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Monday, July 19, 2010

For George Will, A Quick Lesson on Puerto Rico

From a column by George Will that ran in the Washington Post on July 19, 2010:

"Many Republicans suspect that congressional Democrats support statehood for the same reason they want to pretend that the District of Columbia is a state -- to get two more senators (and in Puerto Rico's case, perhaps six members of the House). Such Republicans mistakenly assume that the island's population of 4 million has the same Democratic disposition as the 4.2 million Puerto Ricans in the Bronx and elsewhere on the mainland.

(Gov. Luis) Fortuno disagrees, noting that while Republicans on the mainland were losing in 2008, he was elected in the island's biggest landslide in 44 years. The party he leads won more than two-thirds of the seats in both houses of the legislature and three-fifths of the mayoralties, including that of San Juan. Fortuno, who calls himself a "values candidate" and goes to Catholic services almost every day, says that Puerto Ricans are culturally conservative -- 78 percent are pro-life, 91 percent oppose same-sex marriage and 30 percent of the 85 percent who are Christian are evangelicals. A majority supports his agenda, which includes tax and spending cuts, trimming 16,000 from public payrolls to begin eliminating the deficit that was 45 percent of the size of the budget." 

Dear George,
* Your newspaper can't even get the ñ to work in Fortuño's name.

* Fortuño won by a large majority in the 2008 Puerto Rico elections because the other contender, Gov. Aníbal Acevedo Vilá, had been hounded by the federal government on trumped up corruptions charges that resulted in A) discrediting Acevedo -- not Vilá, as many Americans wrongly assume is his surname -- B) propelling Fortuño to a position that is creating chaos in Puerto Rico.

* Acevedo Vilá was cleared of the charges, but the damage to his credibility had been done. Surely you know how influential the United States is in positioning its favored people in positions of leadership (Kharzi in Afghanistan; Saddam Hussein in Iraq until W. hung him, Augusto Pinochet in Chile, Reagan's beloved Contras in Nicaragua, etc.)

* A majority do not support his agenda. If you were truly informed by reading translations from different media sources AND respected political analysts, who are nothing like the pundit circus we see on CNN, you would know this.

* A majority of Puerto Ricans do not want statehood as you noted. Frame the questions about what they value, and a majority will tell you that they want the schools to be well-staffed, the roads paved, the garbage picked up, they want meaningful and well-paid jobs, they want politicians from all parties (pro-commonwealth -- the current status that is akin to what Spain has with Catalonia, the Basque Country, Valencia, etc.; pro-independence and pro-statehood) to be clean.

The decade of the 1990s, when pro-statehood Gov. Pedro Rossello headed the most corrupt administration in Puerto Rico's 50-years democratic history, with more than 40 close aides from his administration in prison for stealing millions of dollars from the departments such as of health, education and housing, still sets the tone in current affairs.
The current Senate President, pro-statehooder Thomas Rivera Schatz, had blocked the media from recording public hearings. His lawyer, a former Senate president also from the pro-statehood party, Charlie Rodríguez, has taken the position that because the public hearings are transmitted via public access TV, there isn't a need for other media to be present.

* Just this week, on July 18, there was march against the government repression. You must know about Plaza de Mayo in Argentina, when hardly anyone in the U.S. general population knew about the Dirty War. In Puerto Rico, a similar and worrisome growth in intolerance by the government is taking place  that people fear could lead to political violence. Hardly covered by the pro-statehood owned media, however. But

* Re: " The United States acquired Puerto Rico 112 years ago in the testosterone spill called the Spanish-American ..." How could you show such disrespect to Puerto Ricans and American soldiers? It was a war in which Puerto Rico was robbed of  its newly-gained right for autonomy from Spain. In the 100+ years that have followed, we have been subjects of American policies crafted by congressmen who by and large know nothing about Puerto Rico, much less Puerto Ricans.

* Fortuño's belief that Puerto Ricans on the island are more conservative than Puerto Ricans in the United States holds truth. Those of us who have lived here know the U.S. much better than those on the island who believe in the Hollywood version of the United States. 

* If Puerto Rican in the United States could vote for any political status, independence would win. Ironic, isn't it? But then, maybe we should be grateful that we don't have independence just yet. Not while Fortuño continues policies that recall the 1990s. Not while there is a strong chance that we could end up with a Pinochet, who, as you must know, grabbed power from Latin America's shining example of democracy on Sept. 11,  1973.

