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Monday, December 25, 2006

Death of an Oregon Kidnapper

I recently received a comment on BlogoliticalSean relating the death of Tony Micheletti, one of the people most deeply, shamefully and criminally involved in the abduction of the four Cruz children.

In this post, I am publishing the comment from Judith McKenney—who is a complete stranger to me—and my posted reply to her comment.

Now that I’ve had a week to think about things, I will add some additional comments at the end of the post.

Here’s the post from Judith McKenney:


"Judith McKenney said...

"I discovered your sight (sic) by accident, and just thought, before you make comments you will regret, that Tony Micheletti died, December 15th and 705PM of CJD a very very fast acting brain degenerative desease that robbed him of himself - not unlike Alzheimers's but 100X faster. He went from seemingly healthy to death in 2 months!I hope this information doesn't make you happy, or make you feel he has been punished for some transgression. I knew Tony fairly well, and, if he was guilty of what you assert, I am sure he truly believed he was doing the right thing for the children...and it is ONLY the children who are important! I haven't read your whole article, but in perusing it, I didn't notice where you stated your ex-wife's justification for doing this...she thought she was justified...why?"


Here’s my reply to Ms McKenney’s comment:

Judith McKenney:

I don't know why your comment posted on this thread. I think you were responding to a different post, one of the abduction-related postings, but it posted here. I'll respond to your comment here.

I have little information about any members of the Micheletti family since the kidnapping and had not heard of Tony Micheletti’s death. I had hoped to see him in court someday.

The harm he caused my children and my family is for forever.

My former wife was getting divorced from someone else when the Micheletti family and their friends and associates caused my children to disappear. There was no safety issue, and no allegations of abuse were made by any of the parties.

My children lost both of their homes, all of their friends, their neighborhood, their schools, their dad, their dad's entire family and their opportunities to live a normal life. Their grandmother passed away four years after the kidnapping without seeing or hearing from her grandchildren again.

The only two things that remained constant in their lives were the Micheletti family and the Mormon church, and every person involved in the kidnapping who was not a member of the Micheletti family was a member of the church.

This group of people decided that they wanted to raise my children in a Mormon-controlled environment, knew that the joint custody order was a barrier, and together they planned and carried out a criminal act: the abduction of four children, “…taken, enticed and kept” in violation of a valid joint custody order, a class “B” felony. This was the controlling motive, and they knew they were committing a crime.

That first criminal act led to others. They committed additional criminal acts to protect themselves from discovery.

Child abduction victims suffer emotional damage in the same ways that child sex abuse victims suffer, including an inability to form lasting relationships, to trust others.

My former wife is now with her fifth husband. My children are on their third stepdad, one stepdad for each of the three states they’ve resided in since the order for joint custody was first violated.

Among my adult children I can count one death, two broken marriages, severe depression, failing grades, chemical dependency and other problems and issues.

And the two constants: the Micheletti family and the Mormon church, the same group who decided to take my children out of their schools and put them on the road during the Great Storm of February 1996.

You suggested that Tony Micheletti thought he was doing the right thing for my children, and I want to respond to that:

Tony Micheletti didn’t know my children.

He was not close to my family in any way. I had not seen him in more than five years before the kidnapping, and neither had my children. Later, my son Aaron told me that when they saw “Uncle Tony” on February 12, the day my children disappeared, they did not recognize him.

He absolutely knew that they were taking the children in violation of a valid joint custody order, and I have that in his sworn statement. He also committed perjury, and I have that evidence too.

As I write this comment, the Northwest remains in the grip of major heavy weather. There are three climbers lost on Mt. Hood. A man died in southern Oregon earlier this week after his family became lost and stuck in the snow. Power is out in many areas, and people are in general trying to stay out of the weather and off of the roads.

This is precisely the same weather in which my four children disappeared nearly eleven years ago, and on a day they should have been in school. How do you justify that?


Additional Thoughts on Christmas Day 2006:


It was at “Uncle Tony’s” house near Salem, on the day the children disappeared, that they learned that they were going to Utah and not coming back. They had already been out of school for a week, bouncing from one place to another in Oregon and Washington, during the Great Storm of February 1996.

February 12 was the day they vanished, and they were at Tony Micheletti’s house near Salem that day, a school day.

He wasn’t concerned about the children’s safety in the weather or their absence from their schools. He wasn’t concerned about their elderly and frail grandmother, who was living with me at the time, or our three-generation household.

He didn’t know anything about the Cruz family, had never been to my house, had never been to his own sister’s house. My children had forgotten what he looked like.

So, to suggest that Tony Micheletti acted out of love for my children is a far, far stretch. The smug bastard was always convinced he was smarter than anyone else.

A few weeks after my kids had disappeared, Tony Micheletti was one of several co-kidnappers living in three states who wrote letters describing how wonderful my children’s new lives were at an undisclosed location in Utah.

The fact that there were people in three states who claimed in sworn statements to have a close relationship with my children’s circumstances at a time when I could only guess at their location has never been lost on me.

As if to demonstrate that criminals are never the sharpest pencils in the box, several co-kidnappers wrote sworn statements. The copies I eventually received even have the fax information printed at the top, and that tells a story too. You know that they never thought about faxes and a paper trail.

The story they tell is, basically, “Hey, we’re involved in a criminal conspiracy, all of us, all together. Not only that, we’re a bunch of liars and we’re going to write some lies down and swear they are true.”

Among the Oregon kidnappers, Evelyn Taylor and David Holiday of Hillsboro were smart enough not to put anything in writing, as far as I can tell.

Cynthia Anderson of Clatskanie also perjured herself, but that document didn’t surface for several years.

The really stupid, self-absorbed, most-criminal kidnappers were the now-dead Tony Micheletti, and Chris and Kory Wright in Utah, and they put it in writing.

I had hoped, hoped, hoped to get them all in a courtroom together.

They broke my children’s hearts, all four of them. And they did this knowing full well what they were doing. I will never forgive them for breaking my children’s hearts.

For that fact alone, as a parent, I admit that I have wanted to beat their faces in with a shovel.

They moved my children from one isolated Mormon enclave to another. My children—since 1995—were not permitted to leave the state of Utah except under direct control by Mormon church members. And this is America.

Aaron, after a serious beating, attempted to run away from one of those enclaves. The local police found him hitchhiking in the mountains in the middle of the night and took him back to his mother and stepdad #2, who had administered the beating.

You can really count on those Utah police.

Here’s what I have to say at this time about Tony Micheletti:

Child abduction—by any person—is child abuse. I’m talking to you, Tony.

More on this later, to be sure….

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

President Bush set to hobble the army--again

President Bush plans to announce the bad news after the holidays. He wouldn't want to send the shock wave while the nation is focused on the retail spending season.

Sun Tzu addressed the issue more pointedly more than two thousand years ago: “If one ignorant of military matters is sent to participate in the administration of the army, then in every movement there will be disagreement and mutual frustration and the entire army will be hamstrung.”

Fundamentally, the ignorant President is participating in the administration of the army, and with a record of colossal failure at the task.

Sun Tzu wrote also about how a commander in chief can bring misfortune upon his army:

“Now there are three ways in which a ruler can bring misfortune upon his army:

(1) When ignorant that the army should not advance, to order an advance or ignorant that it should not retire, to order a retirement. This is described as ‘hobbling the army.’ (2) When ignorant of military affairs, to participate in their administration. This causes the officers to be perplexed. (3) When ignorant of command problems to share in the exercise of responsibilities. This engenders doubts in the minds of the officers.”

Well, enjoy the holidays. Be comforted that George W. Bush is in the White House, making decisions and such. Do the best you can with that.

I'm betting that things are going to get a whole lot worse; won't get better soon. Not entirely because of Bush's war and the military draft it engendered. Bush's staggering federal deficit and his policies focusing wealth in the hands of the few and moving jobs offshore have crippled the future of the nation.

I wonder which nations will be willing to take the first former U.S. President to go into exile?Behind-the-scene negotiations are no doubt underway. The insiders are planning the route out of town. 2009 is just around the corner. You can bet it will be plush.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

New "End the War" in Iraq Sign


I just finished painting the new sign. I'm calling 2008 the Year of the Draft. It may or may not make any difference whether we pull out of Iraq or not as to whether there will be a military draft. That's how monumentally disastrous the Bush Administration may well prove to be. It is too early to tell, but we could already be well down the road to a broader regional conflict in the Middle East. If so, we'll be entering that melee with an army near the breaking point, far from home and on the enemy's choice of ground, all a recipe for massive failure. More on this later

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Waiting for the Lame Duck President

While we are waiting for President Bush to finish skimming the Iraq Study Group Report, the interlude offers the opportunity to reflect on the context of this moment in the history of our nation:

We, the nation and beyond, are poised, mid-war, waiting for the President of the United States to catch up on his required reading.

It is a measure of the President’s lost stature that he was unable to secure an advance copy of the ISG report, but had to wait in line like everyone else. Now we all have to wait for him to get through the material. He is, after all, “The Decider.”

Lives have been lost, more are at stake, the result dependent upon the intellect and steely jaw of the self-proclaimed War President.

It has come down to a crisis moment. All else hinges on an intellectually lazy person’s ability to navigate the big stack of books and reports on his desk, more information in one go than he mastered in umpteen years at university.

The White House indicates this activity could take several weeks, as it involves reading, thinking and possibly the taking of notes.

