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070115-religious-pix-1Spirituality Means Waking Up

Most people, even though they don’t know it, are asleep. They’re born asleep, they live asleep, they marry in their sleep, they breed children in their sleep, they die in their sleep without ever waking up. They never understand the loveliness and the beauty of this thing that we call human EXISTENCE. You know, all mystics -Catholic, Christian, non-Christian, no matter what their theology, no matter what their religion — are unanimous on one thing: that all is well, all is well. Though everything is a mess, all is well. Strange paradox, to be sure. But, tragically, most people never get to see that all is well because they are asleep. They are having a nightmare.

Last year on Spanish television I heard a story about this gentleman who knocks on his son’s door. “Jaime,” he says, “wake up!” Jaime answers, “I don’t want to get up, Papa.” The father shouts, “Get up, you have to go to school.” Jaime says, “I don’t want to go to school.” “Why not?” asks the father. “Three reasons,” says Jaime. “First, because it’s so dull; second, the kids tease me; and third, I hate school.”

And the father says, “Well, I am going to give you three reasons why you must go to school. First, because it is YOUR duty; second, because you are forty-five years old, and third, because you are the headmaster.” Wake up, wake up! You’ve grown up. You’re too big to be asleep. Wake up! Stop playing with your toys.

Most people tell you they want to get out of kindergarten, but don’t believe them. Don’t believe them! All they want you to do is to mend their broken toys. “Give me back my wife. Give me back my JOB. Give me back my money. Give me back my reputation, my success.” This is what they want; they want their toys replaced. That’s all. Even the best psychologist will tell you that, that people don’t really want to be cured. What they want is relief; a cure is painful.

Waking up is unpleasant, you know. You are nice and comfortable in bed. It’s irritating to be woken up. That’s the reason the wise guru will not attempt to wake people up. I hope I’m going to be wise here and make no attempt whatsoever to wake you up if you are asleep. It is really none of my business, even though I say to you at times, “Wake up!” My business is to do my thing, to dance my dance. If you profit from it, fine; if you don’t, too bad! As the Arabs say, “The nature of rain is the same, but it makes thorns grow in the marshes and FLOWERS IN THE gardens.”

070115-roberto-ruiz-pix-1Bo Ryan Leaves Behind a Legacy

In a shocking announcement, the man who has coached the University of Wisconsin men’s basketball team for the past 14 seasons has announced that he will be retiring after the 2015-16 season. Ryan is without question the best coach that the Wisconsin basketball program has seen, and he will be leaving a legacy behind that most coaches can only dream of.

While never winning a NCAA championship, Ryan’s squads participated in the NCAA March Madness tournament in each of the 14 seasons that Ryan was at the helm. Prior to Ryan, Wisconsin had participated in only seven tournaments in its history. Ryan led the team to back-to-back Final Four’s, including a heartbreaking loss in the national championship game against Duke this past season that. If the Badgers had beaten Duke, it would have been the ultimate team vs individuals’ triumph. Like most top-tier programs, Duke has opened its arms whole heartedly to the one and done players of this era. Players who play one year for Wisconsin and leave for the pros have never been, and will never be, displaying Badger red. That is because Bo Ryan believes in building well-rounded men as well as professional basketball players.

At the collegiate level, Ryan has amassed 740 victories against only 228 losses. His four championships and 373 victories at University of Wisconsin-Platteville should not, and cannot be ignored. Ryan brought an unmatched intelligence to the game of basketball. His swing offense helped keep overmatched Badger squads in games and in championship contention when the talent level would suggest otherwise. Recruiting mostly in-state players from Wisconsin, which is far from a high school basketball powerhouse, Ryan created a contender literally every year that he was in power.

Ryan hopes that the Badgers will turn to his longtime assistant, and expected successor, Greg Gard to help keep up the level of competitiveness that the state of Wisconsin has grown to expect from its main collegiate basketball program. Gard, who is a Wisconsin native and attended UW-Platteville, began coaching under Ryan in 1993 but did not become the assistant head coach until 2008.

The one knock against Ryan had always been, until two seasons ago, that he had never coached a team to the final four at the division one level. Now the knock is that he has never won a NCAA championship at the D-1 level. Claiming that Bo Ryan doesn’t deserve to be considered one of the best NCAA basketball coaches of all time because he never won a D-1 championship is like saying that Dan Marino doesn’t deserve to be considered one of the best quarterbacks of all time because of his lack of a Super Bowl ring.

After leading his team to the final four for the first time in 2014, and following that up with leading his team to the championship game for the first time in 2015, Badger fans can only hope that he follows that up with a miracle championship team in his final season. Except nobody expects the team this season to win a championship; that hope faded when Sam Dekker entered the NBA draft. Without star players Frank Kaminsky or Dekker, hopes for this team have to rest with winning a big ten championship and having a decent showing in the NCAA tournament.

Bo Ryan is one of the best coaches of all time, period. End of discussion. When Ryan walks away from the game of basketball after this season, we will lose a great teacher, a great coach, a great mentor, and a great man.

Thank you, Coach Ryan.

takingsidesGovernor Walker: Hey! Don’t Worry About It!  WEDC Shame

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker has a hot mess on his hands. His signature jobs making Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, or WEDC, has become an albatross riding along a repo man sought Maserati.

But before we indulge on the notion that we too can possibly have Wisconsin taxpayers buy each of us a Maserati, allow me to bring you up to speed on what WEDC is and why you should PAY attention to what can be potentially Governor Scott Walker’s biggest scandal to date.

WEDC was created in 2011 by Governor Walker who decided to replace the Wisconsin Department of Commerce with the WEDC. Why did he do this? Well, Walker, who promised that he would create 250,000 jobs in the state his first term in office, created WEDC to HELP him achieve that lofty goal.

But as anticipated by those who saw Walker’s action as nothing more than a pipe dream, Walker did not reach his goal of 250,000 promised jobs.

However WEDC, the agency that was supposed to help Walker create jobs instead created a hot mess for Walker I had previously hinted at.

What did Walker’s WEDC achieve, well in May 2013 an audit from the Legislative Audit Bureau reported at the time that WEDC had troubles it could not ignore. The audit found that between 2011 and 2013, WEDC gave out $124.4 million in awards to various corporations without a formal review by staff or underwriters.  Underwriters? You know, the people you wait to hear from that tell you to either hit the road or welcome to the party after you apply for a HOME LOAN.

But don’t get your undies in a bunch. Walker it seems was clever enough to not set up fiscal checks and BALANCES procedures when he created WEDC. Checks and balances?! Who needs stinking checks and balances!?

Indeed, our Governor had things set up so nicely that at the time WEDC was christened, WEDC didn’t mandate staff reviews of awards it was giving out because the awards it seems were all approved by the agency’s bipartisan WEDC board of Directors.

Hmmm….you say! Yes, I say.

This amateurish administrative blunder allowed for awards to go to companies that sat on the brink of ruin. For example, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (MJS) reported that a Milwaukee based company called Building Committee Inc. got a $500,000 loan after falsely saying it hadn’t been sued for five years. The MJS found that this company did default on a loan and later dissolved. But here’s the nugget that caught the attention of political pundits who don’t SUPPORT Walker, the company’s owner had given $10,000 to Walker’s first gubernatorial campaign. BINGO!

