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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

On the City of Portland's proposed Office of Equity

By Sean Cruz

Portland, Oregon--

My name is Sean Cruz. I am a resident of NE Portland. I am openly Mexican-American, Chicano to be more specific, the descendant of Meso-American aboriginal people.

I do not self-identify as Latino or Hispanic because those are colonial labels of convenience that refer to no particular race, culture, ethnicity or nationality.

I am the grandson of Mexican farm workers, who came to serve Portland communities and the state of Oregon as former state senator Avel Gordly’s chief of staff for six years.

The first two bills that Senator Gordly assigned me to draft in the 2003 legislative session addressed the lack of equity for Oregon’s farm workers, who under state statute had no rights to meal and rest breaks during the work day or to overtime pay for overtime work. Every other worker in the state has those rights.

Neither bill received a hearing, but Senator Gordly and then-BOLI Commissioner Dan Gardner worked together outside of the legislative process to successfully change Oregon statutes, granting farm workers the right to meal and rest breaks, effective February, 2004.

Oregon’s farm workers still have no right to overtime pay for overtime work, the only class in the state bearing that burden.

I recently met with Francisco Lopez of CAUSA and Ramon Ramirez of PCUN, and I asked them who was the farm workers’ best friend in the legislature now that Senator Gordly has retired.

They answered “zero.” There is no one.

Every person in the City, in the County and in the State is dependent upon food produced by Oregon’s mostly Mexican farm workers, yet there is no equity for this population.

The fact is that no legislator or any other public official has wanted to touch farmworker issues since the street renaming fiasco, supposedly to “honor” Cesar Chavez, that fed not one hungry child nor kept one young person in school.

During the two years that the City was torn over renaming a street that to this very day has no connection to Portland’s farm worker population, there was much hate speech and invective directed specifically at Mexican people, yet during that entire period the Office of Human Relations, the Human Rights Commission and the Hispanic Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce stood silent and let the invective fly.

"Working toward equity requires an understanding of historical contexts, and active investment in social structures over time so that that all communities can experience their vision of success.”—From the Office of Equity draft plan

My question to the Council is: How will things be different in the new Office of Equity; will you still be taking advice from the same people who advocated for renaming a street; and, in the future, in the interests of accountability and transparency, will you require similar groups as the street renaming committee to publicly identify their membership, beyond the self-appointed chairs?


These comments were emailed to the Portland City Council and posted on The Oregonian, here:

Saturday, August 20, 2011

On the GOP target-rich lineup of Squirrels, Near-Imbeciles and one very dangerous SOB

By Sean Cruz

Portland, Oregon—

In all the years that I’ve been interested in politics and elections, I’ve never seen the Republican Party offer such a target-rich lineup of squirrels and near-imbeciles, even multiple Mormons, and yet there is still time for more candidates to join the fun, particularly with the line has grown so blurry between candidates, former candidates, non-candidates and maybe-candidates.

Was it only four years ago that the GOP Laff Riot Comedy Team had just two players, moose-fed Sarah Palin and the utterly unselfconsciously stupid Joe the Plumber? Where the heck is Joe and his plumber’s butt these days, anyway? So fickle were his supporters, where did they go?

This election cycle, the characters are coming so fast and opining so frequently that it’s hard to keep up.

We owe this phenomenon in large part to the proliferation of cable TV and radio “news” channels with 24 hours to fill each day, and about 45 minutes of actual information to give the padding a veneer of topicality, and the extreme partisanship that dominates GOP primaries.

The rancor on the right is so extreme that the killing of Osama bin Laden is as swiftly forgotten as the fact that it was the Bush administration that set the nation into economic freefall just two short years ago. These people are not going to let themselves become confused by either facts or history. There’s less than a 50% chance that what the GOP candidates say is in the Constitution is actually in there, not that their base can tell one way or another.

For example, GOP “No-longer-a-witch” and soon-to-be-perennial cable nutball Christine O’Donnell is getting some national cable TV face time over something she calls a “book,” that ought to come bundled with crayons, like Sarah Palin’s.

Herman Cain is running a vanity campaign with absolutely no chance of success, attempting to make a direct transition from right wing cable TV commentator to president of the United States and, when you think about it, that’s pretty funny. Everything he says evaporates into thin air the moment the words come out of his mouth, but his presence on the debate stage masks the racism that inhabits the Republican base.

Although not officially campaigning, former Alaska half-term Governator Sarah Palin (aka “The Quitter”) has found life if not intelligence on cable TV, where she fills those spots when they have run out of actual news. I look forward to another Palinesque lesson in American history like her take on the famous ride of Paul Revere, who warned the British that we colonists have guns and so on and so forth. A camera and a microphone are like crack cocaine to Palin, which brings us to….