In sum, George, you are usually the best-informed analyst at the table. But this time, your sources ambushed you and your reputation is cementing half-truths. Next time you want to know about Puerto Rico, talk to some of the Puerto Rican congresspeople in DC like Reps. Nydia Velázquez of New York, Luis Gutiérrez of Illinois and even the pro-statehood José Serrano. You'll see just how complicated this is. Thank you. 

Thursday, July 15, 2010

‘Immigrant’ List Sets Off Fears

"A list of 1,300 Utah residents described as illegal immigrants has sown fear among some Hispanics here, and prompted an investigation into its origins and dissemination." 

So begins a story in The New York Times about a Utah group named Concerned Citizens of the United States. The group compiled a list of names of people they suspect of being in the county without papers. Naturally, the list is filled with the names of Latinos.

My question is: Where are the political leaders banding together to condemn this hate  mongering?

President Barack Obama is pushing, FINALLY, for immigration reform. He caved into right-wing fear mongers, however, by talking up border safety as if the murders and rapes along the border were committed by people who are here without papers. He needs to educate the Fearful Minority that there's a difference between people without papers and people who are criminals. The federal government is right to go after criminals, the hardcore narco-traffickers, the murderers, the rapists, the abusers.

But to go after people who are working in misery so that their children can have opportunities denied to them as a result of US foreign policy that led to the need to emigrate here in the first place? That is criminal.

And so is allowing a group of neo-fascists gather names in the name of the United States. That's what Joseph McCarthy did in the 1950s, when he saw monstrous communists everywhere. National treasure John F. Kennedy never railed against McCarthy. Their friendship and mutual interest in power came first.  By the time McCarthy was done in by his own maddness -- he was censured by his fellow senators eventually and lost power -- many people had lost their jobs and their reputations.

This list on supposed immigrants without papers is echoes those terrifying Red Scare days. But they echo the eight years when George W. Bush was "president," when traditional media outlets failed to hold him accountable for the economic collapse, Katrina, two wars, 911.

The silence on this list from our political leaders is beyond disappointing. It is almost criminal.



Thursday, July 8, 2010

Women of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart respond to criticism of sexism

Jon Stewart is an exceptionally gracious host. He and his writers spotlight the incongruities, hypocrisy, blatant lies and "isms" within the GOP as much as the Democratic Party and across all the news programs, both left-leaning and those that are right-wing.

I watch his program almost every night and most times at the very least, I chuckle. But mostly, watching his show  I feel vindicated. I feel a big "yeah!" when he skewers the traditional media talking heads and shows politicians doing what some tend to do so well - provide their own slant on the truth.

This article that appeared in the Huffington Post about allegations of sexism at "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart" is a good start for a conversation for the Daily Show producers to have.

The truth is, the Daily Show targets young white men, rarely has women guests and its "correspondents" are in the vast majority white men. Just look at the commercials if you are in doubt.

To be clear, pointing out these facts is not a suggestion to get rid of the brilliant John Oliver or give the equally brilliant Samantha Bee more airtime. (From posts that are circulating regarding the issue of sexism at The Daily Show, most of the chit chatters appear to be 12 and very defensive - "the NFL is sexist," noted one most helpfully).

The Daily Show doesn't need to change a thing - it's extremely funny as is. Yet, the sexism charge applies. The women at the show issued a public letter in response to the original article, and they signed that the show is a great  place to work; they are respected, bla bla bla.

But if you look at the picture of the women, most are white, most are young and apparently most have nothing to do with the comedy and sketches that we see. In their defense letter, the women do not point out whether any of the women hold  management, producer, director or any other top level positions on the show.

Maybe just as unfortunate, The Daily Show, funny as it is, is a oxygen sucker. It takes the air out of the Civil Rights Movement, pro-choice movement and other progressive causes.

It does this inadvertently.

Just as with Bill Maher and "Realtime,"  and "The Colbert Report," the two other comedy shows with a political agenda, Jon Stewart gathers the storm people feel, shakes and rattles it, and delivers stunning comedic bits that provoke laughter -- but little, if any, action.

Comedy, it turns out, has replaced marching in DC.

This isn't the fault of any of comedians. They are doing their jobs, and exceptionally well.

It's not them; it's us.

But between the sexism on all the programs, where women's voices are rarely heard, and the racism, where  the voices of people of color are rarely spotlighted, these darlings of progressives are not that much different than the right-wingers.

The difference is, the jokes are intentional on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, The Colbert Report and Realtime with Bill Maher.

