Thursday, June 12, 2008

No rest for the Hmong

The Hmong have had a terrible fifty years or so. Friends of the US secret war in Laos, Hmong men and boys and families rescued American pilots and provided war support and soldiers. When Laos fell, the Hmong people fled to refugee camps in Thailand. Many Hmong people have emigrated to the United States, particularly California, Minnesota and Wisconsin. Our communities are much richer for it.

But there are still thousands of Hmong family members trapped in refugee camps in Thailand and now they are being forcibly repatriated to Laos where they are sure to face persecution and death.

Here is a good backgrounder.

Paula Vang will speak on Friday, June 13, at 10 a.m. at Roncalli Newman Parish Center, 1732 State St. La Crosse (Please park on the street either on Main St. and come through the back door or park on State St. and come from the front door, to avoid getting a ticket by parking in the UW-L.) For more information contact Pastor Houa Moua at

Wednesday, June 11, 2008


AmtrakGeorge says his grandfather used to be able to travel from his farm in rural Chaseburg all around the area - Coon Valley, Viola, Viroqua, etc. - on a train. You can still see where the tracks used to be along parts of Highway 162 between Chaseburg and Stoddard.

My grandmother's house in Johnston, Iowa was across the road from a railroad track that, I believe, carried "commuters" from this rural area adjacent to Des Moines into and out of town. I think the line was originally built to carry recruits for WWI from the big city (probably another rail line) to Camp Douglas, just up the hill. (Ok, yes, now this is interesting:

Des Moines & Central Iowa - A Capsule History - This interurban operated out of Des Moines in a “V” shape, with one branch going northwest to Perry and the other branch going northeast to Colfax. It was an electric line until after WWII ...

* 1899 The Inter-Urban Railroad was incorporated. That name was used in the early era.
*1902 The line to Colfax was built. Colfax had some resort prospects and there was also coal along the line.
*1906 The line to Perry was constructed with a side-branch to Woodward.
*1918 –1920 Military traffic was provided to Camp Dodge.
*1922 The line is renamed the Des Moines & Central Iowa.

I keep saying, our motto, especially since the election of Ronald Reagan, should be BACKWARD. But apparently, you can only go back so far before you flip off the edge of the Mobius strip and start moving forward again. Or something.

So, here's a great article from Daily Kos, a little good news for a change:

A nearly $15 billion Amtrak bill passed the House Wednesday as lawmakers rallied around an alternative for travelers saddled with soaring gas prices.

The bipartisan bill, which passed by a veto-proof margin of 311-104, would authorize funding for the national passenger railroad over the next five years. Some of the money would go to a program of matching grants to help states set up or expand rail service. ...

The White House has threatened a veto, saying the bill doesn't hold Amtrak accountable for its spending. But similar legislation has passed the Senate, also with enough support to override a veto.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Handling the truth

from the Washington Post: William E. Odom, 75, a retired Army lieutenant general who was a senior military and intelligence official in the Carter and Reagan administrations and who, in recent years, became a forceful critic of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, died May 30 at his vacation home in Lincoln, Vt.

Bring Them Home La Crosse received permission from General Odom to reprint his article, "What's Wrong with Cutting and Running?" during its referendum campaign in the spring of 2006.

Some La Crosse "patriots" have complained about articles written by Gold Star mother, Cindy Sheehan. Imagine what they would say if General Odom's honest assessment of the Iraq situation were published in the Tribune?

"For those who really worry about destabilizing the region, the sensible policy is not to stay the course in Iraq. It is rapid withdrawal, re-establishing strong relations with our allies in Europe, showing confidence in the UN Security Council, and trying to knit together a large coalition including the major states of Europe, Japan, South Korea, China, and India to back a strategy for stabilizing the area from the eastern Mediterranean to Afghanistan and Pakistan. Until the United States withdraws from Iraq and admits its strategic error, no such coalition can be formed.

"Thus those who fear leaving a mess are actually helping make things worse while preventing a new strategic approach with some promise of success."
- - - - - - - -
"There is no question the insurgents and other anti-American parties will take over the government once we leave. But that will happen no matter how long we stay. Any government capable of holding power in Iraq will be anti-American, because the Iraqi people are increasingly becoming anti-American."
- - - - - - - -
"Most surprising to me is that no American political leader today has tried to unmask the absurdity of the administration's case that to question the strategic wisdom of the war is unpatriotic and a failure to support our troops. Most officers and probably most troops don't see it that way. They are angry at the deficiencies in materiel support they get from the Department of Defense, and especially about the irresponsibly long deployments they must now endure because Mr. Rumsfeld and his staff have refused to enlarge the ground forces to provide shorter tours. In the meantime, they know that the defense budget shovels money out the door to maritime forces, SDI, etc., while refusing to increase dramatically the size of the Army."
- - - - - - - -
"We face a strange situation today where few if any voices among Democrats in Congress will mention early withdrawal from Iraq, and even the one or two who do will not make a comprehensive case for withdrawal now.Why are the Democrats failing the public on this issue today? The biggest reason is because they weren’t willing to raise that issue during the campaign. Howard Dean alone took a clear and consistent stand on Iraq, and the rest of the Democratic party trashed him for it. Most of those in Congress voted for the war and let that vote shackle them later on. Now they are scared to death that the White House will smear them with lack of patriotism if they suggest pulling out.

"Journalists can ask all the questions they like but none will prompt a more serious debate as long as no political leaders create the context and force the issues into the open."