Saturday, August 18, 2018

Sara Dady for Congress in the 16th

If you are Republican with strong party loyalty, feel free to skip this post.  I’ve had a few readers ask to be taken off the e mail list following my posts on immigration, and have been unfriended on Face Book due to my politics.  I get it, and I’m more than glad to stop filling your inbox with material you don’t want to read.  I hesitate to write about politics these days because it’s getting harder and harder to have productive conversation.  Emotions run high.  It’s the times we live in.  But I can’t help it.  Dave in the Shack is about what I think and feel, and I can’t avoid this. 

My U.S. Representative in the House, the incumbent, is Republican Adam Kinzinger from Illinois’ 16th District.  His opponent, challenging him for that seat in Washington, is Democrat Sara Dady.  I’m supporting Sara in the midterm election November 6.  I have her sign in my front yard.


The truth is, we had four very viable democratic candidates willing to challenge Adam Kinzinger in the March primary, a welcome change to years when no candidate or only a token candidate was on the ballot.  Sara Dady, an attorney from Rockford, built a law practice from her living room 10 years ago to be the biggest immigration firm outside the Chicago Metro area. 
I’ve invested more time, read more, and argued more about politics since the 2016 presidential election than any other time in my life since the Vietnam War and Watergate.  At times I feel overwhelmed.  But rather than pull back and keep quiet, the easy route believe me, I am determined to do something.  Put my money where  my mouth is so to speak.

The best way to counter the dangerous and alarming politics employed by this administration and stabilize the country is for Democrats to take control of one of the chambers of congress.  The best opportunity is the House of Representatives.  How do you involve yourself in that effort?  I think you work to effect change where you live.  I pledged that I would not only personally contribute to Sara Dady’s campaign but to seek other donors and raise $2,000 to help her take Adam’s Kinzinger’s seat in congress.  Here’s where I am with that.

I persuaded two donors to jointly provide a $1,000 matching fund for small donors who want to have an impact on their country and its policies.  Those donors will match your contribution dollar for dollar until their $1,000 runs out.  Maybe you’ve never given money to a political candidate.  Maybe you questions what difference you can make.  Let me address that.

Adam Kinzinger, according to recent reports in The Times, has spent about $1.4 Million in his re-election campaign and has roughly that much more left in his campaign fund.  He has received $866,574, or 35% of his funds from political action committees in 2017 and 2018 with Verizon, Ameren, AT&T, Caterpillar, and Comcast among his top contributors.  Small donors, giving less than $200, make up less than 2% of his re-election committee’s receipts.

Sara Dady has received no money from political action committees.  She has raised $213,587 and spent $206, 872.  Donations of less than $200 make up 32% of her dollars. 

Giving to political campaigns is different than giving to charity.  When you support a person for public office, especially one challenging the incumbent, you invest not only in hopes they win but in promoting issues which you feel are important.  Political campaigns test the viability of ideas.  When done well they make us think.  They move us forward.  They challenge the status quo.

Sara Dady shares my issues.  She believes the best way to solve the opioid crisis is to offer and fund more treatment through expanded Medicaid coverage.  Until we do that we spin our wheels.  Adam Kinzinger voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act over and over and it still has not been replaced with a coherent plan.  We remain stuck in a fragmented employer based health system that costs too much and shuts people out.  Medicaid for All, in one form or another, is the direction in which we need to move.

Sara Dady wants to expand educational opportunities for people of all ages at all levels, and find a way to allow current students to refinance crushing college debt at an affordable rate.  She supports an increased federal minimum wage to close the economic disparity that continues to grow.

And who better to be on a congressional work group to design and implement comprehensive immigration reform than a practicing immigration attorney?  Sara Dady advocates reform that includes a real worker visa program tied to actual labor market demand and increases due process in immigration proceedings of all kinds.
For a more complete look at Sara’s stand on the issues go to 

That’s what I want my representative in Congress, the person we elect to represent our interests, to work towards.  And so I’m helping her campaign by giving her money, by writing this piece, by continuing to help her get her message out.  I’m hoping you’ll join me.

I don’t have one of those fancy kick starter buttons to click on.  I’m doing this the old fashioned way.  Send a check to me made out to Sara Dady for Congress.  You don’t use checks much anymore but you’ll find some lying around your house.  They’re made of paper and you fill them out with a pen.  They require your signature.  Send them to me and I’ll see they are delivered to Sara Dady on Saturday August 26th at a fund raiser along the river here in Ottawa where she will be present. 