To complicate matters further, according to President Bush’s biological clock, he should be on vacation right now. He is, in fact, at the time of this writing, months behind his normal vacation schedule.

This fact alone will make him testy and he will bark.

On top of that, the nation expects him to read books, a big stack of them. He is aware that this Iraq Study Group Report is a book, no matter what they want to call it.

He is living the C-student nightmare: the Mother of all Tests on the morrow, administered and graded by all the ghost professors of Christmases past, open-book, can’t be skipped this time, oral boards and all…the odds against triumph are long, escape with tattered dignity a godsend.

The lame duck simmers in the sauce.

Monday, December 04, 2006

End Predatory Patrol Towing in Oregon

The U.S. Court of Appeals determined that patrol towing endangers the safety of the general public, apartment owners and managers and the tow drivers themselves, and upheld California’s ban on patrol towing.

When patrol towing, tow truck drivers are not called by the property owners and do not get authorization to take specific vehicles. Instead, usually in the middle of the night, tow truck operators cruise through parking lots and take any vehicle that they feel they can construe as “harvestable.”

Many states, including California, Florida, New York and Washington, have already enacted legislation to ban the practice.

In those states, tow truck operators must receive authorization to take a specific vehicle -- a signed form -- from the property owner or agent at the time and place of impound. Towing companies may not act as agents of the owner.

In 1994, in the course of deregulating the trucking industry, Congress passed laws preventing states and municipalities from enacting laws affecting the towing industry unless the legislation was safety-related.

While many states subsequently enacted legislation to curb predatory patrol towing as a safety issue, Oregon has lagged behind, and some of the towing operators in Oregon have exploited the opportunity at the expense of the general public.

The U.S. Court of Appeals held that: “…[The] regulation [that] prohibits the removal and towing of a vehicle from private property without the expressed instruction and written authorization from the property owner…[is]…safety-related because ‘the ordinance protects both the vehicle owner and the public from towing mistakes, which may lead to dangerous confrontations, to the owner and his or her family being stranded at a dangerous time and location, to false vehicle theft reports, which waste law enforcement’s limited resources, to unnecessary hazardous tows and to similarly unsafe circumstances. The ordinance also protects against theft of vehicles from private property.’ The California legislature agrees. We now agree as well.” --(United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, May, 2005, West Coast Towing vs City of San Diego)

The good news for Oregonians and for visitors to our state is that bills are being drafted for introduction in the 2007 Legislature that will end patrol towing in Oregon.

Be sure to let your elected officials know that you support this legislation. More on this later.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Time to re-paint my End the War sign


The sign has seen a lot of weather during the three years it has been up. I'm spending Thanksgiving Day in my basement, making room for more numbers.
---------
Sun Tzu said circa 400 BC:

“Thus, while we have heard of blundering swiftness in war, we have not yet seen a clever operation that was prolonged…For there has never been a protracted war from which a country has benefited.
The worst policy is to attack cities. Attack cities only when there is no alternative.”

“If the general is unable to control his impatience and orders his troops to swarm up the wall like ants, one-third of them will be killed without taking the city. Such is the calamity of these attacks.”

“Thus, those skilled in war subdue the enemy’s army without battle. They capture his cities without assaulting them and overthrow his state without protracted operations.”

“Your aim must be to take All-under-Heaven intact. Thus your troops are not worn out and your gains will be complete. This is the art of offensive strategy.”
“Those skilled in war cultivate the Tao and preserve the laws and are therefore able to formulate victorious policies…The Tao is the way of humanity and justice; ‘laws’ are regulations and institutions. Those who excel in war first cultivate their own humanity and justice and maintain their laws and institutions. By these means they make their governments invincible.”
---Sun Tzu "The Art of War"

Monday, November 20, 2006

US Mint Releases New Presidential Dollar Coins

The US Mint has announced that it will produce a series of one-dollar coins bearing the likenesses of U.S. Presidents.

I understand that the Nixon coin will come pre-tarnished and that the Reagan dollar will be made of wood, an endangered species of wood to be precise.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Some insight on how history will judge the Bush Administration

(Ancient Wisdom for the War in Iraq)


Sun Tzu said:

“War is a matter of vital importance to the State; the province of life or death; the road to survival or ruin. It is mandatory that it be thoroughly studied….War is a grave matter; one is apprehensive lest men embark upon it without due reflection.”

Sun Tzu on Waging War:

“When your weapons are dulled and ardor damped, your strength exhausted and treasure spent, neighboring rulers will take advantage of your distress to act. And even though you have wise counselors, none will be able to lay good plans for the future.”

“Thus, while we have heard of blundering swiftness in war, we have not yet seen a clever operation that was prolonged…For there has never been a protracted war from which a country has benefited.”

“Thus those unable to understand the dangers inherent in employing troops are equally unable to understand the advantageous ways of doing so.”

“Those adept in waging war do not require a second levy of conscripts nor more than one provisioning.”

“When a country is impoverished by military operations it is due to distant transportation; carriage of supplies for great distances renders the people destitute.”

“If war drags on without cessation men and women will resent not being able to marry, and will be distressed by the burdens of transportation.”

“As to government expenditures, those due to broken-down chariots, worn-out horses, armor and helmets, arrows and crossbows, lances, hand and body shields, draft animals and supply wagons will amount to 60 per cent of the total (cost).”

“In transporting provisions for a distance of one thousand li, twenty bushels will be consumed in delivering one to the army…If difficult terrain must be crossed even more is required.”

….

“Treat the captives well, and care for them....This is called ‘winning a battle and becoming stronger.’”

“Hence what is essential in war is victory, not prolonged operations.”

“The difficulties in the appointment of a commander are the same today as they were in ancient times (written circa 400 B.C.).”


Sun Tzu on Offensive Strategy:

“Generally in war the best policy is to take a state intact; to ruin it is inferior to this….for to win one hundred victories in one hundred battles is not the acme of skill. To subdue the enemy without fighting is the acme of skill.”

“He who excels at resolving difficulties does so before they arise. He who excels in conquering his enemies triumphs before threats materialize.”

“The worst policy is to attack cities. Attack cities only when there is no alternative.”

“If the general is unable to control his impatience and orders his troops to swarm up the wall like ants, one-third of them will be killed without taking the city. Such is the calamity of these attacks.”

“Thus, those skilled in war subdue the enemy’s army without battle. They capture his cities without assaulting them and overthrow his state without protracted operations.”

“Your aim must be to take All-under-Heaven intact. Thus your troops are not worn out and your gains will be complete. This is the art of offensive strategy.”


Sun Tzu on how “a ruler can bring misfortune upon his army.”

“Now there are three ways in which a ruler can bring misfortune upon his army:

(1) When ignorant that the army should not advance, to order an advance or ignorant that it should not retire, to order a retirement. This is described as ‘hobbling the army.’ (2) When ignorant of military affairs, to participate in their administration. This causes the officers to be perplexed. (3) When ignorant of command problems to share in the exercise of responsibilities. This engenders doubts in the minds of the officers.”

“If one ignorant of military matters is sent to participate in the administration of the army, then in every movement there will be disagreement and mutual frustration and the entire army will be hamstrung.”

“The wrong person cannot be appointed to command…Lin Hsiang-ju, the Prime Minister of Chao, said: ‘Chao Kua is merely able to read his father’s books, and is as yet ignorant of correlating changing circumstances. Now Your Majesty, on account of his name, makes him the commander-in-chief. This is like glueing the pegs of a lute and then trying to tune it.’”

“He whose generals are able and not interfered with by the sovereign will be victorious.”

“Now in war there may be one hundred changes in each step. When one sees he can, he advances; when he sees that things are difficult, he retires. To say that a general must await commands of the sovereign in such circumstances is like informing a superior that you wish to put out a fire. Before the order to do so arrives the ashes are cold. And it is said one must consult the Army Supervisor in these matters! This is as if in building a house beside the road one took advice from those who pass by. Of course the work would never be completed!”

“If ignorant both of your enemy and of yourself, you are certain in every battle to be in peril.”

“A victorious army wins its victories before seeking battle; an army destined to defeat fights in the hope of winning.”

“Those skilled in war cultivate the Tao and preserve the laws and are therefore able to formulate victorious policies…The Tao is the way of humanity and justice; ‘laws’ are regulations and institutions. Those who excel in war first cultivate their own humanity and justice and maintain their laws and institutions. By these means they make their governments invincible.”

===========

Sun Tzu’s Art of War was written about 2,400 years ago.

The Bush administration disregarded every principle in Sun Tzu’s time-honored work. There is no need to list the comparisons here; the reader is challenged to make the connections and draw his/her own conclusions.

The comparisons apply equally to the Bush Administration’s incompetence in the use of the Armed Forces and to its ignorance of Iraqi political and social realities.

Prior to the accession of Rumsfeld, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff had direct access to the President. Rumsfeld closed off that access between the highest ranking man in uniform and the Commander in Chief.

The blame does not, of course, rest entirely with Rumsfeld. The buck really does stop with the President, who went along with the move, and Cheney, who was strengthened by it.

Sun Tzu’s book has influenced countless military and political leaders over a span of 2,400 years.

But George W. Bush celebrates his ignorance of books and deep disdain for the work that learning demands. That’s the Commander-in-Chief we have, certainly not the one we wish we had or the one we hope to have at a later date.

