Faithful Honor Virgin Guadalupe

December 10, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Thousands of Catholic faithful were on hand to experience the many colorful costumes such as these from a Resurrection Church group at the mass and procession on Dec 6. The annual celebration recalls the miraculous apparitions of the Virgin Mary to Saint Juan Diego at Tepeyac, Mexico in December 1531, where she left her image on his “tilma” or cloak. (EGP Photo by Fred Zermeno)

Thousands of Catholic faithful were on hand to experience the many colorful costumes such as these from a Resurrection Church group at the mass and procession on Dec 6. The annual celebration recalls the miraculous apparitions of the Virgin Mary to Saint Juan Diego at Tepeyac, Mexico in December 1531, where she left her image on his “tilma” or cloak. (EGP Photo by Fred Zermeno)

City Unveils ‘Wall of Honor’

December 10, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

The latest phase of a local monument to honor recipients of the nation’s highest military award was unveiled to the public at El Pueblo Historic Monument in Father Serra Park on Dec 5.

The Wall of Honor is a curved monument that bears the emblems of all military services and the names of the 3,446 recipients of the Congressional Medal of Honor, the military’s highest award for valor against enemy action. Members of the Eugene A. Obregon Congressional Medal of Honor Memorial Foundation were joined at the ceremony by various veteran organizations, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and City Councilman Jose Huizar (CD-14). The Saturday morning ceremony not only honored all past award recipients, it also served as a call for the unconditional support of all living veterans, regardless of any debate over the merits of the wars in which they fought and survived.

EGP Photo by Paul Aranda Jr U.S. Army combat veterans during a public ceremony to unveil a memorial in honor of ‘Medal of Honor’ recipients.

EGP Photo by Paul Aranda Jr U.S. Army combat veterans during a public ceremony to unveil a memorial in honor of ‘Medal of Honor’ recipients.

The ceremony featured the standard patriotic military traditions of a veteran event, including the presentation of colors, a 21-gun salute and the raising of the prisoner of war and missing in action flags. The ceremony’s emotional high point came as Latino actors Enrique Castillo, Hector Elizondo, Lupe Ontiveros and Jesse Garcia read off various award citations and personal histories of some of the Latino Medal of Honor recipients. In the background, musicians Lorenzo Martinez and Dan Navarro joined Latina vocalist Gabriella Campo in a moving tribute to the veterans.

The unveiling of the 30-foot long Wall of Honor completes the second of the three-phase Eugene A. Obregon Congressional Medal Of Honor Memorial project. The final phase of the project will add a 20 foot high monument that will include a 12-foot by 12-foot base with the name of all 42 Latino Medal of Honor recipients. At the top of the base will be a statue of Marine Private First Class Eugene A. Obregon rescuing fellow PFC. Bert Johnson. The total cost of the memorial is $1.2 million.

The monument is a decade-long effort led by the foundation president and founder, Bill Lansford and his wife Ruth. Lansford, a World War II and Korean conflict veteran, started the organization with Pete Valdez and Art Flores over a beer at an American Legion bar in 1993 said Lansford at the ceremony. The three men had found out that there existed no public monument to honor the ultimate sacrifices made by Latino service members.

They decided to take on the task of creating such a monument, and chose the memory of Eugene A. Obregon, a U.S. Marine from East Los Angeles who fought and died during the Korean conflict, as the symbol of the foundation. Obregon is credited with saving the life of his fellow Marine, Johnson an Anglo from Texas, during an intense firefight in which he would eventually suffer fatal gunshot wounds. Obregon’s efforts allowed nearby Marines to save Johnson from a similar fate. Obregon’s story is featured in the stage play Veteranos – A Legacy of Valor, that tells the stories of four Latino Medal of Honor recipients.

Lansford said the purpose of the monument is not to glorify war.

“This is not a war monument, it’s a monument of brotherhood,” he said.