But wait a minute! This rabbit hole gets even more interesting. Turns out that Walker’s team pushed very hard to get the Building Committee, Inc. this loan so that the owner of the company, the guy who gave Walker $10,000 campaign donation, can keep his precious Maserati and several other luxury cars.

http://m.jsonline.com//statepolitics/wedc-backed-firm-after-learning-state-money-was-for-luxury-car-debtsb993z1-309866451.html

Since this revelation, reports from newspapers all over the state have published that WEDC did not formally review over 25 other loans totaling over $123 million dollars. Wow!

Imagine you being able to walk into a BANK. No money. In bankruptcy. About to go under. You then see an opportunity. Find $10,000 (LMAO). Donate that money to Scott Walker’s campaign for president and WHAALA! You’re approved for a WEDC loan to spend the money as you please. Oh! By the way! That string tied to the loan reminding you that that money is supposed to be for creating jobs, well, that’s just a technicality.

Hey! Don’t worry about it!

Well, lucky for Wisconsin taxpayers two Democratic members of the WEDC Board of Directors are not biting the line–“move on folks! There’s nothing to see here”.

In fact, Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca (D-Kenosha) and State Senator Julie Lassa (D-Stevens Point) called for a full investigation at WEDC  and have requested the assistance of Attorney General Brad Schimel in facilitating the release of full records and documentation on any unsecured WEDC loans, WEDC loans issued over concerns of underwriters, or WEDC loans where underwriting documentation is missing or was not complete.

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/breaking/ct-scott-walker-jobs-agency-20150619-story.html

Scott Walker’s failed flagship jobs agency gave out over $123 million worth of taxpayer-funded economic development assistance without review or approval of an underwriter.

Shazam!

And what did Wisconsin taxpayers get BACK for the Building Committee, Inc.  and all the other companies who received loans without and formal review?

A lousy 2,100 jobs, were actually created as a result of the awards provided to the over 24 companies that got $124 million dollars curtesy of Walker’s corporate welfare PROGRAM known as WEDC.

Pathetic puts all this mildly.

Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca (D-Kenosha) and State Senator Julie Lassa (D-Stevens Point) released a statement that concluded:

“Instead of again misleading the public, we would rather WEDC and the Governor focus their energies on quickly getting us all the records we requested – including any awards they made over the objections of underwriters, Community Development Block Grant ACTIVITY under WEDC and now the Department of Administration, and details of loans under $200,000 that were approved without staff review.”

Hey Governor! We are worried about it!

Arrestaron al culpable, pero el asesino sigue suelto

La masacre de nueve feligreses afroestadounidenses en la Iglesia Metodista Africana Emanuel de Charleston, Carolina del Sur, ha causado conmoción en todo el país y bien podría haber sacudido las bases de la Confederación. Dylann Storm Roof ha sido acusado de asesinar de manera premeditada a los miembros de la congregación, tras haber recargado al menos dos veces su pistola Glock. Según una persona que habló con una de las tres sobrevivientes de la masacre, Roof dejó a una víctima con vida PARA que pudiera contarle al mundo lo sucedido. Este terrible asesinato en masa fue un acto de terrorismo abiertamente racista.

Entre las víctimas mortales se encuentra el pastor de la histórica iglesia, el Reverendo Clementa Pinckney, de 41 años de edad, que también era senador del estado de Carolina del Sur y dirigía un grupo de estudios bíblicos los miércoles por la noche. La noche de la masacre, Roof participó durante una hora de las ACTIVIDADES del grupo antes de matarlos.

Algunos años atrás, el reverendo Clementa Pinckney describió a la Iglesia Metodista Africana Madre Emanuel: “[La iglesia] se encuentra en un lugar muy especial de Charleston. Es un lugar muy especial porque el lugar donde está ubicada, esta zona, ha sido vinculada con la historia de la vida de los afroestadounidenses desde principios de 1800. La iglesia fue construida en 1891. El reverendo Morris Brown creó la congregación en 1818. Brown se convertiría más tarde en el segundo obispo de la Iglesia Episcopal Metodista Africana. Quienes saben un poco sobre nuestro nombre, comenzamos en 1787 a través de nuestro fundador, Richard Allen, que se fue de la Iglesia Episcopal Meddeth de San Jorge debido a que le decían que tenía que rezar después de los miembros ‘normales’ de la iglesia. Y es así que comenzó nuestra denominación, en un acto de desobediencia civil y, por decirlo de algún modo, de búsqueda de justicia teológica”.

Lo poco que se conoce sobre la motivación de Roof para supuestamente haber cometido el crimen ha sido extraído de un sitio web que se cree que él creó. En el sitio hay un manifiesto que reza: “Elegí Charleston porque es la ciudad más histórica de mi estado y en una época tenía la mayor proporción de negros con respecto a blancos en todo el país. No tenemos skinheads aquí, no hay un verdadero Ku Klux Klan, nadie está haciendo nada, solo hablan en Internet. Bueno, alguien debe tener la valentía de llevar esto al mundo real y supongo que tendré que ser yo”. Una sobreviviente de la masacre afirmó que Roof le dijo a una de las víctimas que le suplicaba que parara: “El dijo: ‘Debo hacerlo. Ustedes violan a nuestras mujeres y se están apoderando del país. Deben morir’”.

El sitio web contiene fotografías de Roof con un arma, la Glock calibre .45 que probablemente sea la que utilizó en la masacre, y con la bandera confederada, lo que suscitó nuevas iniciativas de retirar ese símbolo de racismo y odio de los lugares públicos. Durante décadas, la bandera confederada ondeaba en lo alto del Parlamento de Carolina del Sur, junto a la bandera de Estados Unidos y a la del estado de Carolina del Sur. Después de que la Asociación Nacional para el Progreso de la Gente de Color (NAACP, por sus siglas en inglés) comenzó a boicotear al estado en el año 2000, se alcanzó un acuerdo, por el cual se retiró la bandera de la cúpula del capitolio del estado y se la colocó en otra parte del predio, junto a un monumento a los caídos del ejército de la Confederación durante la Guerra de Secesión.

Uno de los primeros en hablar a favor de retirar la bandera tras la masacre ocurrida la semana pasada fue el legislador estatal de Carolina del Sur Doug Brannon, un republicano blanco. Brannon dijo en Democracy Now!: “El jueves por la mañana me desperté con la noticia de la muerte de estas nueve maravillosas personas y supe que había que hacer algo. Clementa Pinckney lo merece. Estas nueve personas lo merecen. Es necesario retirar la bandera de la Confederación del capitolio de nuestro estado”.

El reverendo William J. Barber segundo es el presidente de la NAACP de Carolina del Norte. Se ENTERÓ de la matanza el miércoles por la noche, mientras estaba en la cárcel. Barber contó en Democracy Now!: “Habían arrestado a alrededor de 10 de nosotros en la Cámara de Representantes de Carolina del Norte por protestar contra los políticos extremistas que aprobaron la peor ley de restricción del derecho al voto del país”. Barber ha encabezado el movimiento “Lunes de moral”, que moviliza cada semana a cientos de miles de personas en contra de la agenda que promueve el gobierno republicano de Carolina del Norte. Está a favor de que se retire la bandera confederada, a la que denomina “vulgar”, pero sugirió que promover medidas políticas sería un mejor homenaje a Clementa Pinckney y a las demás víctimas.