More on this later.

I'm not kidding about the Predatory Towing

Steve Duin's column in the Sunday Oregonian titled "Local towing hostilities are escalating" describes how another of Retreiver Towing's vehicle harvesting operations leads to a mother of eight getting her arm broken for her trouble.

Here's the link:

http://www.oregonlive.com/news/oregonian/steve_duin/index.ssf?/base/news/1163832954170180.xml&coll=7

How History will Remember George W. Bush

My theory is that some day history textbooks will identify the failed President as "George Bush the Lesser"...

...as will they identify George H.W. Bush as "George Bush the Father, later the Great Spanker."

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Are you a victim of predatory towing in Portland?

In Portland, you may be a victim of predatory towing and not even know it, not until now. Read further.

Tow trucks operating in Portland carry two sets of invoices in their trucks, one set for the tows they make that are subject to City of Portland regulations, and another set for those that are—heh heh—immune from the regulations.

They know which set to use on you, and you don’t. You don’t even know about the second set, and that is the way they like it.

Which invoice they use on you depends—believe it or not—on the number of parking slots in the lot.

If the parking lot holds ten or more parking spaces, then they are supposed to issue you an invoice with charges regulated by the City of Portland. The City puts a cap on what they can charge you for, and on how much that charge can be.

However, if the lot you are parked in holds fewer than ten spaces, you are screwed. That’s when they can hit you with the unregulated charges. And, understand that ten is a completely arbitrary number.

Under the unregulated scheme, they can charge you for mileage even though you have no control over where they take your vehicle. Regulated tows cannot charge you for mileage.

Unregulated, they can also charge you for the fuel that they say they burned towing your vehicle. They are free to decide how much that fuel was worth. That charge is not permitted on City-regulated invoices.

Unregulated, they can charge you for the use of the dollies or other equipment that they say were used in towing your vehicle. This practice is forbidden by City regulations.

Unregulated, they charge you ten bucks for the digital photograph they took of your vehicle. That is ten dollars of pure profit, and the practice is not allowed on city-regulated tows.

Unregulated, they charge you about 60% more per day in storage fees. Retriever Towing, for instance, was charging daily storage of $ 20.00 on the regulated invoice and on the same day charging $ 33.00 for unregulated.

The difference? The size of the parking lot, whether it holds greater or fewer than ten vehicles.

The fact that the tow truck drivers are unpaid unless they hook somebody encourages them to be more aggressive than they need to be, from the public point of view.

The tow truck companies used to pay their drivers some sort of guarantee or minimum wage, but the owners decided that their drivers weren’t aggressive enough in their vehicle harvesting operations and now they pay them nothing.

The drivers are paid on a commission basis.

Are you starting to sense that this issue applies to you? Then join in and end the practice of predatory towing. Here’s how to start:

The City of Portland contracts for towing services with private companies. The Portland Police Bureau, for instance, orders thousands of vehicles towed each year, and that contract is worth millions of public dollars.

Due to loopholes in existing State and Federal law, the tow companies are immune from regulation for properties with fewer than ten parking slots.

The tow companies cannot be forced to change these predatory practices without changes in law, but the City of Portland could require all contractors performing business with the City to conform 100% of their towing activities conducted within the City of Portland according to the regulations already established by the City.

This contracting requirement should take effect at the earliest practical date, as early as tomorrow would be fine.

You can help make this happen by contacting Portland’s Mayor, City Council and Chief of Police, and requesting that this change occur.

Also, contact your State legislators, US Senators Wyden and Smith, and Oregon’s congressional delegation. It is time to close the loopholes at both Federal and State level.

No public entity should do business with companies that take public money with one hand and unfairly treat members of the public with the other.

This is a call to action.

Sean Cruz

More on this later

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Governor Ted Kulongoski is a Hero to Me

Oregon Governor Sets Example for the Nation.

As the father of two Army National Guard soldiers, one who has served two tours in combat in Iraq as a .50 caliber machine gunner, and one who died in April 2005, I urge you to vote for Governor Ted Kulongoski.

Of all the candidates for Governor, Ted Kulongoski is the only one who cares about our troops and their families, the only one who stands with the families when they bury their loved ones.

Ted Kulongoski is the only candidate who understands the sacrifice our troops and their families have made, are making, and will make in the future, and he feels this in his heart.

Ted Kulongoski recognizes that governors have no voice in shaping U.S. foreign policy, no role in conducting war, but that has not kept him from seeing every deployed Oregonian off and seeing every deployed Oregonian return. The other candidates excuse themselves away with their narrow agendas. Ron Saxton wants to save me ten bucks on my taxes.

It takes a giant heart and a very special sort of courage to face those grieving families, and Ted Kulongoski is the only governor in the nation who has these qualities.

For this, Governor Ted Kulongoski is a hero to me.

The number one issue for those of us who are making the sacrifices in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, for those of us who are making these sacrifices again and again, is the war itself. Of all the issues the candidates want to talk about, the only issue for us is the war, the most important question is—when will our loved ones come home?

The typical Guardsman comes from a small town or rural area. The death notices often name a town that few city people have ever visited or even heard of. The names and places are quickly forgotten in the city, as quickly forgotten as the sacrifice itself.

But Governor Kulongoski has made our soldiers and their families a priority from the very beginning of the war. He understands the mission and the needs of our troops, and he will never forget the names of those small towns, the faces of the families, and the stories that flesh out the human beings we have lost in faraway places.

He does this for all of us, for every single one of us. For you, and for me.

The only candidate in this race with his heart in the right place is Ted Kulongoski. I urge you to vote to re-elect Governor Ted Kulongoski.

And send a message to George W. Bush while you're at it.

Sean Cruz

Thursday, November 02, 2006

At Last, George W. Bush Gets it Right

Referring to himself in his most recent press conference, President Bush said: “I’m a campaigner. That’s what I do.”

That is exactly right. George W. Bush is not a thinker. He’s not a reader of books. He dismisses print and broadcast media. He has no interest in history or understanding why world events unfold the way they do.

There is no danger that he will learn anything from reading reports, even if produced by his own administration, because he simply can’t be bothered with information (I’m referring explicitly to the 9-11 Commission’s report, but take your pick).

George W. Bush has made ignorance a point of pride throughout his career. He celebrates his snooze through the institutions of higher learning that his family’s pull got him through. Many of us would have valued the Ivy League golden opportunity enough to actually work hard at it.

And he left his National Guard unit when he felt like it, which happened to be just before a mandatory drug test.

John Kerry’s remark to the university students suggesting that they study hard or they’ll find themselves stuck in Iraq is actually based in recent American history. It was an actual fact during the Viet Nam war era that a college deferment could keep you out of the jungle. Just ask Dick Cheney.

There is no denying the appeal of a practiced sneer to a group of people who are mean-spirited at heart, and that describes the Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld base at the core. It works in just about any policy area.

Bush and Cheney both have the gift in the sneer department. Rumsfeld is just pure, cold bastard in spades. I cannot recall a Cabinet member who has displayed greater contempt for the public he supposedly is paid to serve than this man.

As Election Day draws near, the President and Vice President are full-time partisan campaigners, which is decidedly not the job they were elected to do.

As a President, as a world leader, as a Commander-in-Chief, George W. Bush is a miserable failure and we as a nation are all the poorer for that.

But he is a hellacious campaigner. He and Cheney are flying all over, working that sneer magic.

Send them a message on Election Day with your vote.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Walking 1000 miles to find my kids

In 2002, I decided to attempt to walk from Portland to Utah.

I had fought unsuccessfully in the courts through four jurisdictions in three states, trying to locate and establish contact with my children against the unlimited legal resources of the child abduction ring that had taken them.

They had hired more than a dozen lawyers at one time or another and six years had gone by since my kids had disappeared.

At every point where contact with my children could be achieved—short visits supervised by associates of the very people who had abducted them—the kids were intimidated into silence. Their demeanors were wooden, and they were shadowed by people taking notes and reporting on what was said, on what transpired. There would be a penalty for appearing happy to see me.

These sessions were so tortuous to my children and myself that I stopped fighting for visits in the courts. I didn’t want to see my children ripped in half like that.

But I could not do nothing. One day, I decided to walk to Utah, hoping to send a message to my children that I had not forgotten them, that they were still my number one priority.

I had no illusions about actually seeing my children, but I wanted to send a message that was clear—I’m your father and I love you this much.

My plan was fairly simple. I would walk fifteen miles a day and sleep by the side of the road. I would leave in late Spring, avoiding the cold of winter and the heat of summer. That was pretty much the plan.

I made a banner to wear on the back of my pack, to let people know I was walking, not hitchhiking.

I decided to start the walk on the courthouse steps in Vancouver, Washington, where I fought in court for the first two and half years of the abduction. From the beginning, the walk was intended to be symbolic.

In upcoming posts, I will write the story of this walk. I took some pictures along the way. I’ll post those, too.

Walking--Oregon to Utah--to find my kids



















I wore this banner on my backpack

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Wahkeenah

Peaceful--peaceful--peaceful














photo by Caren Knight-Pepper

A man works through loss for others' gain

This column by S. Renee Mitchell appeared in the Oregonian on October 24, 2005. (my comments are appended at the end)

It took almost 10 years, but Sean Cruz has finally learned to live with his unrelenting heartbreak.

