.

"In most homes, these girls are not allowed to use so much as the same spoon as the rest of the family," said Hany Helal, the Cairo-based director of the Egyptian Organization for

If you could fly the garage where Shyima slept 7,000 miles to the sandy alleyway where her Egyptian family now lives, it would pass for the best home in the neighborhood.
The garage's walls are made of concrete instead of hand-patted bricks. Its roof doesn't leak. Its door shuts all the way.
On April 3, 2002, an anonymous caller phoned the California Department of Social Services.
A few days later, Nasser Ibrahim opened the door to a detective from the Irvine Police Department. Asked if any children lived there beside his own, he first said no, then yes — "a distant relative." He said he had "not yet" enrolled her in school.

The police put Shyima in a squad car. They noted her hands were red and caked with dead, hard-looking skin.

The couple pleaded guilty to all charges, including forced labor and slavery. They were ordered to pay $76,000, the amount Shyima would have earned at the minimum wage. The sentence: Three years in federal prison for Ibrahim, 22 months for his wife, and then deportation for both.

"I don't think that there is any other term you could use than modern-day slavery," said Bob Schoch, the special agent in charge for Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Los Angeles, in describing Shyima's situation.
EPILOGUE: On a recent afternoon in Cairo, Madame Amal walked into the lobby of her apartment complex wearing designer sunglasses and a chic scarf. After nearly two years in a U.S. prison cell, she's living once more in the spacious apartment where Shyima first worked as her maid. The apartment is adorned in the style of a Louis XIV palace, with ornately carved settees, gold-leaf vases and life-sized portraits of her and her husband. Before the door closed behind her, a little girl slipped in carrying grocery bags. She wore a shabby T-shirt. Her small feet slapped the floor in loose flip-flops. Her eyes were trained on the ground. She looked to be around 9 years old.

Click here for the rest of the story along with a video of Shyima.

December 25, 2008

Peace to You

I'm not much into the traditional Christmas stuff-- to my mind, this says Christmas so much more than choirs of angels.

Have a wonderful solstice celebration--whatever you may call it.

December 24, 2008

Where's a Coffin When You Need One?

From the Huffington Post:
Laissez-Faire Capitalism Should Be as Dead as Soviet Communism -- Arianna Huffington

"It's time to drive the final nail into the coffin of laissez-faire capitalism by treating it like the discredited ideology it inarguably is.

"But most Republicans are still refusing to see what's right in front of them. Especially Bush, our CEO president, who lays the blame not on the failures of the marketplace but on past administrations and corporate greed. "Wall Street got drunk," he says. Maybe so, but who made the last 8 years Happy Hour, and kept serving up the drinks?"
Click here for the complete text.
Btw-- another article in the same edition states that the current unemployment rate is the highest in 26 years. And who was in charge 26 years ago? Reagan and a Republican Congress. Just sayin.

December 23, 2008

From the Washington Post
Finding the Proper Epitaph -- by Dan Froomkin

A fairly exhaustive outline of the devastation Bush is leaving behind-- and his attempt to redirect our attention at the 11th hour. Just as if there were something to redirect our attention to. It's pretty hard, though, to create propaganda when we've been here all along watching him as he dismantled the country brick by brick.
Robert Scheer of the San Francisco Chronical writes, "The shoe-throwing Iraqi journalist is now a venerated celebrity throughout the Mideast. . . , and his words to the president - as he threw his second shoe, 'This is from the widows, the orphans and those who were killed in Iraq,' a reminder that we have used much deadlier force than a shoe in the shock-and-awe invasion once celebrated in the American media as a means of building respect for democracy."

One particular phrase from Bush's interview with ABC News's Martha Raddatz, right after the shoe-throwing incident, seems to be taking on some resonance. Bush said al Qaeda chose to make a stand in Iraq, Raddatz pointed out that al Qaeda hadn't even been in Iraq until the U.S. invaded -- and Bush replied: "Yeah, that's right. So what?"
And from the transcript of Time Magazine's interview with Obama:
Q. "When voters look at your Administration two years from now, in the off-year election, how will they know whether you're succeeding?"

