Check out my other blogs

Click on La PrensaMA to read about what's going on in the Western Massachusetts/New York/Connecticut region.
Y para leer columnas en español, pulse Política Panorámica.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

David Letterman isn’t funny and the HuffPo isn’t serious

The Huffington Post is a necessary part of the national discussion on culture and politics. But its promotion and defense of David Letterman dampens the blog's standing as a respectable participant in the world of ideas.
Letterman's conduct with female staffers over the years, in which he wooed women much younger than he to be in intimate relationships with him, should be condemned. Instead, it is condoned by the like of HuffPo, which continues to give him and his antics a forum on the blog.
Where else wbut in the so-called liberal media would a man get away with sexual harassment? Where else but in the liberal media would a man get away with making "jokes" about a politician's teenage daughter having sex with an athlete?
This is the bitter pill that I refuse to swallow as a supporter of liberal causes: watching leaders ignore or add insult to injury when it comes to women's issues.
The fact that sexism is the "ism" that few regard with any measure of seriousness means that women and girls in the United States and worldwide will continue to suffer brutalities that make us unworthy of calling ourselves liberals and progressive and all those other lables that separate us with W. and his friends.
When the news broke how American soldiers were abusing Iraqi prisoners at the Abu Gharib prison, everyone from The New York Times to Fox News was appalled about how the men were disrobed and forced to endure brutal humiliations.
Yet, when French Guinea soldiers pulled women returning from an anti-government rally onto the sidewalks, stripped them and gang-raped and amused themselves by taking pictures with their mobile phones of the attacks, hardly anyone said anything. The story had little traction. Of course the Obama administration, possibly history's most progressive administration, did address the brutality and had the fiercest ally women and girls have worldwide, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, to condemn the president of French Guinea, even hinting that his days are numbered as the leader of the country.
And just this week, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on the international community to do something to end "the global pandemic of violence against women and girls."
These calls for action come as a result of the brutal sexism that is allowed to flourish among soldiers -- and a liberal media outlet that doesn't even see how Letterman's sexism is part of the greater problem.
It's no surprise that Don Imus got back on the radio a few months after making offensive remarks about a university women's basketball team.
If there is one thing that HuffPO and Fox News and everyone in between agree on, it's that the plight of women and girls doesn't exist.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Humor and Truth and Sonia Sotomayor


Two comics pinpointed the problem with Republicans regarding everything lately, from health care to the nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor as the newest member of the U.S. Supreme Court.

They just donn't get it.

Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert's commentary on the hypocritical GOP, to not say, racist GOP, is on point.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Sonia Sotomayor

sonia_obama When sports athletes scores and win big titles, millions cheer as if that victory actually means something in their lives. A World Series champion team, winning at Wimbledon, the World Cup and all those consuming distractions  do absolutely nothing to improve our quality of life.

In fact, the multi-million contracts exacted by this first baseman or that running back has a direct impact on our television cable or satellite bills, how much the hot dogs cost at the stadium and even the price of the game ticket itself.

Names like Manny Ramírez, “Papi” Ortiz, Tom Brady and a slew of others are cottage industries for selling an assortment of products like jackets, mugs and keychains that enrich them further.  City governments even go as far as directing tax dollars to pay for the construction of multi-million dollar stadiums to be built in their own backyard.

And now, finally, we are living in a time when names like Barack Obama and Sonia Sotomayor are also becoming cottage industries. But instead of losing ourselves in their particular and personal triumphs, their triumphs truly are our own as well.

As president, Barack Obama has instilled in the country a sense that hope is not only a noun, but also a verb. President Obama is making decisions that place him in the pantheon of the nation’s so-called “Founding Fathers.”  Through his governance, he is this generation’s founding father. He joins many Civil Rights Movement leaders from Malcolm X to MLK Jr. to Medgar Evers to Rosa Parks to César Chavez to many more, whose courageous struggle pressured reluctant presidents like JFK to begin acknowledging that equal rights is not negotiable.

And now, if Judge Sonia Sotomayor is confirmed by the U.S. Senate as a Supreme Court justice, she will join Obama as a founding member of the country’s new direction to form “a more perfect union.”

One day, names like Obama and Sotomayor will be seen on T-shirts and mugs and keychains. They are the true victors because when they win, we all do in real tangible ways and not momentarily.

This is a proud moment in history.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Licenses for Immigrants Down The Road in Massachusetts

By Natalia Muñoz

Driver’s licenses for undocumented workers will be on the agenda when Richard Chacón, executive director of the state’s Office for Refugees and Immigrants, presents his list of recommendations to Gov. Deval Patrick in July.