He's sleeping more at night. The bouts of depression are as familiar as a friend, but thoughts of suicide don't visit as often.

"When your child is gone, every minute is impossible," Cruz says. "You're trying to get through the day. You can't sleep. Your food has no taste . . . Whatever was going on, I just couldn't deal with it."

On Feb. 12, 1996 -- in the middle of a winter storm -- Cruz's ex-wife took his four children, ages 8 to 17, and shuttled them through family homes in different states before ending up in Utah.

Cruz, who has joint custody, contacted police, who couldn't help. He hired lawyers he couldn't afford. And he regularly sent lengthy e-mails to people like me who saw his name and pushed the delete button.

"You assume that people are going to hear you when you say, 'My child was abducted,' " says Cruz, an aide to Sen. Avel Gordly. "But the word 'abduction' or 'kidnapping' seems to make people uncomfortable."

Cruz couldn't get regular access to his children until 2003, when his oldest son, Aaron, who was fighting a meth addiction, moved to Portland. (see correction, below)

After three months, though, the 21-year-old returned to Utah, hoping to be reunited with his younger brother, who is on his second tour in Iraq. But Aaron, who suffered from insomnia, depression and anxiety, was too sick.

In late April of this year, Aaron slipped into a coma and died. After the funeral, Cruz says, his daughters, now ages 26 and 17, stopped returning his phone calls. Cruz hasn't heard from his other son, age 21, for two months.

"It's like the kids got swallowed up again," says Cruz, whose laugh lines have been widened by years of worry and regret.

Without his children, Cruz's focus became fighting parental abductions. He persuaded Gordly to push legislation -- called "Aaron's Law" -- that gives families tools to punish parents for the crime of child abduction. The House, led by Rep. Linda Flores, R-Clackamas, unanimously approved the bill in the last week of the session.

"Aaron's Law" lets the courts appoint legal and mental health advocates for any minor children, even before a criminal or family law case goes to court. Aaron's Law also permits any adult or child to sue for financial damages against any person who interferes with a court's custody order.

The law -- which had at least 10 revisions before final passage -- recognizes that abducting a child is abusive. Children are traumatized when they suddenly lose access to everything that's familiar, says Liss Hart-Haviv, of Take Root, a Portland-based nonprofit that advocates for abducted children (www.takeroot.org).

"The loss and the grief that the child experiences is really difficult to get your mind around," Hart-Haviv says. "It doesn't really matter who takes you or what their motivations are, it's still the experience of being abducted."

Aaron's Law also is leading to a statewide symposium where Oregon can create a systematic approach to preventing child abduction. It also includes training to encourage law enforcement officials to take the crime seriously. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, more than 200,000 children each year are kidnapped by a parent or family member.

"This is a story of how the process can work," Gordly says. "Sean put his heart and soul, everything he had, into not just the bill but educating me and educating other legislators about the damage that happens to children who are abducted."

Although Aaron's Law will help other parents, Cruz's suffering will probably never end. He can never recapture all that he has forever lost. And his troubled mind can't seem to find complete peace -- even when he sleeps.

"I mourn Aaron's death," Cruz says. "But I also mourn the last 10 years of his life. I just can't imagine that."

-----------
Sean's comments: Aaron wasn’t fighting a meth addiction. He was in a methadone program, fighting an opiate addiction that originated with the heavy medication he was prescribed after he was taken to Utah. Before he was taken, Aaron was completely healthy. Afterwards, however, he suffered from major clinical depression, chronic insomnia and severe anxiety.

From the age of 15, the adults surounding him in Utah dosed him with Ritalin, Alderol, Prozac, Zoloft, Xanax, Oxycontin and other drugs ( I have not been able to gain access to his complete medical records yet). At the time of his death, Aaron had been medicated continuously for nearly the entire time since he was taken from Oregon. It is common for abducted children to lose access to medical care. In Aaron's case, the medical providers appear to be linked to the church leaders involved in his abduction.

He put himself in a methadone program, trying to regain control of his life, in 2003. He told me that his dream was to work at my side in the legislature. That was my dream as well.

He was undergoing medical tests here in Portland, where we were trying to gain an understanding of his physical and mental health problems, which included a serious thyroid problem and the seizure disorder which led to his death, when he received orders to report to Utah for deployment to Iraq.

Despite a life-threatening condition, Aaron left unhesitatingly for Utah to join his brother for deployment (Army National Guard). He came downstairs as soon as he received notice of the orders and said, "Dad, I'm going to join my unit. I've got to look after my brother."

A few days later, on Thanksgiving 2003, I watched him pack, and the next day he was gone.

When he left my home, his access to competent health care ended.

It is also incorrect to state that the children were taken by my ex-wife. It was a child-stealing ring motivated by extreme bigotry that enticed, tricked, took and kept the children. And it was in their interests that Aaron was kept quiet and under control through medication and indoctrination. The known members are named in earlier posts to this blog.

postscript: Aaron refused to accept the severity of his illness and never gave up trying to join his brother. He believed he could get well in Iraq if he was given a chance. Shortly before he was stricken, Aaron called me and said, "Dad, I'm going to Iraq. I'm joining the Marines. They're looking for people just like me."

And he was right, the Marines do look for people just like him: courageous, selfless, ready to serve and never--ever--willing to give up.

It runs in the family.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Open letter to an Interstate Child Stealing Ring, pt.1

To Evelyn Taylor, David Holiday, Tony Micheletti (Oregon), Chris and Kory Wright, Steve Nielson, (Utah), et al:

You kidnapped my children from their home with their grandmother and I near Hillsboro, Oregon and took them to a series of locations in at least three states.

You took them out of their schools and put them directly into danger, stripping them of friends, family and home in the process. It was a deliberate, evil act.

You used your positions of authority in your church to control them and burden them with conflicts you would never have visited on people you love. Let us be clear—you did not do this out of love.

The conflict left Aaron scarred physically and emotionally, and his blood is on your hands, each of you.

You forced four innocent children to reject their own family because you needed them to cover your guilty, criminal asses. And you still do, nearly eleven years later.

Your criminal conspiracy continues…you continue to bleed this family of time, money, opportunity, and in Aaron’s case of life itself….

Now you have hired lawyers whose sole job is to stand between my son’s medical and school records and me.

I cannot compete with your financial resources. That is no secret. You can hire lawyers for years and years, as you already have, and I can do little about it.

But I can write and publish the truth, and you will have to deal with that.

Unfortunately, the statute of limitations has run on your crimes, so none of you are facing prison time. None of you are facing the criminal sanctions you so richly deserve. I hope you are driven out of your homes with pitchforks and shovels.

Your debt to the Cruz family—and to society—is as permanent as the damage you have inflicted. You deserve every piece of bad news coming your way.

The passage of Aaron’s Law (Senate Bill 1041) does bring an element of justice, although each of you are exempt from its reach due to the statute of limitations, but it does not bring closure. Closure will only occur when the Cruz family is reunited, and not one day before.

Tony Micheletti—you impotent slab of lard—you will be the subject of Open Letter, pt.2, coming soon.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Blogolitical Sean endorses Governor Ted Kulongoski

As the father of two Army National Guard soldiers, one who has served two tours in combat in Iraq as a .50 caliber machine gunner, and one who died in April 2005, I urge you to vote for Governor Ted Kulongoski.

Of all the candidates for Governor, Ted Kulongoski is the only one who cares about our troops and their families, the only one who stands with the families when they bury their loved ones.

Ted Kulongoski is the only candidate who understands the sacrifice our troops and their families have made, are making, and will make in the future, and he feels this in his heart.

Ted Kulongoski recognizes that governors have no voice in shaping U.S. foreign policy, no role in conducting war, but that has not kept him from seeing every deployed Oregonian off and seeing every deployed Oregonian return. The other candidates excuse themselves away with their narrow agendas. Ron Saxton wants to save me ten bucks on my taxes.

It takes a giant heart and a very special sort of courage to face those grieving families, and Ted Kulongoski is the only governor in the nation who has these qualities.

For this, Governor Ted Kulongoski is a hero to me.

The number one issue for those of us who are making the sacrifices in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, for those of us who are making these sacrifices again and again, is the war itself. Of all the issues the candidates want to talk about, the only issue for us is the war, the most important question is—when will our loved ones come home?

The typical Guardsman comes from a small town or rural area. The death notices often name a town that few city people have ever visited or even heard of. The names and places are quickly forgotten in the city, as quickly forgotten as the sacrifice itself.

But Governor Kulongoski has made our soldiers and their families a priority from the very beginning of the war. He understands the mission and the needs of our troops, and he will never forget the names of those small towns, the faces of the families, and the stories that flesh out the human beings we have lost in faraway places.

He does this for all of us, for every single one of us. For you, and for me.

The only candidate with his heart in the right place is Ted Kulongoski.

I urge you to vote to re-elect Governor Ted Kulongoski.


Sean Cruz

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Jim Pepper--Portland Native Son Remembered September 23


Caren Knight-Pepper
and the late Jim Pepper
in concert











The Jim Pepper Remembrance Band, an all-star lineup of former collaborators of the legendary Native American innovator, takes the stage for two shows at the Blue Monk on Saturday, September 23. Show times are 8:00 and 10:00. Tickets are $ 20.00; students $ 10.00.