Barber declaró: “El reverendo Pinckney, como colega de la iglesia, no solo se oponía a la bandera, se oponía a que se negara la ampliación de Medicaid. Sabemos que en este momento la mayoría de los estados se oponen a la ampliación de Medicaid. En muchos de ellos, 6 de cada 10 personas son negras. El reverendo Pinckney se oponía a la restricción del derecho al voto y a la identificación de votantes en Carolina del Sur. Se oponía a quienes celebraron el fin de la Ley de derecho al voto, la eliminación del artículo 4, que significa que Carolina del Sur ya no necesita autorización federal previa para cambiar las leyes de votación. Se oponía a la falta de financiamiento para la educación pública y defendía un aumento del salario mínimo”. Barber dijo al representante estatal Doug Brannon en Democracy Now!: “Elaboremos un proyecto de ley general en nombre de los nueve mártires y de todas las cosas que defendía el reverendo Pinckney. Si decimos que lo amamos a él y a sus compañeros, pongamos todas estas cosas en un proyecto de ley general, aprobémoslo y llevémoslo el viernes al funeral”.

Wal-Mart, Amazon y otras grandes empresas minoristas han retirado de la venta los productos que contienen la bandera confederada. Alabama ha retirado la bandera confederada de los edificios públicos y otros estados, entre ellos Carolina del Sur, están por hacer lo mismo. El símbolo de la rebelión y la secesión de los estados del sur, el símbolo que representa la decisión de librar una guerra para proteger la esclavitud, podrá estar menos visible, pero la lucha por la igualdad, librada hace 200 años por los propios fundadores de la Iglesia Emanuel de Charleston, CONTINÚA. Como afirma el reverendo Barber, se necesita un cambio sistémico: “Arrestaron al culpable, pero el asesino sigue suelto”.

062415-religious-pix-3Pennies From Heaven

A woman of modest means and her husband were invited to spend the weekend at the husband’s employer’s home. The boss was very wealthy, with an estate home and several CARS costing more than the average house.

The woman delighted to experience first hand the life of the extremely wealthy. The boss indulged his guests both at home on his estate as well as out as exclusive dining establishments.

On one occasion as they were about to enter an exclusive restaurant, the boss was walking slightly ahead of them. He stopped suddenly, looking down on the pavement for a long, silent moment.

An awkward silence folllowed. There was nothing on the ground except a single darkened penny that someone had dropped, a few cigarette butts and assorted litter. Quietly, the rich man reached down and picked up the penny.

He held it up and smiled, then put it in his pocket as if he had found a great treasure. How absurd! What need did this man have of a single penny? Why would he even take the time to stop and pick it up?

Throughout dinner, the penny bothered her. Finally, she causally mentioned that her son once had a COIN collection, and asked if the penny he had found had been rare.

A smile crept across the man’s face as he reached into his pocket for the penny and held it out for her to see.

“Look at it.” He said. “Read what it says.” She read the words “United States of AMERICA.”

“No, not that; read further.”

“One cent?” “No, keep reading.”

“In God we Trust?” “Yes!” “And?”

“And if I trust in God, the name of God is holy, even on a COIN. Whenever I find a COIN I see that inscription. It is written on every single United States coin, but we never seem to notice it!

God drops a message right in front of me telling me to trust Him? Who am I to pass it by?

When I see a coin, I pray, I stop to see if my trust IS in God at that moment. I pick the coin up as a response to God; that I do trust in Him. For a short time, at least, I cherish it as if it were gold. I think it is God’s way of starting a conversation with me. Lucky for me, God is patient and pennies are plentiful!”

062415-roberto-ruiz-pix1Frank Kaminsky Will be Better than Advertised

Frank Kaminsky was one of the best Wisconsin Badger basketball players to walk the halls of UW-Madison ever. Better than Alando Tucker, Devin Harris, Michael Finley, and others that preceded him. Though Kaminsky fell short of bringing a national championship to Wisconsin he led his team to back to back Final Four’s, including one national championship game appearance, which is quite an accomplishment compared to previous Badger teams.

Kaminsky will long be remembered as the pale, lanky, goofy 7-footer who befuddled defenses with his combination of size, shooting, and a weird blend of athleticism. I suppose the one question left to ask would be why do people feel like he can’t succeed at the NBA level? Kaminsky averaged 18.8 points and 8.2 rebounds per game as a senior while shooting 41% from 3-point range. “Frank the Tank”, as he was affectionately known throughout much of his junior and senior season, frustrated even the biggest pro prospects throughout his career, including the Harrison twins from the University of Kentucky.

Professional teams are continuing the trend of seeking versatile big men. Centers that can not only bang down low but are also able to run the court and space the floor when needed. Kaminsky fits that role perfectly and is humble enough to come off the bench instead of demanding to be a starter no matter how much he earns that role. While shooting 40% from the NBA 3-point line might prove challenging for Kaminsky, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him approaching 40% multiple times during his NBA career. Combine that with his variety of low-post moves that showcase his sneaky athleticism, and you have one underrated bench player that will often be overlooked by the opposing team.

A few short months ago I proclaimed that Kaminsky didn’t have the NBA “look” and would never be anything more than a role player on an NBA team. I stated that Sam Dekker had a significantly higher upside and that he was the former Badger to follow in the pros. While I still think Dekker has higher ceiling, I would also say that Kaminsky has a higher floor. A solid 10 year career could very easily be in the cards for Kaminsky, and I don’t know many people who would disagree with that assessment.

Kaminsky will probably never be considered the best player of this draft, but he could easily be considered the steal of the draft.

takingsidesEnding Chronic Homelessness Good Cause if Racial Parity Achieved

A few weeks ago Milwaukee media blew up the town with news reports bellowing the narrative that a plan eliminating chronic homelessness in Milwaukee County in three years is being implanted by our local government officials.

Some call the plan “ambitious” and some label it “fantastical”, the goal to coordinate a collaborative strategy by county and city officials is sound and should be supported by the community, especially the business community.

I met with Health and Human Services Director for Milwaukee County, Hector Colon to talk about the plan.

Our meeting came about after a few Facebook exchanges highlighting what I felt was a flaw in the plan.

After reading a report published by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (MJS), this part of the story raised a red flag I could not ignore.

The MJS report stated: “The community prosecutor would help identify homeless people and panhandlers in downtown and differentiate between those who need help and those committing criminal activity, said Kent Lovern, Milwaukee County chief deputy district attorney”.

After agreeing to meet with me I met with Colon at his office where he shared information regarding not only what he was doing to end chronic homelessness, and also what was going on at the Health and Human Service.

Colon is without question enthusiastic, knowledgable and ambitious. I mean that in a good way.

Colon’s work at HHS is guided by the influence of the Milwaukee County Executive. As long as Colon moves forward with Milwaukee County Executive Abele vision, Colon should have no trouble being successful transforming HHS into a top rate quasi-government operation over seeing much of the services its corporate and non-profit partners will be contracted by the County to do.

Getting back to the proposal to end chronic homelessness. Colon informs me that he is tasked with ensuring that 300 individuals defined as “chronically homeless” are no longer chronically homeless. He said it’s the moral thing to do and it saves the County money and resources. Good cause for getting people off the street who have been homeless for a long time.

