December 30, 2009 archive

What’s In The Brown Paper Bag

(This is a short story by Luis Ramirez, who was executed in Texas on 10/20/05. My thanks to Abe Bonowitz for this story. The story doesn’t require any commentary. It’s a gift to all of you for the Holidays, Christmas, Chanukah, Kwanzaa, New Year’s, Solstice, whatever holiday, if any, you celebrate.)

By Luis Ramirez #999309

I’m about the share with you a story who’s telling is long past due. It’s a familiar story to most of you reading this from death row. And now it’s one that all of you in “free world ” may benefit from. This is the story of my first day on the row.

I came here in May of 1999. The exact date is something that I can’t recall. I do remember arriving in the afternoon. I was placed in a cell on H-20 wing over at the Ellis Unit in Huntsville, TX. A tsunami of emotions and thoughts were going through my mind at the time. I remember the only things in the cell were a mattress, pillow, a couple of sheets, a pillow case, a roll of toilet paper, and a blanket. I remember sitting there, utterly lost.

The first person I met there was Napolean Beasley. Back then, death row prisoners still worked. His job at the time was to clean up the wing and help serve during meal times. He was walking around sweeping the pod in these ridiculous looking rubber boots. He came up to the bars on my cell and asked me if I was new. I told him that I had just arrived on death row. He asked what my name is. I told him, not seeing any harm in it. He then stepped back where he could see all three tiers. He hollered at everyone, “There’s a new man here. He just drove up. His name is Luis Ramirez.” When he did that, I didn’t know what to make of it at first. I thought I had made some kind of mistake. You see, like most of you, I was of the impression that everyone on death row was evil. I thought I would find hundreds of “Hannibal Lecters” in here. And now, they all knew my name. I thought “Oh well,” that’s strike one. I was sure that they would soon begin

harassing me. This is what happens in the movies after all.

Well, that’s not what happened . After supper was served, Napolean was once again sweeping the floors. As he passed my cell, he swept a brown paper bag into it. I asked him “What’s this?” He said for me to look inside and continued on his way. Man, I didn’t know what to expect. I was certain it was something bad. Curiosity did get the best of me though. I carefully opened the bag. What I found was the last thing I ever expected to find on death row, and everything I needed. The bag contained some stamps, envelopes, notepad, pen, soap, shampoo, toothpaste, tooth brush, a pastry, a soda, and a couple of Ramen noodles. I remember asking Napolean where this came from.

He told me that everyone had pitched in. That they knew that I didn’t have anything and that it may be a while before I could get them. I asked him to find out who had contributed. I wanted to pay them back. He said, “It’s not like that. Just remember the next time you see someone come here like you. You pitch in something.”

I sat there on my bunk with my brown paper bag of goodies, and thought about what had just happened to me. The last things I expected to find on death row was kindness and generosity. They knew what I needed and they took it upon themselves to meet those needs. They did this without any expectation of reimbursement or compensation. They did this for a stranger, not a known friend. I don’t know what they felt when they committed this act of incredible kindness. I only know that like them, twelve “good people” had deemed me beyond redemption. The only remedy that these “good people” could offer us is death. Somehow what these “good people” saw and what I was seeing didn’t add up. How could these men, who just showed me so much humanity, be considered the “worst of the worst.”

Ever since Napolean was executed, for a crime he committed as a teen, I’ve wanted to share this story with his family. I would like for them to know that their son was a good man. One who I will never forget. I want for them to know how sorry I am that we as a society failed them and him. I still find it ridiculous that we as a people feel that we cannot teach or love our young properly. I’m appalled at the idea that a teen is beyond redemption, that the only solution that we can offer is death. It’s tragic that this is being pointed out to the “good people” by one of the “worst of the worst”. God help us all.

What’s in the brown paper bag? I found caring, kindness, love, humanity, and compassion of a scale that I’ve never seen the “good people” in the free world show towards one another.


simulposted at The Dream Antilles


Where are the Security Checkpoints for Money and Capital?


As People are faced with more and more restrictions and invasions of privacy what about the funding of terrorism?

Why is it that the rights of People are so easily trampled upon and limited, while the rights of money and capital are completely liberated?

Afternoon Edition

Afternoon Edition is an Open Thread

Now with 39 Stories.

From Yahoo News Top Stories

1 Iraq attacks kill 30, provincial governor wounded

by Bassim al-Anbari, AFP

Wed Dec 30, 7:48 am ET

RAMADI, Iraq (AFP) – Blasts in central and western Iraq killed 30 people and wounded the Anbar provincial governor on Wednesday, the latest in a series of attacks in recent months against government targets in Iraq.

The worst violence struck the western city of Ramadi, where 23 people were killed and 30 were wounded in co-ordinated bombings, blamed on Al-Qaeda amid collusion from the security forces, at the governor’s offices in the centre of Anbar’s provincial capital.

Governor Qassim Mohammed Abid was among the wounded, while senior security officials were also killed and injured. Around 20 cars were destroyed in the blasts.