Jim Pepper, whose Indian name was “Flying Eagle,” was a self-taught master of the saxophone who became one of the most important musicians and composers in the history of American music, creating a unique synthesis of Native American music with the language of modern jazz.

Working with Larry Coryell and the Free Spirits in the 1960s, he was among the first to develop jazz-rock fusion. A member of the Indian Hall of Fame and the Native American Music Awards Hall of Fame, and recipient of the Lifetime Music Achievement Award by the First Americans in the Arts, his music was always informed by his Creek/Kaw heritage.

The Remembrance Band:

Gordon Lee, piano, musical director
Caren Knight-Pepper, vocals, percussion
Glen Moore, bass
JB Butler, guitar
Renato Caranto, saxophone
Carlton Jackson, drums

Luciana ProaƄo, dance, performs “Custer Gets It” medley


This concert is the official planning kickoff for the first annual Jim Pepper Music Festival.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Saturday, August 05, 2006

President Bush sharpens his retirement skills; Rumsfeld reluctant to speculate

President Bush has shortened his current vacation to a mere ten days, partly in response to pressure from Cindy Sheehan and others who took issue with Bush's lax work habits.

The lame duck president is sharpening his retirement skills in Crawford again. I can't tell if this is good news anymore.

Few remember his record-setting vacation pace that was cut short by the events of September 11, 2001.

Fewer still remember those as the good old days, when you could count on Bush to be far from the White House and his yapping pack of incompetents not yet rolling our citizen soldiers into a 1000-year-old sectarian conflict in unarmored jury-rigged humvees.

As for our British "allies," holding on to the tattered and IED'd remnants of Empire, how can they be expected to have any good ideas in Iraq when they have made such a deadly mess of Ireland?

In the absence of good news from Iraq there is, well, more news:

Secretary for War Donald Rumsfeld testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee yesterday along with his two top generals in charge of the war in Iraq.

In response to direct questions from the Committee, both generals reluctantly admitted that until recently they had not considered the prospect of an Iraqi civil war. This answer, of course, makes no sense and isn’t true, but their boss was sitting at the table between the two of them and, of course, there is the idiot in the White House to consider.

The slim helping of good news is that, at long last, the top brass has placed the words “civil war” and “Iraq” in the same sentence in public and on the record.

Sen. John W. Warner (R-Va.), chairman of the Armed Services Committee, said the administration may need to seek new authorization from Congress to allow U.S. troops to fight in a civil war. Originally, the forces were authorized to topple Saddam Hussein and his Baath Party.

Senators from both parties questioned whether troops were adequately trained to fight in a civil war. If it comes to that, asked Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.), "which side are we on?"

"I'm reluctant to speculate about that," Rumsfeld said. "It could lead to a discussion that suggests that we presume that's going to happen. . . . The government is holding together. The armed forces are holding together…They're waging a psychological war of attrition…They want us pointing fingers at each other rather than pointing fingers at them."

This is the giant intellect the nation is counting on to lead the armed forces. He says he's "reluctant to speculate," which leads us into a real fine segue to other developments:

Also yesterday, the Senate intelligence committee requested a new National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq…Nearly four years ago, the committee received an estimate that contended that Iraq had biological and chemical weapons in addition to an active nuclear weapons program.


That is going to be a hard act to follow. If only Rumsfeld had been "reluctant to speculate" back in the good old days.

You may have missed this New York Times editorial. The hearing was broadcast on C-Span:

The Sound of One Domino Falling

It’s been obvious for years that Donald Rumsfeld is in denial of reality, but the defense secretary now also seems stuck in a time warp. You could practically hear the dominoes falling as he told the Senate Armed Services Committee yesterday (August 3) that it was dangerous for Americans to even talk about how to end the war in Iraq.

“If we left Iraq prematurely,” he said, “the enemy would tell us to leave Afghanistan and then withdraw from the Middle East. And if we left the Middle East, they’d order us and all those who don’t share their militant ideology to leave what they call the occupied Muslim lands from Spain to the Philippines.” And finally, he intoned, America will be forced “to make a stand nearer home.”

No one in charge of American foreign affairs has talked like that in decades. After Vietnam, of course, the communist empire did not swarm all over Asia as predicted; it tottered and collapsed. And the new “enemy” that Mr. Rumsfeld is worried about is not a worldwide conspiracy but a collection of disparate political and religious groups, now united mainly by American action in Iraq.

Americans are frightened by the growing chaos in the Mideast, and the last thing they needed to hear this week was Mr. Rumsfeld laying blame for sectarian violence on a few Al Qaeda schemers. What they want is some assurance that the administration has a firm grasp on reality and has sensible, achievable goals that could lead to an end to the American involvement in Iraq with as little long-term damage as possible. Instead, Mr. Rumsfeld offered the same old exhortation to stay the course, without the slightest hint of what the course is, other than the rather obvious point that the Iraqis have to learn to run their own country.

By contrast, the generals flanking him were pillars of candor and practicality. Gen. John Abizaid, the U.S. commander in the Middle East, said “Iraq could move toward civil war” if the sectarian violence — which he said “is probably as bad as I’ve seen it” — is not contained. The generals tried to be optimistic about the state of the Iraqi security forces, but it was hard. They had to acknowledge that a militia controls Basra, that powerful Iraqi government officials run armed bands that the Pentagon considers terrorist organizations financed by Iran, and that about a third of the Iraqi police force can’t be trusted to fight on the right side.

As for Mr. Rumsfeld, he suggested that lawmakers just leave everything up to him and the military command and stop talking about leaving Iraq. “We should consider how our words can be used by our deadly enemy,” he said.

Americans who once expected the Pentagon to win the war in Iraq have now been reduced to waiting for an indication that at least someone is minding the store. They won’t be comforted to hear Mr. Rumsfeld fretting about protecting Spain from Muslim occupation.

New York Times Editorial Published: August 4, 2006

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Aftermath of a Child Abduction














This photograph was featured in a Portland gallery or museum exhibit in recent months. I've since lost the name of the photographer, so at this time I can't provide a photo credit.

I kept the image because it captured so well the devastating impact the loss of my four children had on my life. That's not a picture of me or my house, but that's what it felt like. This is a picture worth a thousand words....

Friday, July 28, 2006

Portland Mercury story on deportations

A Taxing Incident

A Good Citizen Pays by Getting Deported

BY MATT DAVIS, Portland Mercury

If you're a Portland Latino, don't walk into the federal building on NW Broadway to file your taxes without photo ID—unless you want to be deported.

That's the chilling message making the rounds of Portland's Latino community following the recent deportation of a woman and two members of her family—a process which began when she simply walked into the federal building to pick up tax forms and was detained on the spot by a security guard last March.

The woman, an illegal immigrant— whose advocates have asked that she not be identified to protect family still in the area—was merely following the advice of Latino community groups like the Latino Network and El Programa Hispano: requesting a tax identification document, available from inside the building, so she could file tax information.

Filing tax identification forms are separate from the US immigration process and allow people to pay taxes in this country without legal residency, making it easier to seek citizenship further down the line. But thanks to the over-zealous actions of a federal building security guard, whose role is to screen people coming into the austere circa-1918 building, many Latinos in Portland are now terrified to go near the place.

"We encourage our community members to file taxes to show they have a history of working and contributing to the US economy," says Maria Lisa Johnson, executive director of the Latino Network, a nonprofit supporting Latino youth. "But when there are barriers to doing that, like getting arrested, it's pretty frightening."

Disturbingly, Johnson thinks the woman was also coerced into giving information about the location of the two family members who were then also arrested, and subsequently deported.

Since the incident, Johnson has been advising people to file their taxes remotely by giving them to a representative of El Programa Hispano—part of Portland's Catholic Charities group—instead of going to the federal building in person.

The security guard may have been enforcing the letter of immigration law, but the way the situation escalated—from a woman trying to pick up paperwork, to a woman being deported—is symptomatic of a wider breakdown of trust and confidence between Portland's Latino community and US Immigration and Customs Enforcement services.

Sean Cruz, legislative aide to Oregon State Senator Avel Gordly, says Latinos are being singled out for sanctions like this and would like to see immigration law enforced more fairly.

"If you or I walk into the federal building without any ID," Cruz says. "Nobody is going to force us to remain there until we can produce some. We already know racial profiling is an issue here [in Portland], but if you get pulled over by the police and you're anything but Latino, you're not worried about the immigration people at all."

Siovhan Sheridan-Ayala is an immigration attorney working with Catholic Charities Immigration Legal Services. While she knows of the deportation case last March, and the family involved, she could neither confirm nor deny acting on their behalf, and would not discuss the specifics of the case with the Mercury. However, she would speak on the larger problem of immigration issues disproportionately impacting Latinos.

"The negative consequences for being in the US unlawfully fall more heavily on the Mexican population," Sheridan-Ayala says. "For example, those who are here for one year and leave, and then come back, face a permanent bar on immigration, even if they are married to a US citizen. A lot of people who fall in love and want to build their lives here are denied access."

Sheridan-Ayala adds that there is a common misconception that people just have to wait in line for their chance to immigrate, but the sad fact is that some people have to wait up to 20 years to do so, while others are permanently ineligible—she says such policies are not family friendly and laments the current situation.

Virginia Kice, a spokeswoman for US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, could not discuss the specific case without the Mercury naming the family involved. But she responds: "We deport over 100,000 people every year and encounter thousands of people coming into federal buildings. Nobody is deported without due process."