Colon stated the annual $1.8 million cost of the program would come from reallocation of already existing funds, largely rental assistance funds, which includes $900,000 from the county and about $900,000 from the city and its Housing Authority.

I get it. Yes, the plan is sound and doable. However, that part where “…The community prosecutor would help identify homeless people and panhandlers in downtown and differentiate between those who need help and those committing criminal activity…” still troubled me.

I asked Colon what did the plan have in place to prevent a racial disparity gap between those who got help, and those being sent to jail. Was there any data being gathered? What internal check and balance was being employed to ensure racial parity?

Colon assured me that data gathering was being developed in order to prevent such issues from happening.

Colon went on to say that collecting such data is important to be able to identify if in fact homeless people are being treated differently based on race when their circumstances appear similar.

Well, this is Milwaukee where racial inequality, racial profiling, black unemployment is double white counter-parts, the jail and House of Correction is housing more blacks and Hispanics and blacks are the most disproportionately counted as homeless in the county, leads me to be skeptical.

But without real data in hand, all one can do is highlight this concern to the people behind this plan and wait to see if in fact they collect the data and truly seek to achieve the racial parity that is needed to make this a truly successful effort.

Indeed, there is a real effort on paper to help our most needed. There is a commitment by County Executive Abele, Dir. Hector Colon and Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett to do the moral right and improve the quality of life for many of the homeless in this community.

Nevertheless, the jury is still out on whether or not this is going to be a round up of black and hispanic homeless people ending up in the big house, instead of their own house.

La nueva batalla de Seattle

Han pasado más de 15 años desde que las calles de Seattle fueron invadidas por gases lacrimógenos PARA reprimir a las decenas de miles de personas que se manifestaban allí contra la cumbre ministerial de la Organización Mundial del Comercio (OMC). Aquella semana de protestas a finales de 1999 pasó a la historia como “La batalla de Seattle”, dado que activistas de base y movimientos sociales lograron impedir que los líderes mundiales (ministros de Comercio de varios gobiernos y altos ejecutivos de empresas) se reunieran para firmar un acuerdo mundial de comercio que muchos sostenían era profundamente antidemocrático y perjudicial para los derechos de los trabajadores, el medio ambiente y los pueblos indígenas en todo el mundo.

En las últimas semanas, una amplia coalición de organizaciones populares ha estado librando una nueva Batalla de Seattle en contra de la gigante empresa petrolera Shell. Tanto ciudadanos como funcionarios electos que se oponen a los planes de Shell de iniciar actividades de perforación en busca de petróleo en el Océano Ártico se lanzaron al agua en Seattle para intentar impedir la partida de la gran plataforma petrolera Polar Pioneer hacia su destino en el Ártico. Mientras las empresas de combustibles fósiles intensifican la explotación del petróleo del mundo, miles de activistas, así como también el Papa, están haciendo oír sus voces como nunca antes acerca de los efectos catastróficos del cambio climático.

La plataforma Polar Pioneer llegó al Estrecho de Puget a mediados de mayo en una parada técnica antes de zarpar hacia el mar de Chukotka en el Océano Ártico. Royal Dutch Shell alquila la plataforma a Transocean, la empresa cuya plataforma petrolera Deepwater Horizon provocó la desastrosa explosión y derramamiento de petróleo en el Golfo de México hace cinco años. Cuando la plataforma fue remolcada hacia la terminal del Puerto de Seattle, la primera ola de la llamada “Flota Mosquito” se lanzó a remo a bloquearla. La flotilla de protesta está integrada por “kayaktivistas”: personas que navegan en pequeños kayaks para establecer un bloqueo, similar a lo que hicieron los manifestantes en 1999 al tomarse de los brazos y formar una cadena humana en las lluviosas calles de Seattle a fin de impedir el paso de los delegados que intentaban asistir a la Conferencia Ministerial de la OMC.

Para el horror de muchos, el Presidente Barack Obama aprobó la exploración de petróleo en el Ártico. Subhankar Banerjee, un conocido fotógrafo, escritor y ACTIVISTA que ha dedicado los últimos 15 años a trabajar en defensa de la conservación del Ártico, calificó al Gobierno de Obama de “irresponsable e imprudente”. Banerjee declaró: “El gobierno acaba de aprobar planes de exploración para que Shell perfore [el Ártico] este verano, de julio a octubre. Se trata del permiso más importante que necesita Shell, pero no del único. Shell aún necesita obtener permisos de la [Administración Nacional Oceánica y Atmosférica], del Servicio de Pesca y Vida Silvestre y otros organismos federales. Es por eso que los activistas están haciendo todo lo posible para impedir que se otorguen algunos de estos permisos, porque es una decisión imprudente”.

Hasta el legendario músico Paul McCartney ha hablado del tema. En el prólogo al nuevo libro contra la perforación en el Ártico del activista de Greenpeace Ben Stewart, McCartney escribió: “Mientras se retrae el hielo, las gigantes petroleras avanzan. En lugar de VER el derretimiento de los hielos continentales como una grave advertencia a la humanidad, tienen los ojos puestos en el petróleo que se encuentra debajo del lecho marino en el Polo Norte, que hasta ahora era inaccesible. Se están aprovechando de la desaparición del hielo para extraer el mismo petróleo que causó el deshielo”.

Finalmente, la plataforma Polar Pioneer logró escapar del Estrecho de Puget. Cuando la plataforma ingresó a alta mar desde la costa de la isla de Vancouver en Canadá, Greenpeace Canadá envió botes inflables. La activista indígena Audrey Siegl, de la Primera Nación Musqueam, se puso de pie en la proa del pequeño bote y alzó sus manos en un gesto que indicaba la orden de detenerse. Mientras tanto, otras dos personas estaban nadando en el mar abierto, frente al gigantesco buque de Shell, mientras sostenían un cartel con la leyenda: “El pueblo o el petróleo”.

Más hacia el norte, en Alaska, activistas por el medio ambiente, pueblos indígenas y pescadores están uniendo esfuerzos para impedir un ejercicio de entrenamiento de la Armada de Estados Unidos denominado “Borde Norte”. Según información, la Armada está enviando al Golfo de Alaska a miles de marineros y otros oficiales de la marina, además de varios buques destructores de la Armada, cientos de aeronaves, artillería pesada y un submarino para la realización de ejercicios militares. La Armada también tiene autorización para utilizar cientos de miles de kilos de bombas y otras municiones que contaminan el agua y perturban la vida marina. El periodista de Truthout Dahr Jamail escribió: “Las aguas del Golfo de Alaska son de las más prístinas del mundo”. Jamail me dijo en el PROGRAMA Democracy Now!: “La ciudad de Cordova aprobó una resolución en la que se opone directamente a los ejercicios navales, al igual que el Ayuntamiento de la ciudad de Kodiak, Alaska. Los pescadores de toda la región costera de Alaska que será afectada por el ejercicio están furiosos por la situación. Hace unas semanas fuimos testigos de una flotilla de más de 150 botes en Cordova. Alrededor de una o dos semanas después de eso, apareció otra gran flotilla de pescadores cerca de Kodiak”.

