Saturday, April 29, 2006

A Perfect Storm on the US-Mexican Border as Drug and Immigration and Terror Wars Converge

This week, the US Senate voted to divert nearly $2 billion dollars from the Iraq war effort and instead use the money to beef up enforcement efforts along the US-Mexican border. Driven by the explosive emergence of the immigration issue as immigrants and their supporters took to the streets in massive numbers to block a House bill that many have criticized as draconian, the move is only the latest in a long line of efforts to secure the borders.

Mexican anti-drug patrols
The border is a symbolic security blanket for Americans, the place where they can draw a line in the sand, where they can mark boundaries to protect them from their fears and desires. Yes, desires. Drugs may be illegal, but they come across the border because Americans want them. Similarly, people sneaking into the country to provide cheap labor may be illegal, but they come across the border because Americans want them. In millions of individual decisions every day, Americans vote for more drugs and more undocumented workers, while at the same time screaming for more border security.

Now, a perfect storm of bogeymen -- Drugs! Terrorists! Mexicans! -- is threatening to unleash a new wave of increased law enforcement on the border. According to border rights activists, academics, and drug reformers, increased law enforcement on the border may put a slight crimp in undocumented immigration, but won't stop the drug traffic -- and it will lead to more abuses, more violence in the desert, and a strengthening of the trend toward increased surveillance of all of us.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Another Young Turk has Fallen

My cousin John Frederick (Jeff) Turk passed away on Good Friday, April 14, 2006. He was 37 years old.

Jeff was 12 hours younger than me. I was born November 7 at 8:27pm and he followed at about 8:20 the morning of the 8th. Our mothers are sisters, and the family called us "the twins".

Losing a loved one so close to you is always a difficult thing, but Jeff was a very special person, and those of us who knew him are all deeply affected by his transition.

When we were 19 years old Jeff had a motorcycle accident that left him paralyzed from the chest down. For the past 18 years, he suffered from bed sores, kidney problems and several other maladies. He had no control over his bladder functions and could not walk or feel his legs.

Still he did whatever he wanted to do. Though confined to a wheelchair, he continued to run the streets and enjoy life just as he had before his accident. Jeff was blessed with many friends who stood by him, partyed with him and loved him through his entire life. On the evening of his funeral, we threw a set in his honor that would have made him happy and proud.

At his funeral Reverend Leroy Franklin emphasized this point. Even with all of his physical impediments, Jeff was always full of life and made a profound impact on everyone he met. He never let his limitations stop him, and he could have been anything he wanted. Then Rev. Franklin asked an important question: "What are you doing with YOUR life?"

I struggle to write about Jeff right now. I am still very sad, and the usual contemplations of life and mortality are amplified to the nth degree in this case. At some point in the future I hope to write about Jeff's battles with the US medical industry, a business that fails so many because there is more money in the treatment than the cure. Perhaps I'll eventually write about his love of dominoes, women and trees. I'm not sure.

For now my brother, Kevin, has offered the most poignant tribute, a poem that he wrote and read at the funeral. If you knew Jeff, you will understand exactly what the poem means. If you didn't, you may not comprehend.

Thebigblackguy, JKM 4/16/2006

Two wheels rolling hard on the street
Living life fast as the world blurred past
Rebel without a pause always will be
Doing things my way, do as I please

Then came the dip, the flip, the ditch
Cant feel my legs, aint life a bitch

Time in a bed, people I dont know
Touching, poking, sticking my toes
At least I think thats what they did
I cant feel a thing but thats what they said

Four wheels now rolling hard on the street
Dont need your help cause I cant use my feet
Living life fast, no need to slow down
Rebel without a pause rolling around town

Doing things my way, head just as hard
Living life my way until I play my last card
Dominoes with friends partying never ends
Chilling with my saxophone playing gospel hymns
Yes there was that cause we never depart
From the youthful instructions, the path we were brought

But I do it on my terms, I do as I please
Dont want no more doctors to fight the disease
And you may not approve of the things that I did
But I did things my way, I put in my bid

Now my wheels have stopped rolling
And the world still blurs past
Im tired of this struggle this breath is my last
And I think back to those moments
The wind, the freedom that ditch
When I could still feel my legs
Man, aint life a bitch.

In loving memory of John F. (Jeff) Turk, November 8th 1968 - April 14th 2006
By James Kevin McFarland.
We raise a glass and spark a flame for this fallen young Turk. We will always remember the laughter and the joy that Jeff brought to us.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Telecom Giants Seek to Eliminate Local Oversight of Networks

Published in The Michigan Citizen

Through a series of political actions on the local, state and federal levels, US telecommunications companies seek to radically remake the country’s regulatory infrastructure. Regional phone and cable companies would like to provide television, Internet and voice communications on a national scale, but they claim they are constrained by current laws.

As written, the bills that they are sponsoring throughout the nation would provide the telecom giants with unprecedented power to grant or deny access, control Internet content, increase prices and greatly reduce payments to local municipalities.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Bush's Paper Trail Grows

On March 27, The New York Times published an article based on access to the full British record of the Iraq policy conversation that President George W. Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair held on January 31, 2003, as recorded by Blair's then-national security adviser David Manning.

The memo reveals that the two leaders agreed that military action against Iraq would begin on a stipulated date in March 2003 -- despite the fact that no weapons of mass destruction had been found there. The memo reveals how the two leaders mulled over ways to supply legal justification for the invasion. Indeed this record supplies additional evidence for the view that Bush planned all along to unleash this war.