But even a monument of brotherhood has room for at least one woman. The wall includes the name of Dr. Mary Walker who served as an assistant surgeon for the U.S. Army during the Civil War. She is the only female recipient of the Medal of Honor. Walker, who was a civilian, had her name, along with 911 other recipients officially removed from the award’s honor roll as a result of an award committee review in 1917. President Jimmy Carter, however, placed Walker’s name back on the honor roll in 1977, and she is again recognized as the only female recipient of the award.

While Pfc. Obregon is featured prominently on the monument, as are the names of 42 Latinos on the base, Lansford said the monument, including the wall, is about all the recipients, regardless of race. Lansford noted that the wall features the names of the 87 African Americans, 31 Asian Americans and 22 Native Americans who have also earned the prestigious award.

The Medal of Honor monument is located at 125 Paseo de la Plaza at El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historical Monument in downtown. The foundation is currently fundraising for the completion of the third phase of the monument. For more information on the monument visit www.obregoncmh.org.

Wyvernwood Residents: ‘This Place Matters’

December 10, 2009 by · 1 Comment 

Residents of a housing complex in the eastside of Los Angeles gathered last week to celebrate their history and their future, and to remind people that their home matters.

SonJaroco_Wyvernwood2009_LAConservancy

The multimedia event began with photos projected against a building, they met at association's regular meeting place. EGP Photo by Gloria Angelina Castillo

Wyvernwood Garden Apartment residents’ organization El Comité de la Esperanza (Committee of Hope) held a neighborhood multimedia presentation and procession on Dec. 3 that included discussion and pictures of the community  facing large-scale demolition and construction as part of a $2 billion mixed-used development project by the owners.

Using a projector, el Comité de la Esperanza, with the help of Los Angeles Collective Media (LA Co Media) and the Los Angeles Conservancy, showed photos of past events held at Wyvernwood, such as the annual holiday toy give-a-way and Passion of Christ re-enactments. Photos of residents participating in events in the community at large were also shown.

Leonardo Lopez, president of the association, pointed out children in photos who are now adults, drawing cheers as people recognized themselves or relatives in the photos. The local resident dancers’ group, “Danza Comité de la Esperanza,” wearing red hand-made costumes with the image of the Virgin Mary on their backs, performed for the roughly two hundred people in attendance.

After the performance of a “son jaracho” all-women band, the crowd marched to the Costello Recreation Center carrying banners and signs that read, “This Place Matters.”

Members of the International Truck Drivers Association attended in support of the community, where fears of being displaced during the planned construction persist, despite assurances from the property owner that renters in good standing will be relocated to other units within the Wyvernwood community.

At the Costello Recreation Center, residents viewed several videos aimed at preserving their oral histories and telling non-residents, and maybe non-believers, the importance of their community.

While the resident association has a track record for organizing their own community and media events, this particular multi-media presentation is the result of a six month long collaboration with the Los Angeles Conservancy and LA Co Media, according to Karina Muñiz, community outreach coordinator for the Los Angeles Conservancy.

Muñiz says they were awarded a $2,500 grant earlier this year through a new partnership with the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The partnership’s goal is to identify historic places that are fabrics of the community and to empower the community to tell their own stories, she told EGP.

The award was used to hire LA Co Media (pronounced “La Comedia” in Spanish and meaning “The Comedy” in English). The group of about eight recently graduated film students and artists helped pull together technological resources and Internet savvy Wyvernwood residents to help them scan and upload photos and diary entries onto a recently created Comité Website.

Diego Robles of LA Co Media says the role of the film and media collective is to be a catalyst for artistic community expression through the empowerment that multimedia allows and to amplify “the voices that are not getting any coverage.”

The collective has a grassroots perspective that avoids making things happen from the top down, like a producer directing a crew, Robles said.

Gumaro Ovando, Comité’s vice president, is very computer savvy and said during their six-months of meetings lots of ideas where bounced around. The collective’s role was to help with know-how and to provide cameras and equipment when needed, he said.