Del mismo modo que los complejos e interrelacionados problemas del comercio mundial dieron lugar a la creación de una coalición histórica en las calles de Seattle hace 15 años, ahora lo hace el cambio climático provocado por el hombre. La amenaza está siendo enfrentada por una multitud que resiste, entre ellos el Papa Francisco, cuya nueva encíclica sobre el medio ambiente insta a que se adopten medidas concertadas para combatir el calentamiento global.

Si el Papa y los remeros activistas se unen, significa que el cambio no debe estar lejos.

061715-religious-pix-3Bible for Graduation 

A young man was getting ready to graduate from college. For many months he had admired a beautiful sports CAR in a dealer’s showroom, and knowing his father could well afford it, he told him that was all he wanted.

As Graduation Day approached, the young man awaited signs that his father had purchased the car. Finally, on the morning of his graduation, his father called him into his private study.

His father told him how proud he was to have such a fine son, and told him how much he loved him. He handed his son a beautiful wrapped gift box.

Curious, but somewhat disappointed, the young man OPENED the box and found a lovely, leather-bound Bible, with the young man’s name embossed in gold.

Angrily, he raised his voice to his father and said, “With all YOUR money you give me a Bible?” And stormed out of the house, leaving the Bible.

Many years passed and the young man was very successful in business. He had a beautiful home and wonderful family, but realized his father was very old, and thought perhaps he should go visit him.

He had not seen him since that graduation day. Before he could make arrangments, he received a telegram telling him his father had passed away, and willed all of his possessions to his son.

When he arrived at his father’s house, sudden Sorry, your browser doesn’t support Java. sadness and regret filled his heart. He began to search through his father’s important papers and saw the still new Bible, just as he had left it years ago. With tears, he opened the Bible and began to turn THE PAGES. His father had carefully underlineda verse,

As he read those words, a car KEY DROPPED from the back of the Bible.

It had a tag with the dealer’s name, the same dealer who had the sports car he had desired. On the tag was the date of his graduation, and the words…

061715-roberto-ruiz-pix-1Difficult to Find Positives for Brewers

In what has certainly been a trying season for owner Mark Attanasio, the Brewers have continued their free fall as of late. Comfortably occupying last place in the central division, the Brewers are struggling to find wins against quality and weak opponents alike.

Ryan Braun has continued his descent since injuring his thumb last season (and returning from suspension for performance enhancing drugs), and is no longer a perennial National League MVP candidate. For a player who was hitting .298 or higher in every season but one since being called up to the majors, a sub .250 average is simply not acceptable. Jonathan Lucroy, who has often been hailed as the best catcher in the league by MLB insiders, has been hovering around the  .220 average while lacking pop to his bat and failing to take walks at the rate he was last year. Carlos Gomez, who remains one of the best defensive centerfielders in the league, has seen his production at the plate drop significantly since his heyday last season.

The lone bright spot, if there is one in a season that will likely see the Brewers finish 30 or more games below .500, is Jean Segura. After struggling to make consistent contact with the baseball last year, and often swinging at pitches he had no business swinging at, he has upped his average to .275 this year and has consistently found holes in the defense. Unfortunately, his bat still lacks any kind of power and he avoids walks like they are the plague. In today’s world of advanced metrics hitting .275 with a .300 on base percentage while not hitting for power is simply not acceptable, but it is promising to at least see his average jump over the Mendoza line.

What is left to look forward to for this Brewers crew? Maybe we can convince some poor team to take on Braun, Adam Lind, or Aramis Ramirez. Trading Lucroy isn’t out of the realm of possibility either with defensive whiz Martin Maldonado backing him up, but having two great defensive catchers at your disposal is not something to give up for cheap. Kyle Lohse, who has been abysmal this year, wouldn’t fetch an open pack of Winterfresh on the open market. Neither would Matt Garza, nor any of the younger pitchers that were supposed to be on extended tryouts this year. These tryouts have gone poorly with the possible exception of Wily Peralta, whose season long ERA of 4.00 is nothing to get excited about.

Counsell has shown patience in his role as leader of this disappointing team, but what an unfortunate position to throw a rookie manager. Perhaps the Brewers should take a hint from their rival in St. Louis and start hacking into other teams’ computers to access their files. Remember when the Cardinals complained about the “unprofessionalism” displayed by the Brewers after Milwaukee victories? I’d rather have my team untucking their shirts after victories than committing felonies that gets the FBI involved. I’m not saying, I’m just saying.

takingsidesWalker’s WEDC Debacle Needs Aggressive Pursuit for Accountability

This past week, newly elected Democratic Party of Wisconsin Chairwoman Martha Laning stepped into the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) imbroglio by sending a letter to Republican Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel officially asking that he do his job and release the official WEDC records in order for the public to see firsthand what damage has been done to the wallet of Wisconsin’s taxpayers.

The letter by Laning is the first real aggressive action DPW has initiated against Walker, who has enjoyed cupcake responses by DPW in the past few years, for his administration’s destructive policies that have sent Wisconsin into a whirlwind of debt, which Wisconsin’s children and grandchildren will have to pay unless more actions like this continue.

Laning’s letter follows the demands by Democrats State Representative Peter Barca and State Senator Julie M. Lassa, both members of WEDC board, who acted responsibly to demand WEDC records but have yet to have their demands met. Why? What is Governor Walker hiding?

WEDC, a state corporate welfare agency in Wisconsin created by Scott Walker and supported by Republicans of the Wisconsin State Legislature, has repeatedly been in the news giving corporations LOANS to support CEOs who clearly should have not received WEDC LOANS that Wisconsin taxpayers will sooner or later have to pay for.

Laning is now putting pressure on the Walker administration, and it’s about time.

Clearly Wisconsin taxpayers are experiencing an injustice if Schimel ignores Laning’s letter and refuses to comply with federal and state laws.

In addition, why not demand a letter from former Secretary of Administration Mike Huebsch stating that, during his tenure as SOA, under no circumstances, was there any malfeasance on his part to provide loans to failing corporations, including “The Building Committee Inc.”

As stated in an article published by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, “Paul Jadin, the former head of WEDC, said Minahan and then-Administration Secretary Mike Huebsch pushed for a $4.3 million LOAN, but the agency couldn’t justify more than $500,000 — which Jadin said he considered ‘fairly risky.’”

Paul Jadin it seems would be a likely individual to bring to a legislative committee to further inquire as to whether or not Jadin was directed to provide a WEDC LOAN to The Building Committee. In fact, Jadin, during such a legislative committee hearing should make it clear as to whether or not he was directed by Governor Walker or Walker’s appointed administrative watch dogs, former SOA Mike Huebsch and his Chief of Staff Keith Giles, to provide any other corporation a WEDC loan under similar nefarious circumstances.

Further, an independent audit should also be requested by the Department of Workforce Development focusing on the number of jobs created and how many have been made permanent.

Finally, former SOA Mike Huebsch should resign from his current post at the Public Service Commission (PSC). His abrupt exile as SOA to the PSC raises an eyebrow of suspicion as to why he was demoted by Walker. Clearly WEDC has more CORRUPT pieces to the puzzle than what has been reported so far. Having Mike Huebsch continue on as a member of the PSC taints the position he currently holds.