                                                            Dave McClure

                                                            2110 Caton Road

                                                                                                    Ottawa, Illinois 61350

If you live in town and would like to save the price of a stamp you can put it in the big mailbox opposite that address.  It’s Cubby blue. Please don’t give me cash.  Your cancelled check is your receipt.  Your gift will also be acknowledged by the Sara Dady campaign.

Getting to $1,000 can be done lots of ways.  Ten $100 donors.  Twenty $50 voters.  Fifty $20 voters.  Some combination of all of them.  It will make you feel good to do something tangible to affect the politics of our country.

And if you can’t contribute, by all means vote.  If all registered Democrats simply went to the polls on November 6 we would elect Sara Dady in Illinois 16th Congressional district.  Urge people to vote.  If you or someone you know are not registered to vote you can do so very easily.  You can vote early.  But you simply must be a part of the political process to change the shape and the substance of politics in this country. 

By being part of the process you can take matters into your own hands.  Vote for a candidate that shares your values.  And if you can support that candidate with your dollars.  I think it is up to us to get this done.

Thanks for reading all the way to the end.

Friday, August 10, 2018

Mario y Humberto

Mario Espinosa, who works for YSB, was recently honored for his work with migrants and immigrants to our area by the Illinois Coalition for Immigration and Refugee Rights and the Illinois Association of Agencies and Community Organization for Migrant Advocacy.  I was at YSB when Mario was hired, at the urging of Sara Escatel who developed YSB’s Hispanic Services Program.

We sought funding and created a program that advocated for immigrant families because of YSB’s  mission to help children and families succeed.  That mission said nothing about anyone’s citizenship status.  We wanted to make sure all kids got into school and received health care, that their parents felt safe to go to teacher conferences, received good advice on legal matters, and were not taken advantage of.  Mario Espinosa, Sara Escatel, Alice Berogan and others made sure all those things happened.

I wish I knew how long Mario has worked with immigrants to our area, but it’s early and I don’t want to wake anyone up with a phone call.  Suffice to say he’s made it his life work.

Eight years ago I wrote the following article about a migrant worker, Humberto Casarrubias Sanchez, who died in the fields in our area.  I wanted to give him a name and shed light on the plight of migrant workers.  But it occurred to me when reading the Face Book post about Mario yesterday that this piece also sheds light on the compassion and determination of Mario Espinosa.  I hope you remember them both.

Mario Espinoza called me on one of those terribly hot days in July when it looked like everyone fled the streets and was holed up in air conditioning wherever they could find it.  He was out of breath and excited.  Mario is pretty easy to read, even over the phone.  Something was going on.  Mario works in Mendota and is one of YSB’s two community workers fluent in Spanish who specialize in helping immigrant families.  In our area that population is mostly Mexican. 

“There’s a migrant worker missing off one of the detasseling crews up by Tampico.”

Tampico is a farm town in Whiteside County.

“They think he collapsed in the field due to the heat.  They’ve organized a search and I want to help.”

“Do you know this guy Mario?”

“I just talked to him and his brother two days ago at the Riviera.”

The Riviera Motel is actually not the Riviera anymore, it’s just what we still call it.  It’s a run-down hotel at the failed commercial interchange of Route 89 and Interstate 80 north of Spring Valley.  It’s used in the summer to house migrant workers, lots to a room. 

“What’s his name Mario?”

“Humberto.  Humberto Casarrubias Sanchez.” 

“Go ahead and help in the search Mario but be careful out there.  It’s too damn hot.  You could get sick yourself.”

“I’ll be careful.  I’m taking some of my kids with me.”

“And Mario, let me know how this turns out.”

It was July 19th.  Humberto was working for Manter Labor McNeil, the equivalent of a temp agency for migrant workers.  Seed corn companies who need migrant labor to create strains of hybrid corn stopped hiring such persons themselves a while ago.  They rely on small employment agencies.  Somewhere in the mix would be a foreman or recruiter who speaks fluent Spanish and knows how to create word of mouth in Mexico so he gets the workers the seed corn companies need to arrive in Illinois when they are needed.

Humberto and his brother arrived in our area July 3rd from the small village of Mazatepec, Morelos.  Humberto was 36 years old.  His wife, Maria Isabel Basilia and three daughters age 16, 12, and 9 last heard from him July 11 on a cell phone call.  He told them he would be working in Tampico, which he thought was funny.  Tampico is a town in Tamaulipas, Mexico.  He had to come to Illinois to get a job in Tampico. 