Kice adds, "When we go out seeking somebody, in most cases it is because we have had information, but there are also encounters, in some cases, where we come across people, and we are sworn to enforce our nation's immigration law. It sounds like the Latino community in Portland has found a way to address this."

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Abducted by parents, children become the forgotten victims

from The Oregonian, Margie Boule, June 4, 2006

Abducted by parents, children become the forgotten victims

Even today, 29 years after she was abducted and lived in hiding with her mother, she sometimes can't figure out who she really is.

Is she Liss Hart-Haviv, who lives in Kalama, Wash., and heads up a well-respected national organization for adults who were abducted as children?

Or is she Missy Sokolsky, who grew up in an affluent family on Manhattan's Upper West Side, attending private schools, taking ballet, piano and riding lessons?

Or is she Melissa Hart, who spent part of grade school living in a single room with her mother in a rundown neighborhood in San Diego, surviving on charity food, learning to lie and being afraid of anyone in a uniform?

Liss admits she hasn't yet recovered from the sudden, dramatic disappearing act her mother forced upon her when she was 11 years old. "I spent part of my childhood on the run from a parent," she says. "Then I spent the rest of my life on the run from my childhood."

This story may change the way you look at child abduction. Maybe you see it as a simple child custody issue. Or maybe you remember the devastated parents on TV shows. But almost nobody thinks about what the abducted child is going through, according to Liss and other survivors of abduction who've created Take Root, an organization to provide support and advocacy for abductees.

After what Liss refers to as the "hug and go" reunions in front of cameras, with cheering relatives engulfing the returned child --nobody thinks about what the child goes through after being returned to left-behind family members who've become strangers.

Often when Liss talks about the little girl she was before she was abducted, she uses the third person. She doesn't say "I loved my father." She says, "Missy loved her father." It's as if Missy died the day her mother took her away.

She was born in New York, "the daughter of an attorney and a Southern homecoming queen." Her parents divorced when Missy was 3. She lived with her mother, but her father always was around.

Unfortunately, he was a troubled man. "He was an alcoholic with emotional problems," Liss says. "He was very wealthy and powerful and obsessed with my mother. He really made her life a living hell." Liss says her dad "called the apartment 30 or 40 times a day. When her mom didn't pick up, he'd come and pound on the door in the middle of the night.

"And he'd withhold child support. The courtroom was his playground, a way to see my mother if she was constantly in court over child support or alimony."

When Liss was 9, her mother snatched her and ran to Florida. Liss' father hired detectives, and snatched Liss back. On the way back to New York, her father took a two-week detour to New Orleans. With uncombed hair, wearing the same dress, Liss sat in bars while her dad partied.

"He was not equipped to raise a 9-year-old girl," Liss says.

A few months later, her mother snatched her again.

"That was the end of Venetia and Missy Sokolsky," says Liss. "From that day forward those two people ceased to exist. And on the other side of the country, in San Diego, Sharon and Melissa Hart appeared out of thin air. . . . She changed our identities."

They had no contact with anyone they'd known before. Liss left behind friends, relatives, toys, pets and her father. She was told her father would hurt her mother if he found them. "It was a life of hiding and terror."

Liss believes her mother "really had my best interests at heart." But no matter what the parent's motivation, Liss and other former abductees believe abduction is not the answer. "A child taken into isolation with a distressed caretaker is never in a safe situation, no matter what the parent's intentions," Liss says

Take Root would not exist if Liss hadn't heard the term "child abduction" on a radio show. She went home, did an Internet search and discovered she was far from alone. "Over 200,000 children are abducted by a family member or parent every year," she says. The realization "unlocked the strongbox I had stuffed everything into; all the grief from that moment of abduction, when Missy Sokolsky disappeared. I wept and wept."

She realized she needed help. But every agency she could find was created to aid parents of missing children. "The parents were perceived as the victims, not the children. . . . There were no mental health professionals with expertise on long-term impact. No research has been done. Finally, in utter frustration, I called the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. I said, 'With a name like that, how can you have nothing for the missing children?' And their response was, 'You are exactly right.' "

The organization funded a meeting of nine adults who'd been abducted by parents when they were children. They met in Alexandria, Va., in 2001. Before the meeting, "I was somewhat skeptical that we really had common ground," Liss says.

She was wrong. All had felt alone. All had struggled after their "recovery." And all continued to be scarred by the abductions.

Liss' father found Liss and her mother after two years in California. But by then her father had "really gone over the edge." He'd "lost his job, and done nothing but drink and obsessively look for us." He knew he was in no condition to raise her, Liss says. So she stayed in California, occasionally visiting her dad in New York.

The visits were rocky. Liss, who kept the name Melissa Hart, wanted to talk about her new life. Her father wanted back the child who'd left, but she didn't exist anymore. "Conversations with him were all about his devastation and attacks on my mom."

Today Liss' relationship with her mother is "a work in progress," Liss says. When Liss points out there were other ways her mother could have handled her father's obsessive behavior without abducting Liss, "she gets defensive and explodes," Liss says.

Unfortunately, Liss wasn't able to mend her relationship with her father before he died. But she's forgiven him, "because he's not the one who created, for me, the real trauma, which was the loss of Missy Sokolsky."

After difficult teen years, Liss pulled her life together and graduated as valedictorian at University of California, Berkeley. As head of Take Root, she's testified before Congress and appeared in the national media.

Take Root (www.takeroot.org) already has changed a lot of people's perspectives about the world of missing children. Groups that once only created search plans now are considering recovery plans for abducted children.

Take Root has created protocols for police, mental health professionals and reuniting families to help returning children integrate their different identities.

"We want to build something constructive out of our experiences," Liss says. "We want to transform victims to victors."

Contact Margie Boule: 503-221-8450, marboule@aol.com

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Oregon non-stranger kidnapping law explained

I can tell you from personal experience that one of the many barriers one encounters in getting law enforcement, the courts, the lawyers and the general public to understand the seriousness of these crimes lies in the term itself, “custodial interference.”

Custodial interference just doesn’t sound like a serious crime, and people in general mentally lump these offenses into a broad category of custody issues.

But child abduction by any person is a felony in this state. It is a crime with irreversible consequences, and the children and other victims suffer irreparable harm. These are known facts, beyond what common sense and simple human decency call for.

It is also important to distinguish kidnapping offenses from most other crimes in that they are continuing crimes; that is, the crime does not occur as a discrete event. Your children are just as kidnapped on the last day of the abduction as they were on the first, maybe even more so when you consider the damage to their lives.

Under the section titled “KIDNAPPING AND RELATED OFFENSES,’ Oregon statutes classify non-stranger abductions as “custodial interference in the first degree” or “custodial interference in the second degree.”

Here is the text of the statue, further explanation appearing below (emphasis added for clarity):

163.245 Custodial interference in the second degree. (1) A person commits the crime of custodial interference in the second degree if, knowing or having reason to know that the person has no legal right to do so, the person takes, entices or keeps another person from the other person’s lawful custodian or in violation of a valid joint custody order with intent to hold the other person permanently or for a protracted period.
(2) Expenses incurred by a lawful custodial parent or a parent enforcing a valid joint custody order in locating and regaining physical custody of the person taken, enticed or kept in violation of this section are “economic damages” for purposes of restitution under ORS 137.103 to 137.109.
(3) Custodial interference in the second degree is a Class C felony.

163.257 Custodial interference in the first degree. (1) A person commits the crime of custodial interference in the first degree if the person violates ORS 163.245 and:
(a) Causes the person taken, enticed or kept from the lawful custodian or in violation of a valid joint custody order to be removed from the state; or
(b) Exposes that person to a substantial risk of illness or physical injury.
(2) Expenses incurred by a lawful custodial parent or a parent enforcing a valid joint custody order in locating and regaining physical custody of the person taken, enticed or kept in violation of this section are “economic damages” for purposes of restitution under ORS 137.103 to 137.109.
(3) Custodial interference in the first degree is a Class B felony.

In the case of the Cruz family abduction, my children were in fact enticed, taken and kept in violation of a valid joint custody order that had been in effect for five years. My children were also exposed “to a substantial risk of illness or physical injury.”

The state of Oregon, through the work of the 2003 Senate President’s Task Force on Parental and Family Abductions, is rapidly gaining awareness that the statutory language is inadequate to describe the actual harm that abductions, even if committed by a parent and even if for a short duration, do to all such children.

These crimes cannot be unwound without additional, continuing harm to the children, and therefore the best solution is to prevent non-stranger abductions from occurring in the first place. That is the intent of Aaron’s Law, to act as an effective deterrent.

For more information on the harm family abduction inflicts on children, please see http://www.takeroot.org/. No one can explain this better than members of Take Root, all adults who were abducted as children by family members.

My former wife entrusted the care of my children to members of her church congregation, and it was these people who violated that trust relationship and enticed, took and kept my children in violation of the valid joint custody order.

More specifically, they took my children out of their schools in Hillsboro, Oregon and caused them to disappear on February 12, 1996 when the entire Northwest was in the middle of the Great Storm of 1996. By any definition, that act alone exposed my children “to a substantial risk of illness or injury.”

And you can bet that they kept their own children safe at home while they sent mine out on the road, bouncing from place to place, out of school.

The participants in the abduction were all members of the same church, from congregations in Oregon, Washington and Utah.