“They realize, ‘fulano de tal (so and so) has a video camera’ but for some reason they never asked to borrow it,” he said. “It’s about moving around resources and offering help—that’s the main thing.”

Robles says as a result of the project, el Comité de la Esperanza now has a more effective way to draw compassion and support from mainstream society.

“God forbid it become another South Central Farmers [where] people join at the last minute to help but it’s too late,” Robles said about the group’s fears of displacement.

La Co Media has several other projects under its belt, including one with Casa Libre-Freedom House, a home for un-accompanied immigrant minors.

MarchToCostello_Wyvernwood2009

EGP Photo by Gloria Angelina Castillo

Wyvernwood Garden Apartments is a place that matters to the people who live there and if you don’t believe them, take the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s word.

Wyvernwood is the first large-scale garden complex in Los Angeles, it is listed in the California Register of Historic Resources and is eligible for the National Register of Historic Places, according to The National Trust for Historic Preservation website.

The community is comprised of 153 buildings on 70 acres in Boyle Heights and is part of the Trust’s “This Place Matters” national campaign.

According to Dolores McDonagh, Vice President of Membership Development at the Trust, the organization is excited about Wyvernwood because the Trust is trying to improve outreach to the Latino community. She says in Washington D.C. they’ve been trying to figure out how to best translate “This Place Matters” because Spanish speakers of different countries have translated it differently for them.

Wyvernwood.LaCoMedia

EGP Photo by Gloria Angelina Castillo

Wyvernwood residents chose to translate it to “Este Lugar es Importante,” which in English literally means, “This Place is Important.”

“It’s great because this community went out and did it themselves, that embodies the purpose of the campaign,” McDonagh told EGP.

While LA Co Media videotaped the Dec. 3 event, plans are up in the air for another Wyvernwood, LA Conservancy and La Co Media production in early 2010.

To learn more about Wyvernwood from the Comité de Esperanza visit their website at http://sites.google.com/site/somoswyvernwood/home

Former Vernon Mayor and Wife Convicted

December 10, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

The former mayor of the city of Vernon and his wife were convicted last Friday of voter registration fraud and fraudulent voting.

Leonis Malburg, 80, who had been mayor of Vernon for more than 50 years before resigning this summer, and Dominica Malburg, 83, did not live in Vernon, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Michael Johnson found in a non-jury trial.

Leonis Malburg was convicted of conspiracy to commit a crime, being a public official aiding illegal voting, falsifying a declaration of candidacy, voter registration fraud, false voter registration, perjury under oath, fraudulent voting and assisting an unqualified voter.

Dominica Malburg was convicted of conspiracy, false voter registration and fraudulent voting.

The former mayor was acquitted of a second count of assisting an unqualified voter. The judge found that Malburg helped his son, John, receive a ballot, but it was left in his son’s Hancock Park home.

The judge said Malburg knew he was ineligible to be a candidate and knew he and his wife were ineligible to vote in Vernon. Johnson also said the evidence showed Dominica Malburg’s presence in the city of Vernon was “rare,” and that she was focused on her home and family activities in Hancock Park.

Authorities said fewer than 100 people voted in the April 2006 election in Vernon.

The two are to be sentenced Jan. 21, but the judge indicated he was not inclined to order them to serve any time behind bars.

Leonis Malburg’s attorney, Anthony Murray, contended the evidence showed his client was “domiciled in Vernon” and intends to stay there.

“If there was ever a person who intended to remain somewhere, it’s Mr. Malburg,” Murray told the judge in his final argument.

Dominica Malburg’s attorney, Michael Lightfoot, also argued his client should be acquitted, saying she “believed that was her home and that’s what all the evidence suggests.”

Deputy District Attorney Max Huntsman countered that the two conspired to “create the illusion that they lived in Vernon.”