“It’s going to be part of the conversation,” he said at a recent community meeting in Springfield sponsored by the Alliance to Develop Power, Northampton’s Center for New Americans and the Governor’s Advisory Council on Immigrants and Refugees.

It’s not promise of implementation but it is a step in addressing one of many vexing immigration policies.

One of President Barack Obama’s own aunts, Zeituni Onyango, here illegally from Kenya, got a free pass to stay in the U.S., because her nephew is, after all, the president.

But there are 12 million people who are still counting on Obama to deliver on his promise of reforming immigration policies.

The government knows millions of undocumented immigrants are here and that most are working joes, accepts their taxes but doesn’t let them apply for a driver’s license.

The license is the difference between getting stopped for a broken tail light and then getting deported, or just paying the fine and the getting thing fixed.

The call for a license has been heard at several meetings convened by Patrick, who in 2008 signed into law the New Americans Agenda, an innovative initiative to integrate all immigrants into the commonwealth.

Sponsors expected 200 people at the meeting at the meeting in Springfield last week, but 350 showed up. It was yet another example of Patrick’s governing style, where his own version of Washington, D.C., K Street lobbyists are from the Main Streets of Massachusetts.

The agenda was simple: Ask the participants to list their top recommendations for the state to take under advisement.

Immigrants, refugees and U.S.-born nationals broke into groups divided by language. Georgians, Mexicans, Somalis, Iranians found themselves huddled alongside Chacón, state Rep. Benjamin Swan of Springfield and other members of the Advisory Council.

Among the issues residents from Western Massachusetts prioritized in the auditorium of St. Mary’s Church was the urgent need for more English-language classes and help to deal with abusive employers and police.

“The governor needs a mandate,” said Caroline Murray, executive director of ADP, an organization that teaches people sunk in apathy to tap into their anger, transform it into hope and then do something about the injustices that muted them in the first place.

It isn’t the first time that the ADP has brought everyone to the table, usually in a church hall, from the most vulnerable to the most powerful.

When Murray says things like, “We’re trying to create a better world for everybody” or “Our work is still ahead of us,” it is a call for action that fills churches to capacity the Vatican can only envy.

William Cano, an ADP organizer, believes that a license or ID will be available to undocumented immigrants given the growing chorus of people asking for it statewide.

Murray has sloshed through the mud at times to inform rivals, as when she took on the smug Bill O’Reilly and tenaciously showed him the door to morality. In the 2007 television interview to talk about a video that shows undocumented immigrants their rights, she managed to slip in some common sense into the idiotic but popular program.

Back then, ICE officers were notoriously abusing their charge. In this region, 20 ICE officials barged into a Springfield home and forcibly removed its occupants, including a woman in the shower.

The immigration police had also raided a leather factory in New Bedford that produced equipment for U.S. troops in Iraq, leaving the children of 400 workers unattended and creating what an outraged Patrick aptly called a “humanitarian crisis.”

Sen. Edward Kennedy saw the federally-induced mayhem up close.

“In my 45 years of public life,” he said, “this was one of the most heartbreaking scenes I have ever witnessed. Babies were screaming for their mothers. Wives were desperately searching for information about their husbands.”

His introduction to the ultimately defeated 2007 immigration reform bill recognized that undocumented immigrants do not disrespect the law for the ha-has of it. They stand against dying of poverty.

“They are men and women of dignity. They work hard every day. They care for their families,” he said, ever unabashedly passionate.

Obama’s and Patrick’s commitment to social justice is real. Their challenge is to show lawmakers the right way to continue to build the country founded on a sacred set of values.

Otherwise, Chacón’s report will be doomed to the dusty storerooms where so many fabulous PowerPoint Presentations end up.

Natalia Muñoz is editor of La Prensa of Western Massachusetts

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Save or Create 3 Million Jobs

President Barack Obama has pledged repeatedly that the $800 billion stimulus bill he is about to sign will either “save or create” 4 million jobs.

What does that mean exactly? Will 3 million jobs be saved and 1 million created? Will 500,000 be saved and 3.5 created? At last, we have clarity:

“The report confirms that our plan will likely save or create 3 to 4 million jobs,” Obama says in his weekly radio and YouTube address. “Ninety percent of these jobs will be created in the private sector. The remaining 10 percent are mainly public sector jobs we save, like the teachers, police officers, firefighters and others who provide vital services in our communities.”

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

It’s the Economy, Stupid

I just hope that the $800 billion stimulus package jumpstarts the economy long before 2010. If people don’t have health insurance, jobs, homes or enough to eat, that could trigger a situation close to the French Revolution.