In Hillsboro, the chief culprits were David Holliday, a Mormon bishop, and Evelyn Taylor, the female equivalent of a Mormon bishop. Both used their church offices to commit or facilitate these crimes. Neither were ever charged or disciplined or investigated.

Two members of my former wife’s family, Tony Micheletti (Salem) and Cindy Anderson (Rainer), both participated in the abduction. Both also committed crimes of perjury and making false sworn statements. Neither were ever charged or investigated.

In Washington, Donald Taylor, a Mormon bishop in Battle Ground, used his church office to facilitate the kidnapping, and two church associates, Barry and Connie Dunford, also of Battle Ground, participated. None were charged or investigated.

In Utah, the central figures were Kory and Chris Wright, both Mormon officials who made the arrangements to hide the children in rural areas of the state. Neither were charged or investigated.

Steve Nielson, stepdad #2, also of Utah, played an unknown role in the early stages of the abduction, but clearly and actively “kept” my children in violation of the valid joint custody order. He also committed multiple acts of assault against my former wife, two of my children and even one of their friends (these crimes, including aggravated assault, were described in affidavits entered into the subsequent divorce proceeding), but no one ever called the police. He also committed the crimes of perjury and making false sworn statements. He also was never charged or investigated.

The valid joint custody order that protected my children, that kept their lives orderly and secure vanished in an instant, a worthless piece of paper.

Aaron’s Law is designed to act as a deterrent to non-stranger child abduction in several ways:

Aaron’s Law puts the interest of the child victim(s) first and foremost, and among the first things that need to happen in an abduction is for the abduction to end now!

Aaron’s Law authorizes the court to assign a qualified mental health professional and a guardian ad litem to act in the interest of the child victim at the very outset of the case, before any other findings or procedures. This element is intended to protect the children from manipulation by any party.

Aaron’s Law authorizes the court to charge the cost of these professional child advocates to the parties as the court sees fit. If you create the problem, you can expect to pay for it, starting here.

Aaron’s Law authorizes the court to send the parties (separately) to counseling directed at educating the parties to the harm their conduct is causing the children, and assess the cost of said counseling as the court sees fit. The court is authorized to do so at the outset of the case, again, to protect the children from manipulation.

These clauses are also designed to discourage frivolous suits or cases filed to harass another party.

Aaron’s Law creates civil liability for all parties to an abduction. If you want to abduct a child you are related to or otherwise acquainted with, be prepared to forfeit your house and other property. In other words, it had better be worth the risk.

None of the people who participated in the Cruz family abduction would have done so if it would have cost them some money.

The statute of limitations on criminal custodial interference, believe it or not, is only three years. The statute does not take into account either the continuing nature of the offense or the fact that many abductions last longer—much longer—than three years.

Aaron’s Law addresses both of these weaknesses, although only in civil cases filed under Aaron’s Law. The criminal statute is unchanged.

Aaron’s Law creates a civil action that is effective for up to six years after the child victim reaches the age of 18. This clause recognizes that children who suffer abduction are harmed in ways similar to that of sexual abuse, and it may take some time after the child victim reaches the age of 18 to understand and personally deal with what has happened in the child’s life. Again, see http://takeroot.org/ for information on the extent of harm.

In other words, if you abduct a 4-year-old child, under Aaron’s Law, you own a civil liability until that child is 21 years old. It had better be worth it to you.

Aaron’s Law, finally, is designed to ensure that the courts, the bar, law enforcement and the general public are better informed and better able to handle these cases. That may be the most effective deterrent of all.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Jim Pepper--The Flying Eagle Honored

Senate Joint Resolution 31, Honoring Jim Pepper

Sponsored by Senator Avel Louise Gordly (at the request of Suzie Pepper
Henry):

Whereas the 2005 Portland Jazz Festival paid tribute to the musical legacy of Jim Pepper, a true son of Oregon, with a concert dedicated to the late Native American saxophonist and jazz legend; and

Whereas workshops, panel discussions, performers and audiences at the festival recalled how Jim Pepper, born to Gilbert and Floy Pepper in Salem on June 18, 1941, blazed a unique trail across the musical horizon with his innovative synthesis of Native American song, the harmonic structures of modern jazz and the rhythms of Africa, South America and the Caribbean; and

Whereas Jim Pepper performed throughout the United States, Europe and Africa, played with such jazz giants as Ornette Coleman, Don Cherry, Colin Wolcott, Larry Coryell and Mal Waldron; and

Whereas Jim Pepper also collaborated with many Oregon musicians, including Gordon Lee, Tom Grant, Leroy Vinnegar, Nancy King, Caren Knight-Pepper, Obo Addy, David Friesen, Dan Balmer, Glenn Moore, Ron Steen, Sonny King, Dennis Springer, Mel Brown, Nick Gefroh, Marianne Mayfield, Ralph Black, Lee Reinoehl, Carlton Jackson and many others; and

Whereas Jim Pepper's 1971 crossover hit 'Witchi Tai To, ' based on a Native American Church peyote chant taught to him by his grandfather, earned him a spot on both the jazz and Top 40 radio charts and continues to be widely popular among national and international performers and recording artists to this day; and

Whereas Jim Pepper's remarkable career was marked by more than 50 recordings as bandleader, featured artist and composer, including 'Pepper's Pow Wow,' 'Comin' and Goin'' and ' Remembrance'; and

Whereas Jim Pepper's symphony 'Four Winds' was performed by the Brooklyn Philharmonic Orchestra in New York and by the Cologne Symphony Orchestra in Germany; and

Whereas Jim Pepper served as musical director for 'Night of the First Americans,' a Native American self-awareness benefit concert at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. in 1980; and

Whereas Jim Pepper toured Africa with Don Cherry as part of a United States-Africa cultural exchange program; and

Whereas Jim Pepper succumbed to lymphoid cancer in February 1992 in Portland, Oregon, at age 50; and

Whereas Jim Pepper was honored posthumously in 1999 with the Lifetime Musical Achievement Award by the First Americans in the Arts and was inducted into the Indian Hall of Fame in 1998 and the Native American Music Awards Hall of Fame in 2000; and

Whereas 'Pepper's Pow Wow,' the 1996 award-winning documentary of his life produced and directed by Sandra Osawa and Yasu Osawa, premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, was broadcast on PBS in 1997 and 1999 and has since been presented to enthusiastic audiences at the Amiens Film Festival, the Margaret Mead Film Festival, the Native American Film and Video Festival, the Red Earth Film and Video Festival and the Portland Jazz Festival; and

Whereas the Leroy Vinnegar Jazz Institute and the Oregon Cultural Heritage Commission named Jim Pepper 'Jazz Artist of the Year' and presented the Bill McClendon Award for Excellence in Jazz to his mother at the 2005 Portland Jazz Festival; and

Whereas Jim Pepper's music continues to be performed and recorded in countries throughout the world, including Germany, where a performance of 'Witchi Tai To' by the WDR Radio Orchestra and the Remembrance Band, arranged and conducted by Gunther Schuller, was recorded; and

Whereas Jim Pepper's life and music harmonized distinct cultures and served as a poetic example for all indigenous people, ' walking in three worlds with one spirit'; and

Whereas Jim Pepper is survived by his mother, Floy Pepper, his sister, Suzanne Henry of Portland, his nephews, Jim Pepper Henry and Jesse Laird Henry, and his grandnephew, Jackson Laird Henry; and

Whereas Floy Pepper said during her acceptance of her son's First Americans in the Arts award in 1999, 'Jim Pepper was a member of the Kaw Indian Nation known as 'The Wind People' from his father. From me, his mother, he was a member of the Creek Indian Nation known as 'The People of the Waters.' It's no wonder his music was so strong and powerful--with the wind to carry his music to the four directions of the Earth. And as long as the grass shall grow and the waters flow--which is forever--may his spirit remain alive for time immemorial'; now, therefore,

Be It Resolved by the Legislative Assembly of the State of Oregon:

(1) The members of the Seventy-third Legislative Assembly honor the extraordinary accomplishments and musical legacy of Oregon native son Jim Pepper and direct that a copy of this resolution be delivered to the Oregon Historical Society for inclusion in its permanent collection.

(2) The members of the Seventy-third Legislative Assembly direct that a copy of this resolution be delivered to the National Museum of the American Indian, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., for inclusion in its permanent collection.

(3) The members of the Seventy-third Legislative Assembly direct that a copy of this resolution be delivered to the Leroy Vinnegar Jazz Institute at Portland State University for inclusion in its permanent collection and encourage the creation
and endowment of a Jim Pepper (hUnga-che-eda 'Flying Eagle') Chair at the university to further the study of Native American music and its relationship to jazz.


Adopted by Senate May 19, 2005
Adopted by House June 7, 2005

Aaron Cruz

Justice is Coming to a Courthouse Near YOU!

Sometimes justice never comes, sometimes it takes ten years.

A decade after Aaron and my other three children were abducted from their homes in Oregon and sent out on the road in the middle of the Great Storm of 1996, justice is well on its way.

On April 7 and 8, 2006, the Oregon Judicial Department and the State Family Law Advisory Committee held its 4th annual family law conference in Bend, Oregon.

Co-sponsored by the Oregon State Bar and the Juvenile Court Improvement Project, the conference was attended by judges, court administrators and family law attorneys from across the state.