Michelle Bachmann’s bright-eyed declaration that she is going to bring back $2-dollar-a-gallon gas stirred some interest for half an afternoon, and the more she talks, the more she will take her campaign into Wackyville, where, to be fair, she will not be alone….

Ron Paul isn’t an actual Republican. He’s a Libertarian, but none of those nutballs ever get elected as a Libertarian, only as a Republican, and most hard-line Republicans can’t tell the difference anyway, because that would involve reading actual books….

Newt Gingrich is understandably mostly an embarrassment to the rest of the field, and this just 13 years after his run ended, ruling the Republican roost. Most of the GOP electorate has long forgotten whatever it was that he did back then that they liked the sound of so much, something about a Contract with America….

Tim Pawlenty’s candidacy was doomed when he demonstrated that he didn’t have the cojones to confront Mitt Romney to his face on national TV. Whenever the USA gets around to electing a woman president, she’ll have pa-lenty more cojones than Pawlenty ever dreamed of, let that be a lesson to somebody out there….

Mormons Mitt Romney and John Huntsman are keeping their heads down, avoiding public exposure even at this stage in the race and the questions about their Mormon magic panties and why God loves Salt Lake City best, and which planet do they plan to rule over in the afterlife, and do they think that their experience as President of the USA will make them a better God, that will surely be coming their way, better later rather than sooner….

The 2012 GOP presidential bench is as deep in numbers as it is shallow in brainpower, with this list of declared candidates that you probably never heard of, and with this writing probably the first and last time that you will ever see their names in print. I will boldface them so as not to give the frontrunners yet another advantage: Jon Greenspon, Gary Johnson, Fred Karger, Andy Martin, Thad McCotter, Jimmy McMillan, Tom Miller, Roy Moore, Buddy Roemer and Vern Wuensche. You’ve probably heard of Rick Santorum. He’s in there too, and just to prove that I didn’t make any of this up, here’s the link:

While it is easy to laugh at the inane antics of much of the GOP field, some candidates warrant attention for the potential dangers they pose to the nation, for the way they animate the lunatic fringes, none more so than Rick Perry.

Rick Perry’s blustery suggestion that Texans might treat Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke “ugly” recalls the ugly way they “treated” JFK down in Dallas or the “good old days” when Texas justice was meted out with a nearby tree and a rope.

There is no question that sort of talk appeals to the Timothy McVie’s out there, the gun nuts and White Power crazies. Even the Bible-thumpers out there on the religious right are drawn to this line of thinking, Old-Testament blood and slaughter, and a world only about six thousand years old, ruled by God’s Chosen People, who have formed the Tea Party….

Perry’s Texas swagger channels George W. Bush just when the former Moron-in-Chief was disappearing into the history books, if not the trillions of dollars of indebtedness and thousands of grief-stricken military families he saddled the nation with in eight very recent years….

The last thing this nation will ever need is another president who believes that the sun revolves around Texas and that God drawls into his ear….

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The most valuable fish in the Columbia River

By Sean Cruz

Portland, Oregon—

The most valuable fish in the Columbia River will be one that looks exactly like this: Wild, dipnetted from a platform at Celilo Falls by a supremely lucky Native fisherman, on its way to restock an endangered species somewhere upriver from the dam at The Dalles.

Celilo Falls resides in their DNA as surely as their ancient places of origin and their anadromous journey of life, death and rebirth.

The absence of Celilo Falls is confusing to the salmon, goes against the grain of their DNA, and contributes to their decline as well as to the cost of recovery and restoration.

No single event could be more beneficial to the recovery of endangered species throughout the entire system everywhere above the dam at The Dalles than the rebirth and preservation of Celilo Falls, under the stewardship of the Columbia River tribes, who had done so successfully for more than ten thousand years, more than 42.53 times longer than the United States has existed as a nation.

The Friends of Celilo Falls is forming….

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Fundamentalist Mormon Warren Jeffs and LDS Hell on Earth

by Sean Cruz

Portland, Oregon--

Mainstream Mormons may not grow their own child brides like Warren Jeffs, but Mormon zealots can be just as dangerous, and a non-Mormon has little chance to find justice in Utah (read Mormon) courts.

My four children disappeared into Utah in a Mormon abduction more than 15 years ago, eventually suffering life under a series of three Mormon step dads in three states.

My late son Aaron Cruz died in his mother’s empty house in Payson, Utah, from “undetermined causes”, and a phalanx of Mormon lawyers hired by 5th-husband Ben and Gina Foulk, who now live a country-club, Rotary life in El Dorado Hills and Cameron Park, California, are determined to keep it that way, with the circumstances of his death unknown and uninvestigated.