Open Shackles


Tea parties and the whitewashing of the American Revolution

“Clio, the muse of history, is as thoroughly infected with lies as a street whore with syphilis.”

– Schopenhauer

 I don’t blame the Tea Party Protesters for getting it wrong. They probably learned the same myths in school that you and I did. It most likely never occurred to them that they were being lied to at such a young age.

  Normally the lies we are told are lies of omission. For instance, schools no longer teach the long history of labor struggles in America, or the dozens of times we invaded Latin American countries to defend the profits of American banks.

 However, on occasion, the lies we are told are overt and intentional.

 The tea party protesters are victims of both flavors of lies. It wasn’t by accident. As Saul Bellow once said, “A great deal of intelligence can be invested in ignorance when the need for illusion is deep.”

Crony Capitalism, Part 2

Yesterday in Crony Capitalism we heard Dr. Robert Johnson of the United Nations Commission of Experts on International Monetary Reform under the Chairmanship of Joseph Stiglitz, and Executive Director of the Institute for New Economic Thinking (INET), talking with Real News CEO Paul Jay about the causes of the economic crisis and about some of his suggestions for banking and financial reform.

Today in Part 2 Johnson and Jay continue the discussion addressing the question of whether the White House governs Wall Street or whether it’s the other way around…

Real News Network – December 30, 2009

Wall St: More complicated means more profitable

Robert Johnson: Does the White House govern wall street or the other way around?

Dennis Kucinich Will Investigate Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac

Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D OH-10), Chairman of the Domestic Policy Subcommittee of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, is calling for an investigation of lifting of the $400 billion cap by the Treasury Department and possible corruption.

This is Rep. Kucinich’s statement:

As Chairman of the Domestic Policy Subcommittee of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, I’m announcing that the Subcommittee will launch an investigation into the Treasury Department’s recent decision to lift the current $400-billion cap on combined federal assistance to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, opening the way for additional, unlimited funds through the end of 2012. This investigation will include the role played by Fannie Mae chief executive Michael J. Williams and Freddie Mac chief executive Charles E. Haldeman in the decision, if any, and will seek to ensure that the additional assistance is used for homeowners and not Wall Street.

Many questions remain unanswered regarding this move by the Treasury. Why suddenly remove the cap? Indications are that Freddie and Fannie, even as millions of Americans lose their homes, have used just $111 billion of the $400 billion previously available to them. Is lifting the cap on assistance a back-door TARP?

Additionally, I want to determine whether Fannie and Freddie have a cohesive plan to buy up the under-performing mortgages that remain on the books of the big banks, at appropriate prices, and undertake a massive reworking of the terms of the mortgages so as to stem the foreclosure crisis that continues to plague our country.This new authority must be used responsibly and for the benefit of American families. This cannot be used simply to purchase toxic assets at inflated prices, thus transferring the losses to the U. S. taxpayers and acting as a back-door TARP.

As a result of a curiously-timed Christmas Eve announcement by the Treasury Department, the mortgage giants will have access to unlimited funds without having to come back to Congress. Since the federal government is the majority owner of both companies, their operations will remain under Administration control.

This relationship between Treasury and Fannie and Freddie bears inspection, particularly in the wake of reports that the mortgage giants’ chief executives will now receive $900,000 each in annual compensation, bonuses of up to $6 million each, and an additional $42 million in special compensation will be spread among a dozen other executives.

Gaza Freedom March gaining steam – KEEP CALLING! LET THEM IN!

The New York Times, responding to a coordinated call for their editors to cover the story of the Gaza Freedom March, has done so. The Washington Post has responded to a similar call by posting a more generic and sanitized Reuters version, but there’s more comprehensive coverage from Democracy Now (including an exclusive interview with Roger Waters – Code Pink meets Pink Floyd!) and Dandelion Salad, who in addition with Democracy Now have broken the story in the US that 100 marchers will be allowed access into Gaza. The marchers categorically rejected this deal as a group and insist that the entire group of 1362 activists be allowed to enter Gaza, although it was left up to individuals whether to proceed into Gaza, and some did so. Medea Benjamin clarifies:

The deal that we made with the Egyptian Foreign Ministry to send a 100-person delegation found itself on rapidly shifting ground this morning. While last night the Steering Committee approved of the plan, by the early hours of the morning it had determined by a majority vote that it did not think the smaller group was a good idea. The buses went ahead with loading, but during the process word came that the Egyptian Foreign Ministry had announced to the press a very different version of the deal. Their characterization was that they had “selected” the 100 people because they were the only truly peaceful members of the delegation, which was entirely false – the group was selected on short notice to represent all nations and affinity groups as proportionately as possible. Some people got off the bus, others did not.

The buses went ahead, carrying individuals who felt compelled to travel to Gaza. The Gaza Freedom March Steering Committee encourages everyone to follow their hearts and act in good faith and love toward one another in these trying times. We will march, as coalition of nations worldwide, tomorrow here in Cairo.

