July 31, 2007

I totally have writer’s block right now — I should let anyone still lurking around here these mid-summer days.

There is news on immigration, but it’s really hard for me to analyze anything going on with that issue right now. I know I have not made good use of the last few months I had available to write for the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, but every time I think about writing a quippy 600-word column about immigration or local politics a sort of dull nausea rises up in me. These seasons, when I can’t write, or perhaps it is just when I do not write, are what terrifies me about ever writing in some sort of professional capacity.

I’m still very active on immigrate2us, and every day it seems someone shows up there who has some terrible, sometimes irreversible immigration issues. Many had no idea what they were getting into when they married, and are just finding out, for example, that their spouse is not eligible for legalization for 10 years.

We are so damn lucky. More on this later.

This weekend we had a birthday party for my 2-year-old nephew Carlos at our house. I would say this was our best party. The food was fantastic, from the chicken purchased quite reasonably from the local Tower Chicken Farm, to the made-from-scratch (and mailed Mexican chiles) mole poblano (rich, spicy, bittersweet and delicious), to the rice that we bought at the last minute from El Rey. There were kids running in and out of the house, speaking English and Spanish — one who asked me, after I told him that Fermin and I were married, “when are you going to get that thing, you know, when you get really fat and the baby grows inside you?” Yes, I swear this kid said that to me, in English, verbatim.

Otherwise, there are ripe, straight-from-the-vine tomatoes to be eaten, books to be read, dinners to plan, weddings to buy gifts for… there is the State Fair to attend, and it’s still the busiest time of the year at work, and the sun calls me outside and spending time with my husband draws me away from the computer.



July 24, 2007

I had this really great looking acorn squash growing the last few weeks, and I was really excited about it. I hadn’t noticed it until I came back from Mexico and our road trip, when it was suddenly quite large, about the size of a small honeydew melon, and I figured I’d get to eat it in a few weeks.

Well, last night I pulled into my parking space, which butts up against the fence that serves as the border of my yard and my garden, and the squash was missing! I asked Fermin, and he said he hadn’t seen it, and clearly no one from my house would have just taken it off and eaten it (they know those vegetables are like my babies), which means some mean alley passerby probably saw it and decided they had to have it.

I hope they are enjoying it! Jerks.

Reason #467 to love Sen. Russ Feingold

July 23, 2007

Commentary from Salon.com’s War Room blog on Feingold’s July 22 Meet the Press interview, (jump to page 3 for Feingold’s section):

[Fellow UW Grad] Tim Russert: You were—used the word redeployed. John Burns, the bureau chief in Baghdad for The New York Times, who’s lived there for some time, offered these words this week: “It seems to me incontrovertible that the most likely outcome of an American withdrawal any time soon would be cataclysmic violence. And I find that to be widely agreed” among “Iraqis, including Iraqis who strongly opposed the invasion.” Is—are you concerned that we leave behind violence, catastrophe, genocide?

SEN. FEINGOLD: Let’s be clear what we have now. We now have cataclysmic violence. That’s the status quo. It is possible that things would get worse if we left; it is possible that things would get better. But this is what I believe: Right now we’re holding the bag in Iraq. The other countries in the region—Iran, Syria, Jordan, Kuwait—they have an interest in stability in Iraq because, if what you say will happen, it will cause great instability in their countries and danger for them. The only way we get them engaged, the only way they put up the money and the resources to stabilize this situation is if we stop what they consider to be an occupation of Iraq. So I think the only way to avoid the situation getting worse is for us to orderly redeploy our troops and get these other countries engaged in what is in their own interest, which is a stable Iraq.

Tim Russert: Last year you introduced a resolution to censure the president regarding the wiretapping of Americans within the U.S. under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. You got three other Democrats to join with you. Just four Democrats. Isn’t this the futile effort that will be described simply as politics?

Sen. Feingold: Well, let’s see what actually happened, Tim. What happened was, after I introduced the censure resolution, there was a lot of talk that didn’t mean anything. But what did the administration do? They stopped this TSP program. They brought it within the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. When they saw that there was sentiment in this country and almost every legal scholar saying that their idea that they could just make up their own laws was wrong, they brought it within the program. So I think it had a very positive impact. And it sets the stage for setting the historical record here, which is that this administration has done the greatest assault on our Constitution perhaps in American history.

Sen. Feingold: “Well, there’s a lot of sentiment in the country, even the polls show it, for actually impeaching the president and the vice president. I think that they have committed impeachable offenses with regard to this terrorist surveillance program and making up their own program. What I am proposing is a moderate course, not tying up the Senate and the House with an impeachment trial, but simply passing resolutions that make sure that the historical record shows the way they have weakened our country, weakened our country militarily and against al-Qaeda, and weakened our country’s fundamental document, the Constitution. I think that’s a reasonable course and does not get in the way of our normal work. But the American people are outraged at the way they’ve been treated. They are outraged at the dishonesty that they have been subjected to. The American people—we deserve better than the way we’ve been treated, and somehow this has to be reflected.”

The Bill Richardson difference

July 20, 2007

Still my favorite underdog, Bill Richardson is featured in a Salon.com feature today, and an entire interview done by the online magazine’s Walter Shapiro can be found here.

I really like this article, and I’ve really enjoyed watching Richardson’s slow ascension as a candidate. As the article mentions, he’s now in third place behind Clinton and Obama in New Hampshire polling. Of course it’s really questionable what these polls mean six months from the actual primary season, but an improvement in the polls is still an improvement.

