The Legend of Wooley Swamp

What ever happened to nuance? Jabberwocky is being spewed up by the left and right as they try to drag us into their Wonderlands. This blog charts a path out of this swamp of simple truths and false certainties. And from time to time, it'll be a place for more light-hearted musings.

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Location: Palms - L.A, California

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Manga, Mangia, Manger...for a Month?

Today the Swamp simply wants to relay the story of odd recent events in Gifu, Japan. This is the story of Kiyoshi Ikeda:

"A man who stayed at a comic-book cafe in Gifu for over a month and ate there without paying was arrested Wednesday, police said.

The unemployed man, referring to himself as Kiyoshi Ikeda, 37, was arrested for fraud. He has reportedly admitted having stayed at the cafe intentionally.

"I ran out of money and I thought I'd stay there until I got kicked out," he was quoted as telling police."

(click here to read more of this wacky, wonderful tale of overstaying one's welcome)

The 34-day Diet of Kiyoshi

I will never feel guilty again for chilling just a tad longer in a café. In Berlin, that's an accepted art form, but elsewhere it was hitherto frowned upon. No más!


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Wednesday, April 12, 2006

"Si se Puede" - an Immigrant Afternoon on the Mall

And so the immigration rally - the link is to the official April link - took place and the turnout was at least as good as forecast (click on the headline for a nice panorama shot). I made it down just in time to catch the tail end of Senator Kennedy’s trademark passion. During his speech - amidst interspersed "Si se puede's" - the crowd began chanting his name like he was Bono. And for an afternoon, he was indeed a Bono of Massachusetts.

(c) AFP, Mandel Ngan

But the real rock stars were those in the crowd. As someone memorably coined it: “We decided not to be invisible anymore”. And visible they were. So many people who live, work and study in the Washington Metro area. I can only assume that many folks who live comfortable, sheltered lives would have been taken aback by this show of peaceful protest and celebration. Sure, they may have a gardener or nanny, but do they pause to think that they are not the only ones? And that immigrants have all kinds of jobs?

From the Washington Post’s reporting on this rally and the others across the country:

“Hundreds of thousands of pro-immigration demonstrators mobilized on the Mall and in scores of cities across the country yesterday in a powerful display of grass-roots muscle-flexing that organizers said could mark a coming-of-age for Latino political power in the United States…
Unlike some national marches in the past, the pro-immigration rallies have had a bottom-up, organic quality that often surprised organizers and opponents alike. But not everything was spontaneous. In contrast to earlier rallies, which featured Mexican flags and produced a backlash, yesterday's events were awash in American flags after organizers and radio disc jockeys urged demonstrators not to give their opponents something to criticize.
"We had American flags because this is our home and we also wanted to bring part of our heritage," said Salvador Carranza, an organizer of a rally in Madison, Wis. "We believe we are part of this country, and also part of our heritage, so we don't think having other flags is disrespectful.
(click here to continue reading the article)

For a stunning slideshow, click here.

(c) Reuters, Robert A. Reeder

As the article points out, the rallies were largely peaceful even if there was palpable disappointment following last Friday’s immigration bill debacle in the Senate. They were also heavily American with pledges of allegiance and plenty of flags. This won’t dampen the nativist rant that the immigrants are anti-American, but then again nothing will.

What struck this observer was both the diversity and the lack of the same in the crowd. The diversity was that of Latinos and Hispanics from all quarters – flags, banners, and yes, awesome soccer jerseys from Colo Colo, Club América and the Strongest to good ol' D.C. United.

As this was officially an immigration rally, the absence of other ethnic groups was somewhat unfortunate. To be clear, representatives of African and Asian ethnic organizations were there, but the crowd was mostly Latino. The diversity of the American people is its strength and the more one reminds the xenophobes and restrictionists of this, the better. I realize that people may have thought this was not their battle (or disagreed with the forum) and of course people were working. Still, next time I hope the grass roots wave reaches more folks.

Manuel Herrera in NYC (c) Reuters, Chip East

Given the inevitable comparisons with past Civil Rights demonstrations (read the Swamp on this); it was good to see several African American speakers on the podium if not in the crowd. This included U.S. Representative Albert Wynn, who represents parts of Prince George’s County (that’s where my home in Laurel is) and Montgomery County (gerrymandering anybody?). Speaking for his constituents – a very heterogeneous mix of white, African American, Asian American, Hispanic Americans – he dismissed those who would see some kind of difference:

“You are beautiful….We are America. If you live here, work hard everyday, if you raise your children here and if you pay taxes: You are American…” (my transcription from the C-Span broadcast, check it out for the vibe)

Other than CASA de Maryland, the organizers were mainly unions and most significantly religious organizations from across the spectrum. Muslim and Jewish leaders spoke as did representatives of other faith-based groups. But it was the position of the Christian churches that proved most interesting.