Otherwise, everything is as it ever was for most women, and most people of color. We are outside looking in.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: All Stories Are True

“Our lives, our cultures, are composed of many overlapping stories. Novelist Chimamanda Adichie tells the story of how she found her authentic cultural voice -- and warns that if we hear only a single story about another person or country, we risk a critical misunderstanding.”

“About Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Inspired by Nigerian history and tragedies all but forgotten by recent generations of westerners, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s novels and stories are jewels in the crown of diasporan literature”

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Obama stands down, Shakira steps up

Colombian megastar Shakira is looking to meet with Arizona officials to discuss the recently-passed immigration law that would, in essence, legalize profiling.

According to the HuffPo, "Shakira is deeply concerned about the impact of this law on hardworking Latino families," said Trevor Nielson, her political and philanthropic adviser. "She is coming to Arizona to try to learn more about how law enforcement is reacting to this new law and how we can ensure that people in the state of Arizona are not being targeted because of the color of their skin."

Shakira’s interest in the plight of immigrants throws a mega wattage on the issue that President Obama is already signaling that he will not take up, as he promised in his campaign.

In an interview with AP, Obama said, “We've gone though a very tough year and I've been working Congress very hard, so I know there may not be an appetite immediately to dive into another controversial issue.”

For now, civil rights groups and other organizations are standing by immigrants. Shakira’s stand may inspire others – maybe even Obama? – to stick to the plan: Fulfilling his own presidential campaign promise to institute real reform.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Go after Goldman Sachs and leave immigrants alone


This is from a press release sent by the federal ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) office on April 23, 2010, which shows how our tax dollars are used to spin stories of criminal immigrants as it were an epidemic rather than the exception, in a self-congratulatory press release.


SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – To protect the traveling public U.S. Customs and Border Protection Officers continually seek out individuals in possession of fraudulent or invalid documents used to deceive federal authorities, even as they attempt to board commercial air carriers.  This week, US Customs and Border Protection officers arrested various aliens from the Dominican Republic who attempted to elude detection. 

Read entire press release here.

In light of Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer   signing into a law further criminalization of immigrants, the wordplay used by ICE in this press release is intentionally crafted to spread fear about immigrants. It is deceitful, harmful and should not be allowed by Janet Napolitano, the Homeland Security secretary – and former governor of Arizona. 

The simplest response I have for this sort of fear-mongering by my government is:

Dear Migra/Federal Government,

Please protect us instead from predatory financial firms like Goldman Sachs, and "health insurance" firms like Wellpoint, who exist solely to make billions off the suffering of millions. Immigrants are, by and large, working here under conditions that are below what we as a nation profess to be about.

Friday, April 23, 2010

After the Earthquake in Haiti: Rampant Rape

In the aftermath of the earthquake in Haiti on Jan. 12, 2010, there was a groundswell of support across the United States to provide aid to the Caribbean country, founded in 1804 by enslaved people who broke free from the French colonialists. It is the only successful slave revolt in history, where the enslaved pushed out their oppressors.

But all these years after hundreds of thousands of courageous Haitian survived that brutal 12-year battle against the colonialists, brutality remains a palpable part of everyday life, especially for Haitian girls and women.

It wasn’t even until 2005 that rape was considered a crime in Haiti. The aftershocks of the earthquake that tumbled Port au Prince into a large pile of rubble and death continue in the form of mass rapes of girls and women.

So it is not enough to rebuild the country, to send money to reputable organizations, to send clothes, food and medicine. Those of us outside Haiti must also send a message that the only true way to help rebuild a country founded on freedom by its own liberators, is to insist that its girls and women be safe from predators.

That’s why I signed the petition to help make Haiti safer. Send money, send hope, send prayers, send the petition.

Click here to sign the petition. 

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Getting Closer to Immigration Reform

On March 21, thousands of people will march for immigration reform in Washington, D.C. It is past time for the government to treat undocumented immigrants with the same respect the counrty's revered "founding fathers" demanded from King George as they sought to create new opprotunities here.
Here, where there were already peoples across the land who were massacted in the name of life, liberty and pursuit of happiness. History is complicated; there are no easy summaries of how we got here. No Doris Day-Rock Hudson romances. No nationalist flag-waving answers.  But here we are now, and it's time that the law-abiding residents of the United States who do not have visas, get a fair crack at the dream. 
Most came here precisely as a result of oppressive U.S. foreign policy in their native countries. Yet, most harbor no rage at what was done to their families and other ancestors. They just want to live in peace, raise their families, and never know hunger or the rumble of militia footsteps coming around the bend again. 
Click here for more information on how to be part of the movement to build a more perfect union.