My son Aaron Cruz is memorialized in Oregon's landmark anti-parental-and-family-kidnapping Senate Bill 1041 "Aaron's Law", passed in 2005.

Oregon is still the only state in the nation that offers its children this level of protection from parental and family or other non-stranger kidnappings. Under Aaron's Law, taking any abducted child out of the state of Oregon creates a civil cause of action, and you should really think hard about how you want to protect your child from abduction by religious zealots, your ex or any other criminal.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Mormon mystery company slips a million mystery bucks to Mitt Romney

Mormon mystery company slips a million mystery bucks to Mitt Romney and then dissolves, recalling the pre-Watergate era of secret campaign finance.

From the Huffington Post:

“A mystery company that pumped $1 million into a political committee backing Mitt Romney has been dissolved just months after it was formed, leaving few clues as to who was behind one of the biggest contributions yet of the 2012 presidential campaign.

“The existence of the million-dollar donation — as gleaned from campaign and corporate records obtained by NBC News — provides a vivid example of how secret campaign cash is being funneled in ever more circuitous ways into the political system.

“The company, W Spann LLC, was formed in March by a Boston lawyer who specializes in estate tax planning for “high net worth individuals,” according to corporate records and the lawyer’s bio on her firm’s website.

“The corporate records provide no information about the owner of the firm, its address or its type of business.

“Six weeks later, W Spann LLC made its million-dollar donation to Restore Our Future — a new so-called “super PAC” started by a group of former Romney political aides to boost the former Massachusetts governor’s presidential bid. It listed its address as being in a midtown Manhattan office building that has no record of such a tenant.

“The Boston lawyer, Cameron Casey, dissolved the company on July 12 — two weeks before Restore Our Future made its first campaign filing of the year reporting the donation from the now-nonexistent company, the corporate records show.

“I don’t see how you can do this,” said Lawrence Noble, the former general counsel of the Federal Election Commission, when asked about the contribution from the now defunct company.

“Last week, Restore Our Future filed its first report of 2012, disclosing that it had received $12.2 million during the first six months of the year. Among the contributors: four donors who contributed $1 million apiece, including John Paulson, the Wall Street hedge fund kingpin who made billions betting against the housing market, and two corporate partnerships listed at the Provo, Utah, address of Steven J. Lund, a former chief executive of Nu Skin Enterprises and a longtime Romney backer who has been a leader in the Mormon Church.

Read the complete article here:

Monday, August 01, 2011

The last Columbia River barge

By Sean Cruz

Portland, Oregon—Sooner or later, the last barge will pass through the series of navigation locks that compartmentalize the Columbia River into a series of stepped slackwater ponds.

The scene will look something like this, much the same as on any other sunny day in the Columbia Gorge, with just a single barge plying its way; in this series, heading upriver towards the Bonneville navigation locks:

In the final analysis, barge traffic will die off for economic reasons, which can largely be explained by the simple fact that the Columbia River is not the Mississippi.

The Columbia lacks significant traffic, far short of what would justify the cost of maintaining the lock infrastructure; and the Mississippi lacks the salmon, which have evolved over thousands of years to thrive in the fast moving environment that preceded the construction of the dams.

The fact is that just about half of the barges that move up and down the river are empty. This one is loaded, but most of the barges that travel upriver are empty.

That tiny speck moving off into the distance is that same lonely barge….

It will pass through the navigation lock at Bonneville Dam, and it will do so for free. It may surprise you to know that there is no cost charged to the barge operators for using the navigation lock.

The Columbia River economy supports only one barge company, an effective monopoly on commercial and industrial traffic along the length of the river, and that company enjoys subsidies that few are probably aware of: free travel through the locks; no charge for lock maintenance; and, probably most significant, a slackwater subsidy that keeps the river at a level that best suits the occasional barge, like this one, to the detriment of the salmon and Celilo Falls, which costs the public tens of millions of dollars a year.

While commercial operators enjoy free use of the entire river, the public is faced with charges at the handful of places where there is public access, like this one:

Ironically, public access to the navigation locks is closed off, an issue of Homeland Security. When I arrived at the security kiosk to visit the Bonneville visitors center, the guard wanted to look into my trunk to see if I was carrying any weapons.

Geez, if I wanted to create a big mess at the dam, I think I’d just take a barge full of fertilizer and diesel fuel up into the lock. That ought to do it.

The Columbia River is not the Mississippi. It is time we recognized that fact.

The Friends of Celilo Falls is forming….