Jewish Voice for Peace states that Hedy Epstein, the 85 year old Holocaust survivor and peace activist, announced that she is beginning a hunger strike in Cairo today as a response to the Egyptian government’s refusal to allow the Gaza Freedom March participants into Gaza. Democracy Now has a short interview with Hedy in their coverage of the story. She is also featured in the NY Times photo.

Raw video from the protesters is available here.

photo: Nancy Mancias

The primary march/action is scheduled for tomorrow. The increased scrutiny from the world community is moving things in a positive direction, but the marchers aren’t all the way there yet. KEEP THE PRESSURE ON! KEEP CALLING AND FAXING!

Egyptian Embassy in Cairo:

Phone: 25741344

Fax: 25749682

Egyptian Embassy in Washington DC:

Main phone: 202.895.5400

Press & Information office phone: 202.667.3402

Fax: 202.244.4319

“I want to die, honestly.”

Born in Italy, Mr. Vellucci and his wife migrated here as teenagers. They raised children, bought a house, lived their dream in Technicolor. Then his kidney gave out and their economic slide began. After court on this day, he would go for dialysis. The couple hope the lawsuit might give them one more shot at the Obama plan.

“I don’t sleep at night, I don’t sleep at all,” he said, rising slowly. “I tell Maria, ‘If we lose the house, I want to stop my dialysis.’ I want to die, honestly.”

Ten months ago President Obama announced a $75 billion program to keep as many as four million Americans in their homes by persuading banks to renegotiate their mortgages. Lenders have accepted more than one million applications and cut three-month trial deals with 759,000 homeowners. But they have converted just 31,000 of those to the permanent new mortgages that are the plan’s goal.

Read the whole thing here:…

And teenage runaways/homelessness are now often due to foreclosure:

Over the past two years, government officials and experts have seen an increasing number of children leave home for life on the streets, including many under 13. Foreclosures, layoffs, rising food and fuel prices and inadequate supplies of low-cost housing have stretched families to the extreme, and those pressures have trickled down to teenagers and preteens.

Read this one too–…

This is Obama’s America, Bush’s America-and still the richest country in the world.  The people being hurt the most, are the weakest–the sick, the old, children, those without relatives to fall back on.  

Onward Christeunuch Soldiers

(This enraged sarcasm is crossposted from The WWL)

It has come to my attention repeatedly lately that the biggest threat to America is all the people trying to join our Military Forces and die for the New Crusades while having gender or orientation. They come as dirty sexual beings and ask to serve? How dare they!

This is beyond verboten, it is Mortal Sin!

One cannot serve the Lord and Holy Wars while being gay, let alone transgendered, or for that matter even female with a chance of reproduction. And pregnancy? Do these sluts not know what they did to become that way? A truly moral married woman will gladly give her Children to a State Institution for rearing to serve, anything less is Court Martial! Sex outside of a Man and Woman blessed by the Ordained is sinful, anyway, yet the Law prohibits family members from serving together. Our Military has been co-opted by the Satan of Lust. We must save our brave young children so they may fight with the Lord!

What is a Good Christian Nation to do against all these Unholy Masses of Antichrists swarming through the World, refusing to accept the Lord Jesus as their personal Saviour, and refusing to allow the Righteous Moral Leaders of our Land to use their Oil and Assets to further the spread of the Word of God? I mean, we would totally accept them as Servants of Christ, despite their very obvious non-whiteness, if they would only see that the only way to Salvation is to serve us, thus serving the Lord thy God. We are His Chosen.

I have the Answer: Eunuchs.  

Sending love and wishes to Zelda Rubinstein, actress and activist

Most of you know who Zelda Rubinstein is, even if you don’t know her by name.  The 4′ 3″ actress made a huge mark in popular culture when she starred as the mysterious Tangina Barrons in the Poltergeist series, delivering one of the film’s most memorable lines – “Step into the light, Carol Anne!” – and winning a Saturn Award for Best Supporting Actress to boot.

Many of us (myself included) might not realize that Rubinstein was also an activist, among the first celebrity faces of the safe sex campaign to stop the spread of HIV/AIDS – doing so all the way back in 1984, at great personal and professional risk.

Today radaronline is reporting that Rubinstein was taken off life support.  I’d like to send best wishes to her and her family, along with warm thanks for all that she’s done.

I am Ahmed

I was born to Norswegian parents a bit over a half century ago.  I’ve had a fairly typical working to middle to working class life.  I went to school in a working/middle class community where there were few minorities.  That was during the sixties and early seventies.  I was pretty successful in high school, particularly in sports.  I became very good at basketball and baseball and achieved all-state honors in both.  I was good enough to receive college scholarship offers in both sports, and accepted one where I could play both.  My father was gone by that time.  But I went to college and did well in basketball my freshman year.  That was my first real experience with people of color.  Half of the team was black, and although I had played against blacks before, I never had one as a teammate.  But I still remember Jon, Buck, Michael, Robert and Joe.   We were all 18 and 19 year old kids who played together and partied together, and became friends.  Whites and blacks together, away from home, in a family environment of our own for five months.  I loved it.


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