These conferences are an essential part of the ongoing training and certification programs for the bench, the bar and for administrators. Aaron's Law was featured at this conference, and its 360-page resource guide is now a permanent part of the bar's continuing education program. In short, everyone in the court system is going to see this.

Workshop #6, "Encountering Family Abductions in the Legal Setting", is described in the guide as follows: "This workshop will offer information about family abductions, including international abductions and the Hague convention, prosecution of custodial interference, and statutory approaches to preventing and dealing with abduction cases including the new Aaron's Law (SB 1041, Ch 841, Oregon Laws 2005).

The panel presenting the workshop included a psychologist who testified to the devastating effects abductions have on the child victims (Aaron is proof), a Marion County judge who testified to the fact that virtually all abductors claim that they are fleeing from abuse of some sort, and two family law attorneys who are taking leadership roles in educating the bar and the public to the problem and devising solutions.

The workshop also covered cult abductions. People abduct their own children for any number of reasons, but the most common reason that people abduct other people's children (children that they know personally and exert influence over) is related to membership in some sort of religious group.

All of the people who participated in abducting the Cruz children were members of the same church group. Those people committed Class B and Class C felonies, as the workshop material clarifies.

Aaron's Law is landmark legislation, first in the nation, and many of the people working on the issue are working across state lines.

Coming to a courthouse near you, Evelyn Taylor (Hillsboro, Oregon), David Holliday (Hillsboro), Tony Micheletti (Salem), Cynthia Anderson (Rainier) will be the first application of Aaron's Law.
Since Aaron's Law applies if a minor child is "enticed, taken or kept" out of the state of Oregon, the law will reach to the states where kidnapped children are being held.

So to Chris and Kory Wright, Steve Nielson, and the rest of the Utah abduction team--justice is coming to you bastards too.

You will all have the opportunity to explain in public why you put the Cruz children at risk in that storm, and why you chose to knowingly violate the lawful joint custody order that kept my children safe and their lives orderly and secure.

If only Aaron was alive to see it.

Text of Aaron's Law

Senate Bill 1041 (AARON’S LAW)
Sponsored by Senator Avel Louise Gordly

(now Chapter 841 Oregon Revised Statutes)
(note: ORS 163.257(1)(a) is the crime of Custodial Interference in the First Degree, a Class B felony)

AN ACT Relating to custodial interference; and declaring an emergency.

Be It Enacted by the People of the State of Oregon:

SECTION 1. (1) Any of the following persons may bring a civil action to secure damages against any and all persons whose actions are unlawful under ORS 163.257 (1)(a):

(a) A person who is 18 years of age or older and who has been taken, enticed or kept in violation of ORS 163.257 (1)(a); or
(b) A person whose custodial rights have been interfered with if, by reason of the interference: (A) The person has reasonably and in good faith reported a person missing to any city, county or state police agency; or (B) A defendant in the action has been charged with a violation of ORS 163.257 (1)(a).

(2) An entry of judgment or a certified copy of a judgment against the defendant for a violation of ORS 163.257 (1)(a) is prima facie evidence of liability if the plaintiff was injured by the defendant¢s unlawful action under the conviction.

(3)(a) For purposes of this section, a public or private entity that provides counseling and shelter services to victims of domestic violence is not considered to have violated ORS 163.257 (1)(a) if the entity provides counseling or shelter services to a person who violates ORS 163.257 (1)(a).
(b) As used in this subsection, “victim of domestic violence” means an individual against whom domestic violence, as defined in ORS 135.230, 181.610, 411.117 or 657.176, has been committed.

(4) Bringing an action under this section does not prevent the prosecution of any criminal action under ORS 163.257.

(5) A person bringing an action under this section must establish by a preponderance of the evidence that a violation of ORS 163.257 (1)(a) has occurred.

(6) It is an affirmative defense to civil liability for an action under this section that the defendant reasonably and in good faith believed that the defendant¢s violation of ORS 163.257(1)(a) was necessary to preserve the physical safety of: (a) The defendant; (b) The person who was taken, enticed or kept in violation of ORS 163.257 (1)(a); or (c) The parent or guardian of the person who was taken, enticed or kept in violation of ORS 163.257 (1)(a).

(7)(a) If the person taken, enticed or kept in violation of ORS 163.257 (1)(a) is under 18 years of age at the time an action is brought under this section, the court may: (A) Appoint an attorney who is licensed to practice law in Oregon to act as guardian ad litem for the person; and (B) Appoint one of the following persons to provide counseling services to the person:
(i) A psychiatrist.
(ii) A psychologist licensed under ORS 675.010 to 675.150.
(iii) A clinical social worker licensed under ORS 675.510 to 675.600.
(iv) A professional counselor or marriage and family therapist licensed under ORS 675.715.
(b) The court may assess against the parties all costs of the attorney or person providing counseling services appointed under this subsection.

(8) If an action is brought under this section by a person described under subsection (1)(b) of this section and a party shows good cause that it is appropriate to do so, the court may order the parties to obtain counseling directed toward educating the parties on the impact that the parties' conflict has on the person taken, enticed or kept in violation of ORS 163.257 (1)(a). The court may assess against the parties all costs of obtaining counseling ordered under this subsection.

(9) Upon prevailing in an action under this section, the plaintiff may recover: (a) Special and general damages, including damages for emotional distress; and (b) Punitive damages.

(10) The court may award reasonable attorney fees to the prevailing party in an action under this section.

(11)(a) Notwithstanding ORS 12.110, 12.115, 12.117 or 12.160, an action under this section must be commenced within six years after the violation of ORS 163.257 (1)(a). An action under this section accruing while the person who is entitled to bring the action is under 18 years of age must be commenced not more than six years after that person attains 18 years of age.
(b) The period of limitation does not run during any time when the person taken, enticed or kept in violation of ORS 163.257 (1)(a) is removed from this state as a result of the defendant's actions in violation of ORS 163.257 (1)(a).

SECTION 2. Section 1 of this 2005 Act applies to causes of action arising on or after the effective date of this 2005 Act.

SECTION 3. This 2005 Act being necessary for the immediate preservation of the public peace, health and safety, an emergency is declared to exist, and this 2005 Act takes effect on its passage.

Passed by Senate August 1, 2005
Passed by House August 3, 2005
Approved by Governor: October 13, 2005
Filed in Office of Secretary of State:

Aaron’s Law may apply to any Oregon child abduction occurring after the date the Governor signed the bill into law.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Jim Pepper Resolution--SJR31 (2005)

Jazz musician honored posthumously

Oregon Senate approves a resolution to honor Jim Pepper, who died in 1992
BY TARA MCLAINStatesman Journal May 20, 2005

The house had the kind of good medicine left by a larger-than-life spirit. Sean Cruz moved into his newly purchased Portland home a few years ago and thought it needed to be filled with music. Indian music.

Weeks later, he still was playing American Indian songs and buying dream catchers. A neighbor told him that it was the childhood home of Jim Pepper, the late Oregon-born jazz musician.
Himself fond of jazz, Cruz knew of Pepper's saxophone music.

Cruz began exploring Pepper's life, from his birth in Salem to the height of his career playing with Ornette Coleman, Don Cherry, Larry Coryell and many others.

The circle of Cruz's discovery closed Thursday when the Oregon Senate approved a resolution honoring Pepper. Pepper's mother, Floy, was there to see a history of her son's achievements recorded in the state's record.

"He always felt unloved and unwanted in the United States," Floy Pepper said after the vote. "He found peace and success in Europe."

He finally is being recognized in his native land.

Jim Pepper recently was honored at the Portland Jazz Festival. On Thursday, a recording of his music was played to the four corners of the Senate chamber.

"I was sitting there thinking, he's come a long way," Floy Pepper said. "I'm so proud."

Floy and James Gilbert Pepper moved to Salem before World War II to work at Chemawa Indian School. They resettled in Portland, where Floy taught in public schools for several decades.

The family often would return to their native Oklahoma to visit family; Floy is Creek and her husband Kaw. That's where Jim Pepper learned the traditional songs of the Native American Church, said James Pepper Henry, the musician's nephew. Henry works at the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian.

The song "Witchi-tai-to" features Pepper swinging the vocables of a sacred peyote song like a scat singer. The hit made the jazz and Top 40 charts in 1971.

The demo for Pepper's 1971 album, "Pepper's Powwow," was recorded in what now is Cruz's house.

"That house was a gathering place for lots of jazz musicians," Cruz said. "Now Jim's music is played all the time in the house."

Pepper died of lymphoid cancer in Portland in 1992. He was 50.

He has been posthumously honored by First Americans in the Arts and was inducted into the Indian Hall of Fame and Native American Music Hall of Fame.

At this year's Portland Jazz Festival, the Oregon Cultural Heritage Commission named him "Jazz Artist of the Year." He also received the Bill McClendon Award for Excellence in Jazz, which was presented to his mother. Pepper's former bandmates convened to play his music.

"I was in the balcony," Cruz said, "and everyone was applauding during that long standing ovation. And the thought occurred to me that there ought to be a resolution about Jim's music."
Cruz works for Sen. Avel Gordly, a Portland Democrat who has served in the Legislature for 14 years.

As it turned out, she also was a Jim Pepper fan.

Here's the link: http://www.statesmanjournal.com/apps/pbcs.dil/article?AID=2005505200311