Humberto and his brother were working under HD-1 agricultural work visas that migrants are given to do work in our area.  Mendota, Dixon, and Sterling are used to migrant workers. 

They have been coming to Mendota for the sweet corn pack for years.  They come earlier too to rogue (removing weeds and volunteer corn plants among the seed corn plots) and detassel (taking the tassels which produce pollen off selected rows of corn, leaving the silks to receive pollen from bull rows next to them so that cross pollination occurs).  Try as they might the seed corn industry has not found an effective way to automate this process.  It is work no one else wants to do, especially in a heat index of 110 degrees, which were the conditions July 19th when Humberto disappeared.

American teen agers used to do it all but that supply of workers is drying up.  My sisters dietasseled in the fifties and sixties.  My son did it in the early 2000’s.  Seed corn companies used to hire teachers and coaches to recruit local teen agers, form crews, and get the job done in a critically short time period.  When the tassels have to come off, there is little time to spare.  It’s changed now.  More and more the seed corn industry, at arm’s length through contracted temp agencies, relies on migrant labor.

That’s how Humberto found himself traveling from south of Mexico City to a Whiteside County cornfield working for nine bucks an hour, staying in a rundown hotel for cheap rent, earning money to support his family.  On July 19th his co-workers saw him leave his row to go for water, a shovel in his hand and an orange cap on his head.  That was the last time they ever saw him.  Mario called me the next day. 

 “We didn’t find him.  We walked the whole field and he wasn’t there.  They’re going back today.”

“Mario what are the chances he got fed up, got a ride in to town, and is on a monumental bender?”

“He’s not that kind of guy Dave.  He knows no English.  It’s his first trip to the U.S..  He’s kind of scared here.  His brother can’t imagine he would leave the group.  Something’s happened.  The company won’t pull the work crew off the detasseling to help in the search.  We’re appealing for more people to search.”

The community responded.  150 to 200 emergency workers from throughout the area spent four 4 days searching roughly six square miles of land along Illinois’ Route 40, from Gaulrapp Road to State Route 172, looking for Sanchez.  Farm equipment, ATVs, a helicopter, bloodhounds and cadaver dogs were used, all to no avail.  Volunteers also walked the field in which he last was seen. Whiteside County Sheriff Kelly Wilhelmi explained 

“Everybody lined up on the end of the field. There are male and female rows. What we did was have one person go down the middle of female rows. They were searching four rows at a time.”

Eventually they called the search off and declared Humberto a missing person.  Mario was distressed.

“Now people are saying maybe he’s slipped away to violate his visa and stay.  He’s not that kind of man.  He wanted to go home.  He was just here to make money and help his family.  I know he’s out there.  His money, his papers, pictures of his family are still at the hotel.  He wouldn’t do this to his brother.  It’s not right.”

On Tuesday farmers harvesting seed corn in a field in the search area found the body of a man who was determined to be Humberto Casarrubias Sanchez.  Next to the body was a shovel and an orange cap.  It now appears he had been there all the time.  He may have been disoriented by heat stroke, wandered into the next field, laid down to rest and died.  We may never know.

Migrant labor, and individual laborers like Humberto from rural Mexico, makes the American seed corn industry possible.  That same labor source grows and harvests the vegetables we eat, busses and washes the dishes in our restaurants, maintains our shrubs and gardens, and does all types of jobs that Americans like you and I shun.  Like digging the Illinois Michigan canal.  Like building the railroads.  I want you to remember not just that a migrant worker died, whom Mario Espinosa came to know and tried to find in an Illinois cornfield, but that he has a name.  

Humberto Casarubbias Sanchez


May he rest in peace.

Saturday, August 4, 2018

Bucket Lists, A Garden Report, and a Nugget of Local News

I hear a lot of people talk about bucket lists.  Occasionally I admit to thinking of something I’d like to do before all this is over, but I’ve never been big on lists.  I do realize some of the things I once strived for are probably now out of reach.  For example, it doesn’t appear I’ll be pitching for a Major League baseball team as I once dreamed.  I’ll be 67 in August and my curveball never really developed into what you would call an out pitch.  Besides, my legs aren’t what they used to be.  They say the legs go first for ball players.  Mine left a long time ago.
Nor does it seem likely I’ll have a romantic encounter with Vanna White.  Neither of us is getting any younger, though she looks the same as always.  My wife thinks she’s had work done.  Vanna hasn’t answered my fan mail for more than twenty years.  I’ve drawn a line through that list item too.