Obama: "I think there are a couple of benchmarks we've set for ourselves during the course of this campaign. On [domestic] policy, have we helped this economy recover from what is the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression? Have we instituted financial regulations and rules of the road that assure this kind of crisis doesn't occur again? Have we created jobs that pay well and allow families to support themselves?
Have we made significant progress on reducing the cost of health care and expanding coverage? Have we begun what will probably be a decade-long project to shift America to a new energy economy?
Have we begun what may be an even longer project of revitalizing our public-school systems so we can compete in the 21st century?

"On foreign policy, have we closed down Guantánamo . . . , put a clear end to torture and restored a balance between the demands of our security and our Constitution?
Have I drawn down U.S. troops out of Iraq, and have we strengthened our approach in Afghanistan -- not just militarily but also diplomatically and in terms of development?
And have we been able to reinvigorate international institutions to deal with transnational threats, like climate change, that we can't solve on our own?

"And outside of specific policy measures, two years from now, I want the American people to be able to say, 'Government's not perfect; there are some things Obama does that get on my nerves. But you know what? I feel like the government's working for me. I feel like it's accountable. I feel like it's transparent. I feel that this is a President and an Administration that admits when it makes mistakes and adapts itself to new information, that believes in making decisions based on facts and on science as opposed to what is politically expedient.'"

Click here for the complete text.
Oh, and by the way: Bush has apparently helped Iraq's economy. The cobbler who made the famous shoes has had to hire more staff in order to keep up with the orders for them.
Way to go, Bush! Go speak in more countries -- maybe you can bring the world economy back from the brink you and the other Reaganites have driven us to.

December 21, 2008

Kill the UAW--Kill the Middle Class: It's All in a Day's Work for the Rethugs

From the Washington Post:
Destroying What the UAW Built -- by Harold Meyerson

In 1949, a pamphlet was published that argued that the American auto industry should pursue a different direction. Titled "A Small Car Named Desire," [it suggested that] a substantial share of American consumers would welcome smaller cars that cost less and burned fuel more efficiently.
The pamphlet's author was the research department of the United Auto Workers.

[U]nder the leadership of Walter Reuther, the UAW was the most farsighted institution -- not just the most farsighted union -- in America.

In the immediate aftermath of Pearl Harbor, Reuther, then head of the union's General Motors division, came up with a detailed plan for converting auto plants to defense factories more quickly than the industry's leaders did.

[B]y the early 1950s, the UAW had . . . set a pattern for the rest of American industry and created the broadly shared prosperity enjoyed by the nation in the 30 years after World War II.

[T]he UAW also used its resources to incubate every up-and-coming liberal movement in America: the great 1963 March on Washington, César Chávez's farm workers union, the early '60s student movement, the National Organization for Women, and helped fund the first Earth Day.

And for decades, the UAW was among the foremost advocates of national health care -- a policy that, had it been enacted, would have saved the Big Three tens of billions of dollars in health insurance expenses, but which the Big Three themselves were, until recently, too ideologically hidebound to support.

The UAW not only built the American middle class but helped engender every movement at the center of American liberalism today -- which is one reason that conservatives have always hated it so.

Over the past several weeks, it has become clear that the Republican right wants to see the demise of the UAW so much that it would prefer to plunge the nation into a depression rather than craft a bridge loan that doesn't single out the auto industry's unionized workers for punishment.

Click here for the complete text.

December 18, 2008

Coal's Response to Rachel

On 12/12, Rachel Maddow was blamed by the “Clean” Coal Industry because its blog didn’t receive as many hits as it wanted after she had featured it on her program earlier that week.
Furthermore, it threatened her. When she said that it was offensive that the “Clean” Coal ad had used the hymn Silent Night to sell a product that pollutes and to spread lies about it, a related blog-site said that it could, in turn, publicize things put forth by Rachel that offended the developers of this ad.