While I was happy to see Bishop Rev. Theodore Schneider of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America spread his gospel, I was even more impressed with Archbishop Cardinal Theodore McCarrick of the Washington Archdiocese. Representing the Catholic Church to which the majority of those in attendance surely belonged, he spoke not only at length but in fluid Spanish. While I was not able to follow, the crowd’s reaction was electric.

Archbishop McCarrick’s stance follows in the illustrious footsteps of Archbishop Cardinal Roger Mahony of the Los Angeles Archdiocese. Last month he propelled himself into the immigration debate by calling for reform along the lines of the McCain-Kennedy bill that came out of the Senate Judiciary Committee. He has also issues numerous calls to prayer on the subject, including on April 5th the opening of Lent on which he also called for a show of solidarity through fasting.

Cardinal Roger Mahony at the April 10th L.A. rally

This kind of political activism by religious leaders is not appreciated by all, and this morning I had the dubious pleasure of seeing John O’Sullivan, a Catholic immigrant from the U.K., air his views on C-Span. Mr. O’Sullivan is an intelligent, well-spoken man who yearns for the America he imagined he immigrated to. The America of Samuel Huntington devotees, in which Anglo values form the base of the “tom-ah-to soup”.

By this he means that the U.S. was a tomato soup from the beginning and over time, spices and all made it tastier, but it remains a tomato soup to this day. This analogy, which he prefers to “melting pots” or “mosaics”, appears to be one of wishful thinking. ...the wishful thinking of those who prefer their tom-ah-to soup watery and 17th Centuryesque.

Anyway, please read O’Sullivan’s latest column and watch him on C-Span. Definitely worth it: the xenophobic views of an immigrant always are….When he goes off about the ‘mystic chords of memory’ (abusing a Lincoln quote), the Alamo, Anglo values and tom-ah-to soup, things get kinda wacky (13 minutes into the segment).

For more on the benevolent – and in this country of all countries’, inevitable – involvement of faith communities in the immigration debate, I highly recommend Daniel Wood’s article from the Christian Science Monitor:

“Increasingly, (religious leaders) are making their presence felt on Capitol Hill, where the Senate is now drafting its version of immigration reform. In their own churches, synagogues, and mosques, many leaders are striking a defiant pose toward an immigration bill the US House has already approved….
At stake is the moral high ground on immigration. The religious leaders see new border-tightening moves as intruding on their obligation to care for strangers - no questions asked…. It is none of the government's business who and how religious people serve," says Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy, president of Interfaith Alliance, which represents 70 faith traditions. "Would the US Congress have told the Good Samaritan not to help a stranger in the ditch?"
(click here to continue reading)

In the article, you learn the Cardinal Mahony plans to order his priests to not comply with restrictive federal immigration measures. Sure sounds like the Chicago City Council to me!

Lastly, I wanted to give a shout out n' mad props to the youth of the DC Metro area. Many students are themselves directly affected by this, and if not, members of their families may well be. On the Mall the other day, they turned out en masse. In Montgomery County, some students were actually allowed to take off from class and receive credits for participating. This is the result of a progressive (and thus somewhat controversial) community service program. Read about it here.

I am talking about Americans like Jose Cortez:

“I really want to support immigrants," said Cortez, an Einstein senior who was born in El Salvador and immigrated to Montgomery County at 4 to join his father, Mario. "Without them, this country wouldn't be anything. Immigrants aren't here to fight; they're here to work.'' The elder Cortez, who had the day off from his job at Whole Foods, smiled at his son's words… (from Lori Aratani’s article in yesterday’s WP)

Word and Palabra, Jose. “Si se puede” “Yes, we can do it”


(c) AP, Evan Vucci Julio and Rosa Deng

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Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Led Zeppelin's 'Immigrant Song': Viking Anthem or Security Threat?

Update: Now with added accuracy, i.e. who actually sang the Clash song (thanks CMS). Plus there's a great little video clip link at the end.

It is one of – if not THE – most ridiculous stories to emerge in this security-obsessed era of ours. As a Clash fan and a lifelong Led Zeppelin disciple – who you calling a Robert Plant wannabe? – I can only muster utter outrage. And a touch of envy: it should have been me in that taxi!

Basically, a paranoid taxi driver in London thought that an Indian-born Brit’s listening to the tunes of two classic BRITISH bands was suspect. This is whack on so many levels. As reported in USA Today:

A love of punk and hard rock anthems by The Clash and Led Zeppelin led to a British man being hauled off a plane bound for London by police on terrorism fears, newspapers reported on Wednesday.
Indian-born Harraj Mann, 23, played "London's Calling" by The Clash and Led Zeppelin's "Immigrant Song" through the stereo of a taxi he caught to Durham and Tees Valley Airport in northern England.
The taxi driver, however, grew suspicious of his passenger after listening to the lyrics of his chosen songs and alerted the authorities after they reached the airport.”
Read the full story here

Mr. Mann himself had this to say:

"I was laughing about it, but all my mates are absolutely furious. It's just left me bemused. I can agree that there's a culture of fear. They acted on the information they had. I'm just frustrated that it happened to me. It's a mystery."