In making his ruling, the judge said the prosecution had proven “the defendants were not domiciled in Vernon” in 2005, while noting there probably was a time when they were living there.

Leonis Malburg’s presence in Vernon was “purely related to business” involving his personal business and his role in the city government, and his use of an apartment in Vernon was “purely for convenience in carrying out his business activities,” Johnson said.

The judge said he didn’t believe the defendants’ claims they intended for Vernon to be their permanent home, noting that “they knew the rules”

“The defendants’ corrupt intent is supported by a great deal of evidence,” Johnson said, noting that Leonis Malburg helped his son get an apartment on 50th Street in Vernon and to register to vote at that location though the younger Malburg “did not use or live in the apartment in any way.”

The judge noted the bedding was still in the original plastic packaging and there was no refrigerator or telephone answering machine, and that the apartment was “simply gathering dust and cobwebs.”

The two were initially charged in November 2006 by the District Attorney’s Public Integrity Division several months after the first contested election in Vernon in what the judge said was more than 25 years, then indicted in October 2007.

John Malburg, who had been charged along with his parents, pleaded no contest April 30 to perjury and voter registration fraud.

Weeks earlier, he had been sentenced to eight years in prison for continuous sexual abuse of a child and using a minor for a commercial sex act.

L.A. City Council Puts Off Medical Marijuana Vote

December 10, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

The Los Angeles City Council on Wednesday put off until January a vote on an ordinance aimed at regulating the hundreds of medical marijuana dispensaries that have sprung up around the city.

The delay means enforcement cannot begin until mid-February at the earliest, but City Council members said they wanted more time to consider restrictions on where dispensaries can be located.

The draft ordinance requires them to be at least 1,000 feet from buildings with residential uses, but City Council President Eric Garcetti called that a “well-intentioned plan that may have bad consequences.”

He warned it could result in the city having only “about five or ten mega-dispensaries that would be in industrial parks in Los Angeles, and that’s it.”

The Wilshire district, with a population of 600,000, is one of the most densely populated communities in the United States. But Garcetti said it may not be allowed to have any dispensaries at all under the proposal.

“You’re pretty much obliterating the ordinance,” said Councilman Jose Huizar. “We might as well not have an ordinance.”

Don Duncan, California director for Americans for Safe Access, has also warned that the residential restriction could result in a  “de facto ban on medical cannabis in Los Angeles and that’s contrary to the will of the voters, and it’s contrary to what the council has expressed at its intent.”

But Councilwoman Jan Perry, who introduced the 1,000-foot buffer between dispensaries and homes as a last-minute amendment, stood her ground.

“I think it provides that barrier that is clear cut, easy to understand, and easy to enforce,” Perry said.

The City Council needs at least 10 votes to pass the ordinance. Only 11 members were present during Wednesday’s session, and at least two of them — Perry and Councilman Greig Smith — said they would reject the ordinance if the residential restrictions were taken out.

Councilman Ed Reyes proposed delaying the vote until January, by which time the Planning Department should have prepared maps that would show the specific areas where dispensaries can open.
Reyes said the postponement “breaks my heart because I wanted so much to get this done,” but added it would be more prudent to wait for the maps to be completed.

A frustrated Councilman Richard Alarcon lashed out at the proponents of the residential restriction, saying “to waste all of our time with the intent of throwing a poison pill into the final process is demeaning to the process.”

On Tuesday, the City Council also decided to eliminate restrictions on how much medical marijuana can be stored at a dispensary. But the dispensary operators must cultivate the medical marijuana “in strict accordance with state law.”

Councilman Ed Reyes said that means the medical marijuana must be cultivated by the collectives.
To adhere to the 1996 Compassionate Use Act and 2003 Medical Marijuana Program Act, which prohibited the sale of medical marijuana, the proposed ordinance allows “cash and in-kind contributions, reimbursements and reasonable compensation provided by members towards the collective’s actual expenses for the growth, cultivation and provision of medical marijuana … in strict compliance with state law.”