Rachel’s response: "Oh! Is that a promise? My work here is done!"
Go, Rachel! =D

My Old Mayor Weighs In

Emanuel Cleaver II used to be the Mayor of my old home town, Kansas City, Mo. And, he was a good one, too. He was reelected several times before setting out for DC where he has been the representative of my old district for a number of elections, now.

He wrote an op-ed for the WaPo recently and I felt compelled to post it here. Sounds like pretty good advice to me: 'keep a lid on sky-high expectations'.

December 12, 2008

Where Was He?
After his appearance on David Letterman last night, the talking heads are asking, 'Where was this John McCain during the campaign?' He was funny. He seemed aware. All traces of senility were gone.

Hello!!! He's no longer saddled with a bid for the presidency that he had no intention of winning. Apparently, losing an election is almost as hard as winning. See my post for November 1: A Losing Strategy.

Profiteering and Ideology Trump the Country

From the Huffington Post:
Republicans Kill Any Help for Detroit -- Steve Parker

Late Thursday night, Republicans in the Senate derailed a bill, passed the day before by the House, to loan $15 billion to the Detroit Three. The Senate vote was 52 to 35, with 10 Republicans joining 40 Democrats and two Independents in favor.

Sen. Bob Corker, R-TN, after the talks collapsed late Thursday said, "We are three words away," from a deal.

Those words? Most likely, "United Auto Workers."
I'm seeing names and states of those who voted against the bill. Isn't it interesting how many of those guys have Japanese- and German-based factories in their states?
Unfortunately, they don't seem to understand that, the parts suppliers may be caught up in the ripple effects-- leaving those factories out in the cold when it comes to being able to attach those special touches to their cars. You know, things like tires, windshield wipers, seats, radios and carpets. Little things like that.
Business savvy guys these senators aren't.
Anyway, here's the link for the rest of the article.
And here's a link to another, related article by Stanley Bing [Thanks, Senate! For Nothing]
Psssssssst! Let's all go to the websites of those senators and flood their email inboxes with our own brand of hate and threats to recall em in 2 or 4 years.

December 5, 2008

A Chance to Talk Back? Who Woulda Thunk?

A couple of days after the election I read about where we could post emails to the transition team which, at the time, consisted of Obama and Biden. So, I went there and told them what my priorities for the early stages of the new administration are. Things like: restore the Constitution [including habeas corpus, f'rinstance] and repudiating torture, bringing home our troops, upgrading education [especially at the elementary and middle school levels], and addressing health care issues, etc. etc. etc. [Click on American Moment, then on Share Your Vision or Share Your Story].
Truth be told, I posted the email with faint hope. After all, even before Bush came along, I didn't expect my government to actually listen to me except when I was physically inside the voting booth [and, yes, I do understand that even that is more influence than most people on the planet ever get a chance to have.]

So, imagine my surprise, today, when Dan Froomkin of the Washington Post alerted us to the fact that the transition team seems to be reading the emails and responding to them! That's right! They're paying attention to us!
Now, they've begun actually posing questions and asking us to tell them what we think. They're asking us to give them suggestions! And, after reading a bunch, they even post a video response to what they've read! They're talking about ideas they're getting from us that they're going to take under advisement and look into implementing!

The latest question is: "Please tell us your story about how the economy is affecting you and what you would like to see us do about it."

Oh. My. God.
Have I died and gone to heaven and not noticed till now? Or what?

December 3, 2008

Cool Video--
See more Jack Black videos at Funny or Die

and check out scattershot thoughts for another hilarious video. =D

December 2, 2008

I'm ba-ack! :)

Honey, I'm ho-ome!
Exhausted. And, yes, it snowed while I was up there. Well, it was Thanksgiving -- what did I expect?
And the car broke down 100 miles outside KC, on the way home. :(
But, we made it!
Going to check now and see if you [and Jake] left me any soup.
Then, I'm gonna sleep for a day or so.
C U soon.