Enough said and for now I offer you some of the lyrics of the affronting songs.

Joe Strummer of the Clash sang in the punk anthem “London Calling”:

"London calling to the faraway towns
Now that war is declared-and battle come down
London calling to the underworld
Come out of the cupboard, all you boys and girls
London calling, now don't look at us
All that phoney Beatlemania has bitten the dust
London calling, see we ain't got no swing
'Cept for the ring of that truncheon thing

The ice age is coming, the sun is zooming in
Meltdown Expected, the wheat is growing thin
Engines stopped running, but I have no fear
London is drowning-and I live by the river..."

Click here for complete lyrics

And as the aforementioned Plant of wild mane fame sang primally in “Immigrant Song”:

"Aaaaaaaaaaaaah- ah, Aaaaaaaaaaaah-ah
We come from the land of the ice and snow,
from the midnight sun where the hot springs blow.
The hammer of the gods
Will drive our ships to new lands,
To fight the horde, singing and crying:
Valhalla, I am coming!
On we sweep with threshing oar,
Our only goal will be the western shore."

Click here for complete lyrics

Man, I love the name of that song and understand why Mr. Mann digs it! The riffs plus there’s the connection to the Vikings as immigrants…Ja, ja, ja! Oh Odin, Oh Thor, Oh Gefjun, Oh Idunn...

If you have no access to these songs, you can listen to samples at
For "London Calling" click here.
For "Immigrant Song" click here.

Lastly, here's a must watch (an oldie but still brilliant). Vikings of a more feline and youthful nature, sailing to the beat of said "Immigrant Song".


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Monday, April 10, 2006

Rallying for Immigration on the National Mall

Today, there will be major pro-immigration rallies all across the U.S. And given the failure by the Senate to pass an immigration reform bill last Friday – as (sort of) assumed here in the Swamp – the rallies take on an added resonance.

(c) AFP/Getty Images, J. Emilio Flores
300, 000 rally in Los Angeles on March 25, 2006.

They also need to be seen in the context of the big rallies that took place last month (click here for Migra Matters' great reporting). These were the first show of strength by those who believe in a fair, comprehensive approach to immigration. In other words, those folks who take history into account, who live within the bounds of reality and can see beyond the national security-immigration smoke screens.

Here in Washington D.C. the rally is expected to be sizeable, perhaps gathering up to 200,000 people. It will be held on the National Mall, between the Washington Monument and U.S. Capitol, and promises to attract various speakers from religious, political and humanitarian organizations.

The scene earlier today:
I am running along the Mall, soaking up sunshine and the pre-rally vibe. A stage is being set up, tv-crews try to park their vans, school kids are milling about, tourists meandering - perhaps unsuspecting of what is about to happen .... The weather is beautiful and it promises to be a good day. As I jog past the Lincoln Memorial, I am reminded of what he believed in – and of the great Civil Rights Era rallies on the Mall, led by Martin Luther King – and how clearly this too is about rights.

Yes, that last comparison is a contested one (click here to read Juan Williams back up this analogy in today’s WP). Detractors will point out that undocumented immigrants and other immigrants are not U.S. Citizens. I would add: “yet”. The current immigration situation has created an underclass that lives in the shadows, i.e. like segregation. It is antithetical to the American creed to not address this. This was, is and will always be a Nation of Immigrants. Pure and simple.

For those with concerns about transgressing laws, cultural change etc I close by offering the words of a recent immigrant, the Governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger. He also addresses border security but only in the context of a broader, compassionate picture:

“Immigration is not just a theory debated on talk shows and on Capitol Hill; in California, it's a reality that we live with every day in our schools, hospitals and workplaces. When Congress returns from its Easter recess, it must immediately address immigration reform again. I urge Congress to remember that immigrants are good people….
Already we hear so much talk about so many false choices. We are told that in a free society it's not possible to have border security. We are advised that in order to secure the borders, we must deport 12 million people. Never mind that we don't know who they are or where they are, and that it could cost up to $230 billion to do it.
I reject these false choices, and Congress should too. I salute the members of both parties in Congress who are conducting a civil, serious discussion on this issue. I urge them to agree on legislation based on a simple philosophy: control of the border….and compassion for the immigrant….
To pursue a policy of compassion, Congress must attack the problem, not people. A compassionate immigration policy will fight this battle at the borders, not in our schools and not in our hospitals. Teachers, doctors and charity workers should not have to choose between helping those in need and enforcing the law. A compassionate immigration policy will acknowledge that immigrants are just like us: They're moms and dads looking for work, wanting to provide for their kids. Any measure that punishes charities and individuals who comfort and help immigrants is not only unnecessary, but un-American.”
(click here to read the entire piece)

Yes indeed. "Just like us". U.S. Representative Tom Tancredo and CNN Anchor Lou Dobbs, wrap your confused rants around that one.

In a couple of hours, I will head back down to the Mall to join the rally, and tomorrow I will file a little report for all y’all.


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