To be sure, this is Wisconsin! There is no room for Tammany Hall like politricks at our state Capitol. Schimel must do the right thing. He must do his duty and force the release of WEDC PUBLIC RECORDS so that the full facts of what has taken place at WEDC can be known. In doing so, the wheels of justice can turn so that the mistrust and bitterness many of Wisconsin’s taxpayers have for our government can finally be reversed.

061015-religious-pix-2They Won’t Let Me In

It was a beautiful Sunday morning. People were filling the church to its full capacity! As they entered, each were given a bulletin filled with announcements, topic of today’s sermon, what songs they would sing and who to pray for.

At the end of the line stood an older man. His clothes were filthy and you could tell that he had not bathed in days. His face was covered with whiskers, for he had not shaved for a very long time. When he reached the usher, he removed his tattered old brown hat in respect. His hair was long, dirty, and a tangled mess. He had no shoes on his feet, and wore only soiled black socks to cover the sores upon his feet. The Usher looked at him turning up his nose at the old man and said, “Uh, I’m sorry sir, but I’m afraid we can’t let you in. You will distract the congregation and we don’t allow anyone to disrupt our service. I’m afraid you’ll have to leave.”

The old man looked down at himself and with a puzzled look on his face, he placed his old brown hat back upon his head and turned to leave. He was sad as he loved to hear the choir sing praises to the Lord. He loved to watch the little children get up in front of the church to sing their little songs. He carried in his pocket a small worn out Bible and loved to see if the minister preached a passage from the Bible that he had underlined. But he was respectful, and didn’t want to cause any commotion, so he hung down his head and walked back down the steps of the big brick church.

He sat down on the brick wall near the edge of the church yard and strained to listen through closed doors and windows to the singing going on in the church. Oh how he wished he could be inside with all the others.

A few minutes had passed by when all of a sudden a younger man came up behind him and sat down near him. He asked the old man what he was doing? He answered, “I was going to go to church today, but they thought I was to filthy, my clothes to old and worn, and they were afraid I would disrupt their service.

Sorry, I didn’t introduce myself. My name is George.” The two men shook hands, and George couldn’t help but notice that this man had long hair like his. He wore a piece of cloth draped over his body tied with a royal purple sash. He had sandals on his feet, now covered with dust and dirt.

The stranger touched George’s shoulder, and said: “George, don’t feel bad because they won’t let you in. My name is Jesus, and I’ve been trying to get into this same church for years — they won’t let me in either.”

061015-roberto-ruiz-pix-1

Rodgers Expects a Return to Super Bowl

Aaron Rodgers is 31 years old and is clearly the best quarterback in the NFL today. Within the five remaining years on his contract, Rodgers fully expects to return to and win another Super Bowl and thinks that this year’s team has the talent to get it done.

“I think the talent is definitely there,” Rodgers said during an interview Tuesday. “But just like last year, you’ve got to see how the team comes together.”

Rodgers has not watched last year’s NFC Championship game against the Seattle Seahawks, what’s the point? He knows how close they were to returning to the Super Bowl against a team that they had already beaten earlier that year. He knows that had he not injured his calf a few weeks prior, the offense would have been much deadlier and likely would have put up more points. He knows that if players had stuck to their assignments, it would have been the Green and Gold in the Super Bowl. Rodgers would not gain a thing by re-watching that game.

The fact is that Rodgers is returning healthy this year, so is Eddie Lacy, so is Jordy Nelson, and so is Randall Cobb. The most dangerous offense in the NFL is returning healthy and intact while the defense has been injected with some young blood. Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix is returning after a stellar rookie campaign and expects to be entrenched as the playmaking safety. Clay Matthews will continue to wreak havoc from all over the field in his new hybrid role, and Julius Peppers will attempt to stave off father time for one more year and turn in another vintage performance.

The Seattle Seahawks will be returning as well, with confidence in spades I am sure. Fluky wins over the Packers seems to be their calling card, which will make it that much more exciting when the Packers beat them in Lambeau Field on September 20th. Sure, pull out some lucky plays when playing in Seattle, but try it here in Green Bay and you are walking out a loser.

The Dallas Cowboys will return a solid team from last year, minus offensive player of the year DeMarco Murray. They also finished last year on a sour note after Dez Bryant couldn’t hold on to a Hail Mary pass that would have put Dallas in prime position to score the winning touchdown late in the fourth quarter. Tony Romo and Bryant are both great players, and their offensive line is one of the best in football. Defense is their Achilles heel though and that is the one weakness you don’t want to have when facing Rodgers and company.

Will the Packers win the Super Bowl after falling agonizingly short last year? Time will tell. But does this team have the talent to hoist that trophy one more time? Absolutely, positively, yes.

takingsidesStraw Poll Showing at DPW: Things That Make You Go, Hmmm…

The Wisconsin Democratic convention was held this past weekend. The biggest excitement for the Democrats was the election of a new leader to step in and steer the party towards a new path that would lead to victories in the Wisconsin Assembly, Senate and reclaiming the Governor’s office.

This year Democratic Party delegates voted for Martha Laning to lead the party forward. Laning of Plymouth received just over half of the voting delegates’ votes. She will be in this position for the next two years.

During the convention a gubernatorial straw poll was featured. The straw poll revealed over twenty six candidates receiving votes from 511 individuals who decided to participate in the straw poll. The straw poll is an informal unscientific poll which asked Democrats attending the convention who would they like to see run for governor. The straw poll was conducted by Wispolitics.com

http://wispolitics.com/mobile.iml?Article=350096

The winner of the straw poll was State Senator Kathleen Vinehout of Alma, Wisconsin receiving 149 from the 511 individuals who decided cast a vote (29.16%).

Those who came in second and third place were: State Senate Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling of La Crosse – 89 (17.42%) and 3rd – U.S. Representative Ron Kind of La Crosse – 85 (16.63%).

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, a former candidate for governor received one (1) vote. To be fair, there were others who received 1 vote including Congress Woman Gwen Mooreand Mayor John Dickert of Racine. In all, a total of 11 of the 26 potential candidates received one vote.

The Democratic nomination for Governor of Wisconsin will not be in effect for at least another three and a half years, which is a good thing for Mayor Barrett if he’s seriously thinking of running for governor again.

takingsidesAbele’s New Chronic Homelessness Initiative Comes at Odd Time During Bucks Deal 

Abele is proposing aggressive Feudalist type tax collection tactics against indigent tax payers living in Milwaukee County in order to collect revenue needed to build Billionaire owners a stadium so that millionaire basketball players of the Milwaukee Bucks have a palace to play in.

The County Executive, who ironically announced recently that he would be spending $1.8 million annually to end chronic homelessness, makes it clear now why he is spending that money on the homeless initiative, he’ll obviously have to address growing homelessness in Milwaukee County once he starts shaking down indigent seniors and poor people for money he needs to off the Milwaukee Bucks stadium.

A key part of the proposed plan to create a new arena for the Milwaukee Bucks calls for Milwaukee County tax collectors to go after “uncollected” debt owed Milwaukee County to generate $80 million the proposal seeks to help pay towards the new stadium.

According to Milwaukee County Budget Director Steven Kreklow, the county is owed $120 million as reported by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reporter Don Behm. Mmmm…so County Executive Abele did not collect this may to provide decent health care services for the elderly and poor, or address homelessness sooner, but we sure can collect the money owed now to pay for a basketball arena.