It defines reasonable compensation as “compensation commensurate with wages paid to employees of IRS-qualified nonprofit organizations who have similar job descriptions and duties.”

To make sure collectives are not operating for profit, an independent certified public accountant would have to audit the collectives every year and submit the findings to the City Controller. Building and Safety inspectors and police officers would have to examine the location.

However, authorities could not look into patients’ records without a search warrant, subpoena or court order.
The draft ordinance would cap the number of dispensaries citywide at 70, but would allow almost double that number to stay open — at least temporarily — provided they adhere to the new restrictions.

Councilman Jose Huizar proposed the cap, saying, “We’ve got to do whatever we can to ensure we’re providing the most restrictive ordinance that we can eventually loosen up when we have to, (to increase) access.”

The City Council granted a reprieve to 137 dispensaries that opened before a moratorium was declared in late 2007. If any of those dispensaries closes down or goes out of business, it will not be replaced until the overall number is reduced to 70.

Dispensaries that opened after the moratorium by taking advantage of a legal loophole would be shut down 30 days after the ordinance was passed.

Officials estimate that between 800 and 1,000 dispensaries are operating in the city, most of them illegally selling marijuana for recreational use.

Community Cheer at Holiday Parade

December 10, 2009 by · 1 Comment 

The 65th Annual Northeast Holiday Parade took place under threatening skies on Sunday, Dec. 6. Although forecasted rain and temperatures in the 50’s made it a good day to stay indoors, thousands of Northeast Los Angeles residents lined North Figueroa Street to celebrate the holiday season and cheer for local groups that participated in the event.

Joining the colorful holiday floats on the parade route were a number of school marching bands, drill/cheer teams and sports teams representing Franklin High School, Luther Burbank Middle School, Florence Nightingale, Roosevelt High School, Glendale High School, Washington Irving Middle School, Los Angeles International Charter High School, Franklin High School, Avance Academia Charter High School, Allesandro Elementary and Euclid Elementary.

The Highland Park Neighborhood Council with local homecoming king and queen makes a big entrance at the annual holiday parade. (EGP Photo by Gloria Angelina Castillo)

The Highland Park Neighborhood Council with local homecoming king and queen makes a big entrance at the annual holiday parade. (EGP Photo by Gloria Angelina Castillo)

Helping spread the spirit of Christmas, Sycamore Grove Christian School students reenacted a nativity scene, and carolers rode on floats from the Kiwanis Club of Greater Highland Park and Victory Outreach Church of Eagle Rock.

The Lincoln and Franklin High Schools ARMY ROTC, Highland Park Boy Scouts of America Pack No. 2002, Eagle Rock Girl Scouts Troop No. 330 and Brownies Troop No. 216 joined the Highland Park American Legion Post No. 206 and American Veterans Post 1944 in the mile-long march.

Ramona Hall’s own “Ballet Folklorico Maria Felix” dancers twirled their skirts to the sounds of traditional Mexican music, while the East LA ‘GOOD TIMES Car Club’ drove low and slow down the one-mile stretch.

This year’s parade Grand Marshall was ‘Pioneer Woman of the Year’ Francis Choate, President of Ebell Club. Other parade VIP’s included Los Angeles Councilmembers Ed Reyes (CD 1) and Jose Huizar (CD 14), Senator Carol Liu (District 21), Assemblymember Anthony Portantino (District 44), LAUSD School Board Vice President Yolie Flores Aguilar, Eagle Rock Chamber of Commerce “Business Woman of the Year” Rachel Braver, Former LA Dodger Bobby Castillo, Northeast LAPD Captains William Murphy and Dave Lindsey. Miss Taiwan and Miss Asia USA also graced the crowd with their beauty.

