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The Grayling Gadfly

PROPOSITION 1: or, How to Swindle the Middle Class

Cathy Stripe LesterOn August 5, Michigan taxpayers will be asked to vote on Proposition 1, which is being presented in commercials as a way to “help small businesses and create 15,000 new jobs …  without raising taxes!”

If that sounds like a conjuring trick, it is – smoke’n’mirrors, my friends. And if you try to look behind the curtain, it becomes very, very confusing, as if the proponents of Prop 1 don’t want anyone to notice what it actually does. More »

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What Kind of ‘Security’ Makes YOU Feel Secure?

Cathy Stripe LesterFor the past couple weeks, Crawford County folk have been treated to booms and bangs, as the National Guard and the Army held their massive war games. It’s good to know they’re training to keep America safe, but we know there are different types of “safe.” More »

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Oscar Romero: Martyr or Villain?

Bust of Archbishop Romero

Cathy Stripe LesterMarch 24 was the anniversary of the 1980 assassination of Monsignor Oscar Romero, Archbishop of San Salvador. I was a little surprised when I looked for more info on him. There’s a move to make him a Saint, but others consider him a villain. About the kindest thing I could find on one particular website was that he was a simple-minded dupe of the Communists. More »

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El Salvador: The Runoff

Cathy Stripe LesterIn the runoff to the presidential election, the leftist candidate won by a sliver of a margin worthy of an Olympic ski race — 50.11% to 49.89%. Should the USA be worried?

Yes, but not for the first reason people might think. Because the margin was so narrow, the losing rightist party has claimed their “victory” was “stolen.” Furthermore, they’ve been ratcheting up the rhetoric, holding rallies, and so on. There is the ugly prospect of violence, and if they manage to unseat the president-elect, there may well be another civil war. In which case, the USA could be drawn in on the wrong side, again. More »

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El Salvador: The Magic of Witnessing

Cathy Stripe LesterAmericans take our right to have elections somewhat for granted. This was brought home to me by the enthusiasm of the Salvadoreños. They were not only glad simply that they were allowed to have elections, they were extra-glad that, as I said in my previous blog, the electoral process has been reformed into something they could believe in. More »

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Election Monitoring in El Salvador: Part 1


Pat Thornburg, Tommie Jackson and me in our monitoring vests. Photo courtesy of SHARE Foundation - El Salvador

Cathy Stripe LesterA lot of the election procedure in El Salvador is a result of elections having seen so much fraud and corruption in the past. Along with my fellow monitors, I found it fascinating to see how each stage was a counter to a specific abuse. More »

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Happy Chinese New Year!

Cathy Stripe LesterI’ve saved my last China blog for the Chinese New Year, today. This year will be the Year of the Horse. Those born in horse years are cheerful, skillful with money, perceptive, witty, talented and good with their hands. (I’m a goat, which may or may not explain a lot.) More »

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Election Monitoring in El Salvador

El Salvador is the smallest one, in yellow, toward the left. It is the most densely populated country in Central America.

Cathy Stripe LesterYup, when I saw an appeal for Spanish-speaking volunteers to be election monitors for the upcoming presidential elections in El Salvador (in February), I done gone and stuck my neck out. As they say in Colombia, Me metí en camisa de once varas, or in other words, I’ve got myself into an 11-yard shirt! More »

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China: The Terra-Cotta Army

One of the terra-cotta warriors

Cathy Stripe LesterVisiting the famous Terra-Cotta warriors near the city of Xian (pronounced SHEE-an) was the highlight of the trip for me. They were created because the first Emperor of China, Qin (pronounced Chin) Shi Huang, wanted his army to protect him in the afterlife, so he commanded thousands of his men to have a life-size pottery statue of themselves made, including some with horses. These were then buried in special underground chambers near the emperor’s mausoleum. More »

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Are you Santa?

Santa goes modern, sometime pre-1920! Cardboard and tinsel tree ornament handed down through the family. Auto buffs may be able to identify the year from the the car model.

Cathy Stripe Lester‘Tis the season for lots of articles on Santa Claus, including whether a 4th-Century Turkish Bishop was “white” and how his image has changed over the centuries.

My question is, why have European and American parents gotten into the habit of giving gifts in Santa’s name? They could just give the gifts and leave Santa out of the equation. Is it just more fun telling stories? It’s true that a good story has a kind of magic that gives fairy-glitter to the world. More »

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