I do still hope to make it to Ireland on an extended trip.  Both my wife and I know the towns from which our families emigrated.  Dingle in the south for her, Ballymena in the north for me.  We plan on spending a week in each place, maybe a third knocking around elsewhere.  I’d like to take in some golf.

My brother just got back from Berlin, a town that was on his bucket list.  He made a career in the military, has been all over the world, and was stationed in Germany twice but missed out on Berlin.  He wanted to see the Brandenburg Gate, visit the site of Checkpoint Charlie, and see for himself the many things in Berlin he had only heard of.  I’m not sure what is left on his bucket list, but I’m glad he was able to check that one off.  He’s older than me, but damned healthy.  If you ask me he could add to that list and still get it done.

The name “Bucket List”, as I’m sure you know, comes from the concept of doing a number of things you’ve always wanted to do, but have put off, before you kick said bucket.  Advancing age prompts this list making.  You have to imagine the end before you plan for it.  I’m not sure when this starts, but young people think time is vast.  Is that a word you would use to describe time now? 

There is a variation to the bucket kicking concept, brought up by a friend of ours.  She wants to go places she has not visited not to beat her last day but to visit while she can still walk, enjoy travel, and remember where she’s been when she gets back home.  You know, not just technically alive but really alive, able to hear the music, smell the coffee, taste the food.  It’s up to you if you make a bucket list.  I think I’ll pass.  I’m afraid it would be one more batch of things I regret not doing before I’m through.  Let’s move on.

My garden is producing peppers, and I sampled them this morning.  I grow hot peppers, and they look great this year, though looks and taste are not always the same.  So to see what I had, I made a red pepper omelet.  Two serranos, a nice bull nose, and four tiny red Thai hots.  I sautéed them with some onion and garlic in oil, folded them into a three egg omelet along with mozzarella, salt and pepper, and had it with wheat toast and a glass of milk.  You never know about peppers, how they taste, how much heat they produce.  They vary from season to season.

These peppers were hot.  The serranos gave the most sustained heat, the Thai hots little bursts of intense heat that faded quickly, and the sweet bull nose mellowed both those out.  I was wiping my nose after ten seconds.  I’d call it a three egg, two Kleenex omelet.  It’s going to be a good year for chili  paste, salsa, and all the pepper dishes.  The ones I ate this morning are the first.  The Habaneros, which I use to make Jamaican jerk, are still small and green.  I will have peppers to spare.  I’m excited.
The rest of my garden did not fare as well.  I didn’t fence it, because frankly fencing is a pain.  Stepping over it, weeding around it, reaching down from the other side of it.  Gardening is better without a fence, so I skipped it.  Nothing eats the tomatoes, the garlic, the eggplants were spared, rarely does anything develop a taste for the hot peppers, the lemon grass is always safe, as are cucumbers and Brussels sprouts usually.  I hadn’t grown kale before so I didn’t know what to expect.  But as I said before, all years are different.  This year I took a chance on less protection.

Something ravaged the cucumbers while they were just vines (I got only two), stripped the Brussels sprouts of all its leaves, initially spared the kale but then stripped it daily.  (I get that about kale by the way.  I didn’t like it at first either.)  And though they left the tomatoes alone as always, about half my tomato plants grew as if they hated the dirt they were rooted in.  Scraggly as hell.  Vines browning out before the fruit was ripe.  So aside from the peppers, garlic, and eggplant the rest was pretty hit and miss.
Interestingly enough, in addition to rabbits, the culprits also included deer.  My wife, who doesn’t get as personally involved with vegetables as I, does have quite the relationship with the flowers she plants and tends, both annuals and perennials.  She waters them faithfully, talks about them (maybe to them), asks if I’ve seen their progress, predicts when they will open, and how long they will last.  She’s all about the flowers, especially the lilies.

She expanded her collection of day lilies and has them spread all over.  They’re a variety of colors, and as they get closer to blooming she gets more and more excited.  She predicts the day they’ll bloom.  Anticipates it with joy.  It’s a summer highlight.  I think she loves them.
Apparently so do the deer.  She came stomping out to the shack one morning, indignant, reporting that something had eaten the bloom on the lily in the corner of the flower bed by the garage on “the very day it was going to open!”  The nerve.  She wanted whatever ate that lily gone.  Dead I presumed.  She was on the internet within minutes searching for repellants.  Interestingly enough, one of the more effective substances to put on your flower beds is human urine.  She wasn’t keen on that.  She was hoping for something she could order on Amazon.