Other participating groups included: the Historic Highland Park Neighborhood Council, Eagle Rock Chamber of Commerce, Friends of the Southwest Museum, Gentlemen’s Society and Ladies Auxiliary, Highland Park Heritage Trust, Friends of the Hermon Dog Park, Flying Pigeon Bicycle Shop, Iglesia Pentecostal Esmirna, Coalition of Northeast Churches, the Bilingual Foundation for the Arts, and Young People’s Project Oxy, among others.

The parade concluded at the Winterfest Carnival at Sycamore Grove Park, but not before a mail carrier and volunteers collected letters for Santa, who rode on top of a Highland Park LAFD No. 12 fire truck.

The Highland Park Chamber of Commerce, in association with the City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs, presented the parade.

LAUSD Budget Shortfall Needs Solutions Not Battles

December 10, 2009 by · 1 Comment 

The first signs of what promises to be a war of words, shouts and picketing has taken place this week in the Los Angeles Unified School District.

The LAUSD school board has adopted a budget the District hopes will help it close a projected $1.2 billion deficit through 2012.

This budget calls for the furloughing of at least 5,000 district personnel. It appears that this time around the threats of layoffs will actually come to fruition. Last spring, LAUSD threatened to layoff as many as 8,000 teachers, but through a combination of cuts in other areas and the use of stimulus dollars, that threat never came remotely close to being acted on.

It doesn’t seem that will be the case this time around, however.

But if it is, and the District really has no plans to layoff workers, then they should not be causing so much uncertainty among District employees and even greater mistrust by the public in the school board’s budget proposals.

Clearly, however, if the budget is anywhere near the dismal financial reality being painted by the District, tough compromises will have to be worked out between the District’s unions and District negotiators. Hopefully it won’t come down to a standoff that will just disrupt our schools and not solve anything.

There comes a time when we all have to accept the inevitable and start working together to come to the least disruptive solutions. Any less, is a disservice to the teachers, students, and the District.

We Can Make It Here

December 10, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

This is not your father’s recession, nor your grandmother’s depression. In size, scope and duration, this economic downturn is different. And off-the-shelf solutions will not suffice.

President Barack Obama has undoubtedly been hearing from businessmen, labor leaders and economists on how to reverse America’s record high unemployment. Pedestrian proposals are inevitable. But truly innovative ideas that can be implemented immediately are what Americans really needs.

From my perspective, only a strong, stable manufacturing sector can rebuild our economy and create jobs. But I’m biased. Machinist Union members build the ships, planes, rockets and machinery that power our exports and defend our nation. Machinists like to make things. Millions of unemployed and underemployed Americans do, too. The White House should aim to stimulate that we-can-make-it-here spirit.

With that goal in mind, here’s an innovative idea President Obama should consider: Hire the unemployed to renovate and reinvigorate America’s industrial infrastructure.

Among the 31 million Americans idled to some degree in this recession, the talent pool is deep and deeply experienced. Almost 3.4 million were laid off from production, installation and construction jobs. Their skills could be put to work rehabilitating our aging factories and installing new machinery.

Another 5.3 million jobless Americans are college educated, highly skilled, and heavy on expertise. Over 2.6 million come from management and professional ranks. Another 2.7 million once worked in the service sector. If you drill down into the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ numbers, their expertise becomes obvious. Their talents can create the strategic business, financing and marketing plans for revving up our factories.

America needs both brawn and brains to rebuild our manufacturing capacity, end this recession, and ignite a new era of prosperity.

A sustained economic recovery requires us to reassert our global leadership as the producer of innovative, high quality products. To make that happen, however, our Made In America trademark needs a new stream of investments, public and private. And Americans need jobs now!

Combining those two unmet needs creates a powerful logic for a modern version of Franklin Roosevelt’s Works Progress Administration. This unique program put 3.5 million men to work in a single year — the equivalent of finding jobs for 8 million Americans today. The WPA focused on local community projects with a lasting value to the nation. It spent 85 percent of its funds on payroll and 15 percent on materials. Some projects demanded brawn. Others relied on brain power. But all were rooted in local initiative and accountability.