Well, can’t say the County Executive lacks vision. He clearly sees a future where more Milwaukee County residents will be joining the homeless ranks. I wonder if he was able to see that coming from his skybox seat during a Bucks game recently?

El discurso de graduación que no querían que escucharas

Evan Young había sido elegido para pronunciar el discurso de graduación de este año en la escuela secundaria pública Twin Peaks Charter Academy High School en Longmont, Colorado. Evan tenía planeado pronunciar su discurso el 16 de mayo, durante la ceremonia de graduación. Al inicio de esa semana había presentado el texto del discurso al director de la escuela, como se lo habían solicitado. Justo antes de la ceremonia, el director, B.J. Buchmann, le anunció a Evan que no pronunciaría el discurso. Evan quedó estupefacto. Había estado practicando durante días. En el discurso, había planificado revelar su homosexualidad por primera vez a su propia familia, a sus compañeros de clase y a toda la secundaria.

Sin embargo, el director Buchmann no se lo permitió. Llamó al padre de Evan después de haber leído el borrador de su discurso y le dijo que Evan era gay. Evan me dijo en Democracy Now!: “Probablemente eso sea lo que más me molesta de toda esta situación. Creo que esto deja en claro que el director tenía muy poco respeto o comprensión por alguien en mi posición”. La declaración publicada por la junta directiva de la secundaria sobre la situación dice textualmente: “El borrador del discurso…incluía referencias a asuntos personales de naturaleza sexual. No es adecuado abordar estos temas en un discurso de una ceremonia de graduación”.

Evan finalmente pronunció su discurso dos semanas más tarde. La organización local de defensa de los derechos de las personas lesbianas, gay, bisexuales y transgénero (LGBT) Out Boulder intervino e intentó, sin éxito, convencer a la secundaria de que permitiera a Evan pronunciar su discurso en otro lugar. Ante la negativa, Out Boulder organizó una celebración en el patio de una casa en Boulder, donde un público de 250 personas escuchó a Evan finalmente pronunciar su discurso. Entre los presentes estaba el congresista de Boulder/Longmont, Jared Polis, que también es gay. Polis fue el primer congresista gay en revelar su orientación sexual en el Congreso de Estados Unidos. Evan Young me dijo a la mañana siguiente: “Fue maravilloso. Estaba muy nervioso. Muchos de mis amigos ya habían leído el discurso y todos me dijeron que les gustaba, pero no estaba realmente seguro de qué bromas les gustaban, qué partes no les gustaban, pero, en general, cuando pronuncié el discurso pareció encantarles a todos y fue alucinante”. Lo aplaudieron de pie por su discurso. El congresista Polis le dio a Evan un reconocimiento especial del Congreso por su destacado y valioso servicio a la comunidad. “Tengo un certificado, también, que quisiera leer a Evan: ‘Certificado de Reconocimiento Especial del Congreso otorgado a Evan Young en reconocimiento de su destacado y valioso servicio a la comunidad’, y por plantear este tema y hacernos saber a todos, ciudadanos interesados, que estos problemas de discriminación aún existen hoy en día”.

¿Cuáles fueron las palabras que el director consideró necesario censurar y que inspiraron tanto al público del evento de Out Boulder? Su discurso exhibió un sentido del humor maduro, condimentado con algunos chistes, pero se trató de un llamado profundamente personal a la tolerancia y la comprensión.

“Hablando en serio, quisiera contarles algo. Quizá ya lo sospecharan, pero espero que esto no cambie lo que piensan de mí: soy gay. Desde que tengo memoria me he sentido atraído hacia los hombres y nunca he tenido una novia porque prefiero a las personas de mi mismo sexo”.

Evan continuó: “Y ese es mi mayor secreto: soy gay. Entiendo que esto puede resultarles ofensivo a algunas personas, pero es quien soy. Y si siempre lo han sospechado o están totalmente sorprendidos, ahora ya lo saben. Cuando estaba escribiendo este discurso me cuestioné una y otra vez si debía revelar esto, dado que es un asunto que genera mucha división, y que se suele estereotipar a las personas homosexuales. Y pensé que, si lo hacía, debía pedirles mil disculpas y rogarles que no me vieran de un modo diferente. Pero luego me di cuenta de que no tengo que hacer eso. No debería tener que hacerlo. Si hay algo que aprendí en esta secundaria es que podemos seguir siendo amigos a pesar de nuestras profundas diferencias”.

El congresista Jared Polis ha escrito tanto a la junta directiva de la secundaria como al distrito escolar de St. Vrain Valley para solicitar una investigación del silenciamiento de Evan. Debbie Lammers, secretaria de la Dirección de Educación del distrito fue a escuchar el discurso de Evan en el evento de Out Boulder. Lammers me dijo que estaba decepcionada por lo sucedido y que le alegraba haber tenido la oportunidad de conocer a sus padres y ver a Evan pronunciar su discurso. “Es lamentable que esta escuela pública haya adoptado esta decisión. Ha puesto a su familia innecesariamente en el foco de atención”, afirmó.

La secundaria Twin Peaks Charter Academy queda a tan solo 120 kilómetros a vuelo de pájaro del lugar donde Matthew Shepard fue golpeado y torturado. Shepard era un joven homosexual que fue secuestrado en Laramie, Wyoming, el 6 de octubre de 1998. Shepard murió seis días más tarde de las heridas que sufrió, en un hospital de Fort Collins, Colorado, aún más cerca de Longmont. El asesinato de Matthew Shepard se convirtió en noticia a nivel mundial y es una muestra de cuan cruel y violenta puede ser la homofobia. Evan Young tenía apenas dos años de edad cuando Shepard fue asesinado. El mensaje de tolerancia de Evan es el único antídoto a este tipo de odio. Sus compañeros de clase tenían que escucharlo, su familia tenía que escucharlo y ahora, gracias a las protestas públicas contra su silenciamiento, millones de personas también lo escucharon.

FIFA: CORRUPTION

What we know today about Sepp Blatter and his shady dealings as FIFA president is just the tip of the iceberg. Taking money from potential host countries as a means to sway his opinion, Blatter chose France over Morocco in the 1998 FIFA World Cup and South Africa over Morocco in the 2010 FIFA World Cup. Additionally, it has already been uncovered that other high ranking officials have taken money for smaller tournaments that are held bi-annually.

Many high ranking FIFA officials have either been convicted of, or have publicly announced that they took bribes in connection with multiple FIFA World Cups. If several high ranking officials, including its president, were willing to take bribes for two tournaments in the past 17 years, how likely is it that no money was exchanged for the 2002, 2006, or 2014 tournaments?

Is the public supposed to believe that some, but not most or even all, FIFA officials took bribes for every tournament? Did this actually start in 1998, or is the public just supposed to be that naïve? If high ranking officials are willing to take bribes for which country hosts the games, are they moral enough to not take bribes to help fix games at these very same tournaments? Doesn’t this call into question every questionable call made in a World Cup game since 1998? Is Sepp Blatter the first FIFA president to accept bribes? What about the tournaments that decide which countries even get to play in the World Cup?