What continually draws me to Richardson is the “authenticity” factor that Shapiro mentions. I really like that he doesn’t sound like a well-oiled campaign machine, and occasionally blurts out an idea that hasn’t been completely thought out. I’ve been thinking about my contempt for George W. Bush’s manner of speaking with my affection for Richardson’s, and I believe that difference is that Bush often comes off like an asshole when he strays from his teleprompter, where Richardson seems like a person who continually has good ideas, of which I am a huge fan.

Even more, I like that he is admittedly still developing his views on national policy, and unlike other candidates, does not feel the need to hold staunch, rigid policy stances before even reaching office. I think with Richardson, we are electing someone with an excellent record as a public official, a trustworthy person that will do the right thing, even if he doesn’t have an answer for what that is in every situation at this moment. He’s moderate enough to garner a large base and be popular and well-liked among liberals and conservatives, which I believe our nation desperately needs right now.

Milwaukee police get it right

July 20, 2007

Police reach out to pushcart vendors

by Diane Sroka

Fidel Bustos has been selling fruit, chips and other treats from his pushcart on the south side for the past two years.

He knows what tastes good and which route to walk every day. But when he was robbed last year, he didn’t know what to do.

“No, I didn’t report it,” he said in Spanish. He said he figured the police wouldn’t be able to do anything and the amount was too small – $30 to $40.

However, the Milwaukee Police Department hopes to reach out to vendors such as Bustos – who had been robbed once before without reporting it – and encourage them to report armed robberies and assaults of which they are victims.

“We had gotten wind that they were being victimized,” said Sgt. Luis Gonzales. “You have to report this.”

Gonzales and several other members of the Police Department met with the heads of five south side pushcart companies Tuesday to encourage them to report when their employees are victims of crimes.

Some vendors don’t turn to the police because they may be illegal immigrants, Gonzales said, but he hopes that fear will dissolve as their relationship develops.

“We aren’t concerned about their immigration status,” Gonzales said. “We’re concerned about when they are the victim of a crime.”

Tuesday’s meeting was the first of its kind, according to police, and the department already considers the outreach effort successful. Two armed robbery suspects are already in custody as a result of Tuesday’s meeting, police spokeswoman Anne E. Schwartz said.

Antonio Castillo, 71, a vendor who sometimes sits outside the original El Rey grocery store on S. Chavez Drive, said someone tried to rob him near S. 27th St. and W. Oklahoma Ave. last year, but he reported it right away.

That’s the kind of action Gonzales hopes this effort will cultivate.

“This is a good example of building community-police relations, building trust and working together with the department,” he said.

While it’s really sad that these vendors are getting robbed — many walk by my house each day — I was so happy to see this news story. With the number of local and state-level enforcement measures increasing each day, it’s good to see a few places are actually concerned about people, and crime, rather than reacting to all the ridiculous rhetoric about stealing jobs and immigrants weighing down the state budget.

liberty and reunification

July 19, 2007

Although this separation has changed our lives in many ways, life goes on after immigration. I feel grateful to be with someone who makes me happy. I was not terribly unhappy during the last year, but I was lacking. I tried not to let it bother me, and was mostly successful, but that does not mean it was not difficult. It is so simple to take one’s daily communal life with a spouse or significant other for granted, until, that is, it is taken away.

So in a rare moment of sappy-ness, let me tell you: do not take your people for granted. They are what is important.


Now when I am at work I call my husband and ask what we should make for dinner.
We cook stir-fries together, reminiscing about our days at Chin’s Asia Fresh, where we met as co-workers more than five years ago.
When he takes my keys and says he’s going to do an oil change, I wonder if he might be disassembling my car while I watch “So You Think You Can Dance.”
He bothers me to place chess with him and I say no because I don’t like to lose.
He plays along while I get excited about the tomatoes and cucumbers that are appearing all over my garden.
(Gardening after a suburban childhood is a wonderful thing).
I don’t wonder how many hundreds of dollars of phone calls he and I have made to one another in the past month.
(Free mobile-to-mobile doesn’t extend across the border).
I feel guilty enough subjecting someone else to my snooze-button habit to cut the over-sleeping nearly in half.
(This increases the number of days I arrive at work on time).
We discuss a future trip to China. Next year, maybe in fall, cost of flights, where to stay and where to visit.
We discuss *another* sort of future after a trip to China.
We can relax, we can travel, we do not worry about immigration.
We can live.

Wisconsin State Fair gets wise

July 17, 2007

For the last few years I have marveled at the fact that Summerfest, one of the world’s largest music festivals, and  Milwaukee’s signature summer event, has completely ignored the area’s burgeoning Latino population.

To be fair, various ethnically-themed festivals run almost every summer weekend at the lakeside Henry W. Maier festival park where Summerfest takes place. For example, we have Polish Fest, Festa Italiana, African World Festival and Fiesta Mexicana. Certainly Summerfest itself is not meant to be an ethnic festival, just a big, 10-day music party, but considering the array of music available, it’s surprising that there has been almost no effort to bring groups that would draw Latinos.

Once primarily a haven for remnants of 70s and 80s rock bands, Summerfest has continued to evolve with the culture. The shows on the main stage have appealed to a more diverse audience and you can find a wide variety of country, R&B, rock and pop on the side stages.

But I’ve wondered why the fair’s planners have ignored the entire culture that has evolved on Milwaukee’s south side, the Mexicans, the Puerto Ricans and the Guatemalans who love music, beer and parties – the staples of Summerfest culture. With Chicago, Madison and Green Bay able to supply a seemingly large enough of an audience to draw some great Latino acts, why haven’t they reached out? Have they not noticed the growing Latino population? Well, it’s really only their loss, of dollars.

It does appear, however, that the State Fair, probably the second-largest event of a good Milwaukee summer, has wised up to this growing consumer base.