The next morning, as I was making coffee and she was coming downstairs, we both caught sight of the culprit.  A fawn, its spots still on, daintily took a lily bloom in its mouth, twisted if off, and gently munched.  Rather than screaming she said

“Oh look, it’s a fawn.’

The fawn was soon joined by a doe, its mother who, ever watchful, sniffed the lilies but didn’t partake.  Then the fawn switched its attention to its mother and began to nurse, nuzzling her hindquarters.  The doe stood patiently, looking off placidly towards the shack, her fawn busily drinking.  My wife spoke again in that motherly voice she saves for adoring babies and witnessing something touching.

“It’s hungry.”

I am amazed at how anger can be eased once we understand the motivation for another creature’s behavior.  We all coexist here, after all, and all God’s creatures have to eat.  Some of the lily blooms were spared, and I got a little kale after all.  In the end it’s all good.

Finally, I have to share this bit of local news.  It was Tip O’Neill, speaker of the house during the Watergate hearings, who said all politics is local.  I have to add that all really juicy news is local too.  Perhaps you have to be a follower of small town journalism and journalists, as I am, listening daily to our local radio station and faithfully reading our local five day a week newspaper, to know this. 
I’m convinced the really elemental, what you want to know news, the stuff you are compelled to read, springs from such local media.   It doesn’t look like I’m going to be a newspaper reporter either, something I once dreamed of, but that doesn’t mean I can’t envy the opportunity to write articles like this.  I’d have given anything to get this assignment.
In The Times, an almost daily paper serving the communities of Ottawa, Streator, and the surrounding area, appears this account of local events, this nugget of local news, in their April 7-8, 2018 weekend doorstep edition I found this headline:

Some headlines just grab you don’t you think?  The genius part of this particular headline is the ending phrase “with feces.”  Had it simply been “Streator theater bathroom vandalized’ I might well have skipped the story.  But “with feces?”  How can you not read that story?
The story, written by Brent Bader (whom I envy, just for the sheer experience of the assignment) was no doubt found among municipal police reports and then bolstered by a telephone interview with the theater manager, Eric Gubelman.  I think I would have done an onsite interview and taken a cameraman but staff reductions being what they are at small town newspapers I understand.   As I do with many things, I read I read the first few paragraphs and skipped to the end.  Here’s how that went.

“The bathrooms at Streator Eagle 6 were vandalized Wednesday night, but what was more surprising to Eric Gubelman was the community’s support.  One individual spread fecal matter on the walls of the bathroom with a plunger and toilets were clogged with toilet paper and a bowl cleaner brush.  Three staff members had to clean up the bathroom….’It just sort of ruined the night of three employees who had to clean I up’ Gubelman said.”  (I can imagine.)  

At that point I skipped to the last paragraph.

“Gubelman said in a follow up email.  ‘This is not a story about a unique event, it is another story of the unique and welcome reception we have received from LaSalle County.”
That was a head scratcher there.  Now I had to read the whole article. 

Streator police were called.  They stopped the movie.  While an individual did not fess up to the crime, it was determined he was one of a group of five.  All five were banned from the theater.  Here’s the great part.
In an effort to be as transparent as possible, Gubelman posted the details on Face Book.  630 FB users interacted with the story and it was shared 175 times.  Gubelman thinks that’s because “our customer base is very loyal and proud of the theater and they were appalled.” I’m not sure I agree with Gubelman on that but who knows.  Apparently comments were overwhelmingly supportive of staff and dismissive of patrons that would vandalize the bathroom.  Support the staff, shame the smearer.

“…99.9% of our customers are wonderful.  The ones that misbehave almost always pick less dramatic ways of misbehaving,” reports Gubelman.  Let’s all be thankful for that.
Here’s a link where you can read the entire article.

For some reason, the online edition chose to omit “with feces” from the headline.  A big mistake I think.  Also, the article could have been longer.  I found myself wanting more artistic detail.  Perhaps an interview with the staff who remedied the uh, situation. 

Be that as it may, you gotta love small town papers.  The pay may be better in big cities, but I don’t think you get the chance to write stories like that, and keep a straight face as you do.  Thanks Brent Bader.  I’m always on the lookout for local stories like that one.