This corruption scandal taints every World Cup going back to 1998, and perhaps even longer. How can Americans not look back at questionable red cards, hand ball penalties, and goals disallowed and not question whether the team they were facing just paid FIFA more? How can Mexico not watch amazing performances like the fantastic game Guillermo Ochoa had the last World Cup and not wonder if it was never going to matter anyways?

How does FIFA move on from this scandal? They are holding an “emergency” election for a new president in December after Blatter resigned earlier this week, which will be a start. What FIFA needs to do though is become transparent with their dealings, stop choosing questionable countries like Qatar to host World Cup games (because we all know that everyone will be thinking that the only reason Qatar was chosen is because they paid enough money), and hopefully stop making shady deals all-together.

It will be tough to overcome this scandal, especially once it fully blows up. Luckily, it will be three more years until the next World Cup and hopefully by that point most of the blowback will blow over. Still, this level of corruption shows that any sport, no matter how big or powerful, can fall prey to corruption. Are we willing to believe that our favorite sport would be squeaky clean if we looked into it?

I think we are all too smart for that.

El castigo de Julian Assange: estar condenado sin haber sido acusado

Oculto en una calle lateral de uno de los más refinados barrios londinenses, justo enfrente del enorme edificio de la tienda Harrods, se erige un edificio de apartamentos de la época victoriana donde se encuentra la Embajada de Ecuador. Julian Assange, el fundador y redactor responsable de WikiLeaks, el sitio web de divulgación de documentos filtrados por informantes, ingresó a la embajada el 19 de junio de 2012 y desde entonces no ha puesto un pie fuera.

Ecuador le otorgó asilo político, pero el Reino Unido se niega a concederle el salvoconducto para salir del país y quiere extraditarlo a Suecia, donde sería sometido a comparecer ante una fiscalía por denuncias de abuso sexual, a pesar de que nunca se presentaron acusaciones formales en su contra. Durante alrededor de tres años ha estado preso en la embajada, sin tener siquiera la posibilidad de ver la luz durante una hora al día, un derecho del que goza la mayoría de los prisioneros. Durante los dos años anteriores a su refugio en la embajada, Assange estuvo preso o bajo arresto domiciliario en Inglaterra, todo esto sin que se presentara una acusación en su contra. Cuando viajé a Londres esta semana para entrevistarlo en la embajada, Assange me reafirmó su convicción de que esta fase previa al juicio está siendo utilizada como un castigo y también como un elemento disuasorio. Sostuvo además que Suecia está actuando como sustituto de Estados Unidos, que desea verlo tras las rejas para impedir la labor de WikiLeaks.

No obstante, WikiLeaks continúa funcionando y sigue publicando información sin precedentes acerca de las condiciones posiblemente catastróficas en que se encuentran los submarinos de armas nucleares de Gran Bretaña, o capítulos enteros sobre el secreto y extremadamente polémico Acuerdo Estratégico Transpacífico de Asociación Económica (TPP, por sus siglas en inglés), entre otros. Fue desde la embajada de Ecuador en Londres que Assange ayudó al ex contratista de la Agencia de Seguridad Nacional Edward Snowden a escapar a Hong Kong tras haber publicado millones de documentos en los que se detallaban los programas de vigilancia del Gobierno de Estados Unidos. Cuando se dirigía de Hong Kong a América Latina, donde solicitaría asilo político, Snowden quedó varado en el aeropuerto de Moscú, luego de que Estados Unidos anulara su pasaporte, tras lo cual, Rusia le otorgó asilo político temporario.

Cuando salieron a la luz las denuncias de abuso sexual contra Assange a finales de 2010, el fundador de WikiLeaks se quedó en Estocolmo para ser interrogado por el fiscal, que luego retiraría los cargos. Assange obtuvo autorización para salir de Suecia. Cuando ya estaba en el Reino Unido, una segunda fiscal, Marianne Ny, volvió a presentar los cargos contra Assange. La fiscal ha tenido tiempo de interrogarlo en estos años, ya sea en persona en Londres o mediante videoconferencia. Sin embargo, insistió en que Assange fuera extraditado por la fuerza. Finalmente, un tribunal sueco la instó a que viajara a Londres. La fiscal ha señalado que se dirigirá allí para interrogarlo, pero hasta el momento no ha especificado cuándo.

A Julian Assange, sus abogados y sus seguidores les preocupa que, de ser extraditado, Suecia lo entregue a Estados Unidos, donde todo parecería indicar que está en marcha una investigación judicial secreta contra él y Wikileaks. “Julian habría ido a Suecia hace tiempo si Suecia le hubiera garantizado que no lo entregaría a Estados Unidos para ser enjuiciado por cargos de espionaje”, afirmó el abogado de Assange Michael Ratner, presidente emérito del Centro por los Derechos Constitucionales. Ratner explicó: “Suecia nunca ha estado dispuesto a brindar esa garantía, y sabemos que tiene muy mala reputación en cuanto a esto ya que es un país conocido por cumplir con los pedidos de Estados Unidos, ya sea el de enviar a algunas personas de Suecia a Egipto, para ser torturadas allí, o el de deportar a personas con asilo político, rompiendo su compromiso de no deportación”.

El Vicepresidente de Estados Unidos Joe Biden calificó a Assange de “terrorista de alta tecnología”, mientras que representantes electos y comentaristas políticos de ambos partidos han expresado públicamente que Assange debería ser asesinado. A este respecto Assange me dijo en la embajada: “La investigación de Estados Unidos contra WikiLeaks por denuncias penales es considerada la mayor investigación jamás realizada contra un medio de difusión. Es extraterritorial. Está sentando nuevos precedentes acerca de la capacidad del Gobierno de Estados Unidos de perseguir a los directores de cualquier medio de comunicación de Europa o del resto del mundo e intentar enjuiciarlos. Ellos dicen que los delitos cometidos son conspiración, conspiración para cometer espionaje, violación de la Ley de Abuso y Fraude Informático, piratería informática, apropiación indebida y robo de documentos del gobierno”. De ser confirmadas, las acusaciones de espionaje podrían llevar a Assange a ser condenado a pena de muerte. Suecia, al igual que la mayoría de los países europeos, no puede extraditar a una persona que considera que podría ser condenada a la pena capital.

Todos los posibles delitos por los que Assange es requerido en Suecia, excepto uno, prescribirán en agosto. La Corte Suprema sueca se negó a anular las órdenes de arresto presentadas en su contra a finales de 2010, en una decisión de 4 votos a favor y uno en contra. El magistrado Svante Johansson emitió el voto disidente y dijo que la detención “de facto” de Assange “viola el principio de proporcionalidad”. Sentado frente a mí en la sala de conferencias de la pequeña embajada que durante los últimos tres años ha sido su hogar, su refugio y su cárcel, Assange me dijo: “Como acusados no tenemos derechos debido a que aún no se ha abierto un proceso formal. No hay acusación, no hay juicio, no hay posibilidad de defenderse, ni siquiera el derecho de acceder a la documentación, porque no eres ni siquiera un acusado”. El tono pálido de la piel de Julian Assange tras haber pasado años sin ver la luz del sol combina con el color cano de su cabello. Sin embargo, su voluntad permanece inquebrantable y los documentos filtrados que inicialmente se propuso publicar cuando fundó WikiLeaks hace casi diez años siguen viendo la luz.