A new WPA can be rolled out quickly. Americans can be put to work renovating factories, installing state-of-the-art equipment and updating plans for small to medium-sized businesses. Local communities can use federal dollars to hire the unemployed. Local businesses can get a second chance to go global.

But let’s not stop there. Public funds are being spent to help private enterprises. A new social contract can be written, one that aligns corporate responsibility with community values, one that requires recipients to meet environmental and labor standards, one that requires a long-term commitment to making it in America. To sweeten the deal, investment tax credits can help underwrite renovation costs and purchases of new equipment or processes.

As Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke observed in 2007, this country “needs machines and new factories and new buildings and so forth in order for us to have a strong and growing economy.” To me, the “so forth” is that we-can-make-it spirit. And right now, that spirit could use a huge shot of adrenaline.

President Obama could deliver that boost simply by adding three words to his campaign slogan. “Yes, we can make it here” sounds like a clarion call to action.

R. Thomas Buffenbarger is president of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers.

CARTOON: Failed Wars

December 10, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

CARTOON-Failed-Wars

Vote Before We Deploy

December 10, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

If politics makes for strange bedfellows, then imagine the scene that unfolded in our nation’s capital earlier this month, when President Barack Obama announced plans to add some 30,000 troops to the war in Afghanistan.

Some Democrats were aghast. Many Republicans rushed to pledge their support. GOP consultant Karl Rove, known as George W. Bush’s “architect,” said President Obama should be “cheered.”

But before we increase the number of troops in Afghanistan to more than 100,000 (most of which will have been committed by Obama, not Bush), we need to step back and remember a certain pillar of our democracy.

Congress funds wars. And unless Congress gives the go-ahead, Obama won’t be able to send three additional soldiers abroad, much less 30,000. And a vote needs to happen before the troops are deployed, not after. “Let us have this debate before he moves forward,” Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA) said in a recent interview. “I remember the debates in Iraq. Bush already had the troops there and then we were debating…I’d like it to be before we escalate one single American over there.”

Granted, the inside-the-Beltway tealeaf-readers think it highly unlikely that Congress will reject funding for what has now unfortunately become a war waged and owned by Obama. Most Republicans and enough Democrats likely will go along with the president’s request.

But the 435 members of the U.S. House all have one thing in common. All of their names will be on the election ballot next November. Members of Congress usually respond to their constituents, so those of us who have deep and grave concerns about the build-up in Afghanistan have an opportunity to convey our concerns to our elected representatives.

There are many reasons why escalation in Afghanistan is bad policy. Among them is this simple fact: We have needs at home that can’t go ignored. An official unemployment rate that’s over 10 percent (the “unofficial,” or real, unemployment rate is much higher), the worst recession in generations, home foreclosures still a crisis, nearly 50 million Americans with no health insurance. The list seems endless.
The combined costs of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are about to exceed $1 trillion. That’s more money than is being proposed by the more generous House version of health care reform—and, unlike the war, health care reform will largely pay for itself.

As U.S. Rep. David Obey (D-WI) said recently, the cost of the military efforts “could devour our ability to pay for the actions necessary to rebuild our own economy. We simply cannot afford to shortchange the crucial investments we need in education, job training, healthcare, and energy independence. The biggest threat to our long-term national security is a stunted economy.”

Faced with relentless pressure from Pentagon hawks and others, Obama couldn’t save himself or his administration from the perils of further entanglement in Afghanistan. But Congress can—and should— save him. Soon after they return to our nation’s capital in early January, Congress should vote on deployment. It’s our money and our decision.

Matt Holland is director of TrueMajority, the online department of USAction, which builds power by uniting people locally and nationally, on-the-ground and online, to win a more just and progressive America. Distributed by MinutemanMedia.org.

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