This time, as with that time,  people will not be assuaged by the privileged swatting away the concerns of the masses. Companies such as  CitiGroup, AIG and Goldman Sachs, among all the others that benefit from people’s late payments on mortgages and credit cards with untenably high interest rates, don’t deserve the break they are getting.

If relief is not at hand, something else will be: a deep and dangerous sense of discontent.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Rance O'Quinn's Turn to Rest His Feet

He’s 71 now and his legs can’t carry him anywhere near the long distances he regularly marched for civil rights in his younger days.
For this presidential inauguration, Rance O’Quinn sat down and watched on television the embodiment of one of the Civil Rights Movement’s highest goals take the oath of office.
It’s been a long walk to Jan. 20, 2009, for the man born and raised in Centreville, Mississippi, a small town near the Louisiana border, a man whose father was shot in the back of the head on Aug. 14, 1959, for educating other black Americans on their rights.
Rance O’Quinn became president of the Springfield branch of the NAACP; a director of investigations for the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination; worked at the U.S. Department of Education Office of Civil Rights and as supervisor of investigations and acting area office director for the U.S. Equal Opportunity Employment Commission in Boston.
There are names and dates, births, deaths and killings, the blessings of his family, paid and unpaid work to create a more perfect union, what he lost along the way and now, Barack Obama.
He has simple advice for the new president: “Steady as you go.”
The footprints leading to the beginnings of the Civil Rights Movement are many and O’Quinn’s are there, steady as he went.
The quiet courage of a seamstress, Rosa Parks, who refused to sit at the back of the bus in Montgomery, Alabama, on Dec. 1, 1955; the heinous crimes committed by two white men against 15-year-old Emmett Till, just a few months before, on Aug. 28, 1955, in Money, Mississippi, for whistling at a white girl. O’Quinn was a junior in high school when he heard of Till’s torture and beating death and was awakened to the long road ahead.
In an interview at his Springfield home, where two of his infant granddaughters vied for his constant and gentle attention, he recalled how hopeful he was when in 1954 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Brown vs. the Board of Education that schools could not be divided by color.
He thought change was coming for sure, and it would be fast.
But as he learned painfully over the years, and acutely when his own father, Samuel O’Quinn, was gunned down at his doorstep, change is the result of many steps, many votes, many years.
Just last year, then-President George W. Bush signed into law the Emmett Till Unresolved Civil Rights Crime Act, which reopens the investigations of civil rights murders in Mississippi.
The case of Samuel O’Quinn’s killing is among those that is under consideration for review.
Through the decades since his youth, Rance O’Quinn has worked to eradicate institutional racism. While Obama’s election is a sign of progress, the march doesn’t show an end in sight for human rights for all, he said.
“Everything has changed,” he said, “but everything has stayed the same.”
Still, when he and his wife of Shirley went to vote, he felt history in the pulse in his fingertips, the pounding of his heart, a tap on his shoulders.
As he stood in the voting booth and connected the broken arrow next to Obama’s name, he had a quiet moment of remembering his father.
“This is something my father had always wanted to do: to vote,” he said. “Even though I was the only one voting, it was something my father was doing as well.”
By the day’s end, Obama pulled a 10-million popular vote advantage over McCain, 70 million to 60 million, and 365 electoral votes of the needed 270 to win the presidency.
“It was a crying moment,” O’Quinn said.
For all practical purposes, Obama has been presidential, if not president, since his victory. Every day he has held press conferences to introduce his selections for Cabinet and other positions, released photos, or used public speeches to signal to Congress what he wants to get done.
“He’s got kitchen-table sense,” O’Quinn said.
He wishes he could have walked the mile-long National Mall in Washington, D.C., to witness the achievement of a nation that rose to its feet after centuries of deferring the dreams of millions of blacks.
In a first-person story published in 2004 in The Republican, O’Quinn’s daughter, Bea O’Quinn Dewberry, a journalist, wrote about the family’s summer trips from Massachusetts to Mississippi to visit her grandmother Ida. It was a 1,400-mile drive and the family slept and ate in the car as they traveled through the South.
“I thought sleeping and eating in the car was just part of the fun - sort of a camping trip on the road,” she wrote. “I learned later in life avoiding stops on the road was intentional.”
The ghosts of Samuel O’Quinn, young Emmett, of many others who were hung, beaten and shot, serve as guides.
O’Quinn and those who walked with him carried this country to this historic moment and by rights, they all should have had front-row seats at Obama’s inauguration.
But it was one trip too far. So as I stood at the inauguration, I kept thinking: Mr. O’Quinn, yes, please sit down, rest your aching feet. Millions of others are walking now.
Natalia Muñoz is editor of La Prensa of Western Massachusetts (