Monday, November 29, 2004

Web Exposure

I have yet to receive any negative feedback about this piece on Gonzales I had published on a few progressive websites. I'm hoping it will spark some debate within the Latino community.

“The Gonzales Debate: Identity Politics Meets the Right Wing” is available on Common Dreams, Truthout, and ZNet.

Saturday, November 27, 2004


The following is a letter sent to National Lawyers Guild President Michael Avery from LULAC Executive Director Brent Wilkes. It is in response to a press release the Guild sent out opposing the nomination of Alberto Gonzales to the office of U.S. Attorney General. Some of my thoughts are below it:

Dear Mr. Avery:

The League of United Latin American Citizens, this nation's oldest andlargest Hispanic organization, finds your press release regarding Alberto Gonzales's nomination for Attorney General to be inaccurate, racist and offensive and we demand a public apology from your disingenuous group.

Alberto Gonzales is a moderate Republican attorney with an outstanding and extensive legal career; a history of taking moderate to progressive positions on contentious issues such as abortion, affirmative action, bilingual education, immigration, and civil rights; and a record of strong community involvement and accessibility to LULAC and other Hispanic community based organizations. LULAC has interviewed Gonzales on a number of occasions and we are well aware of his positions which clearly place him in the moderate wing of theRepublican Party. We certainly believe he is the strongest candidate for theAG position of those that were under consideration and will make a much better AG than John Ashcroft.

Your press release inaccurately characterized a memo that he wrote regarding the applicability of the Geneva Conventions to captured Al Queda and Taliban (but not Iraqi) fighters who were not part of the regular armed forces of a foreign government. Contrary to what you assert, Gonzales did not OK the use of torture and in fact, clearly stated in his memo that he believed that the principals of the Geneva Conventions regarding the humane treatment of prisoners should still apply to the Al Queda and Taliban prisoners even though he felt that the Geneva Conventions themselves did not. It should also be pointed out, that Al Queda and Taliban have never abided by the Geneva Conventions themselves.

However, what we find most offensive about your press release, other than its distortions of fact, is the following statement attributed to you: "The suggestion that has appeared in the media that Democrats may be afraid to oppose Gonzales because he is a Latino is offensive. If Gonzales were living in a Latin American country he would no doubt be a member of a repressive oligarchy."

First of all, the media is suggesting that Democrats aren't opposing Alberto Gonzales because they believe he is an outstanding moderate Republican attorney who rose from an impoverished migrant worker family with eight children to become one of our nation's top attorneys and they realize he is about as good as a Bush appointee gets. Democratic Senators have never given much consideration to promoting Latinos when they have the opportunity to make appointments themselves and they have never hesitated to oppose Latinos they felt were not qualified before so the idea that they would be afraid to oppose a Latino appointment now if they felt it was justified is ridiculous.

Second, what kind of civil rights organization (as your group purports to be) would state that the son of migrant farm workers would probably be a member of a repressive oligarchy if he were living in a Latin American country? This is an outrageous and repulsive statement that displays arrogance toward Latinos and toward Latin America that I find very troubling.

On your web site it states that the aims of the National Lawyers Guild are:-to eliminate racism; -to safeguard and strengthen the rights of workers, women, farmers and minority groups, upon whom the welfare of the entire nation depends; -to maintain and protect our civil rights and liberties in the face of persistent attacks upon them; -to use the law as an instrument for the protection of the people, rather than for their repression. Yet the same web site lists the following individuals as members of yourExecutive Committee:

[Here he lists the names of officers from the NLG's website. You can find them here.]

I only see one name out of 22 listed here that appears to be Hispanic. How do you expect to achieve your aims when you don't practice what you preach?

Your group clearly needs to get its own act together before it goes on the attack against the first Hispanic ever to be nominated for the position of Attorney General. In the meantime I suggest you issue a public apology to Alberto Gonzales to avoid further public embarrassment.

Brent A Wilkes
National Executive DirectorLeague of United Latin American Citizens
2000 L Street, NW, Suite 610Washington, DC 20036
(202) 833-6130
FAX (202) 365-0851

Where to begin? First I respect LULAC. They do some good work throughout the country, including taking a leadership role in Texas on the issue of criminal justice reform. But supporting a right-winger like Mr. Gonzales, simply because he is Latino, is disappointing to say the least.

Has Gonzales taken moderate stands in the past? A handful of facts have been presented, including an example where he voted in favor of the rights of a 17-year-old girl to have an abortion without the consent of her parents. Little, however, is known about his actual values, in part because he's been aiming for the U.S. Supreme Court for a few years now. However, he has made it clear through his memo on torture as White House counsel, that he stands with some of the most reactionary elements of the Bush team. He also has a history of protecting his wealthy, conservative bosses, particularly Mr. Bush, from public embarassment or worse. He hasn't come close to the progressive social statements made by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger or former NY Mayor Rudy Guiliani (hardly progressives, but not quite hardliners either), yet Wilkes argues that Gonzales is a moderate? This must be countered as another attempt to move the political dialogue in this country far to the right.

Wilkes also mentions access. In both the LULAC statement and the National Council of La Raza statement in support of Gonzales, they mention access and his willingness to meet with Latino organizations. Yes, Gonzales has clearly done a good job of lobbying these organizations for the Bush Team, but I'm very suspicious of organizations who sell their souls for a seat at the table of power.

The memo is only one piece of evidence against Gonzales. No matter how you try to spin it, he has clearly sought to protect the highest officials in the Bush administration against any consequences that might come from authorizing torture in the course of the war on terror. Yes, it is true that Al Qaeda and the Taliban have never followed the Geneva Convention, but certainly we want something better from our leaders than excusing their own conduct because the terrorists do it also.

Wilkes doesn't really explain why the statement from the press release about Gonzales being part of an oppressive oligarchy if he lived in a Latin American country is offensive. I'm open to the idea that this statement could be racist, but I havn't heard a decent argument yet. My interpretation is that it demonstrates that the Guild's analysis doesn't stop at race. If it did we would have to excuse the most evil and vicious policies, as long as a person of color was the source of those policies. A great example, particularly ideal when arguing against the appointment of a Latino to a U.S. executive post, is the fact that very oppressive regimes have existed in Latin American countries, run by some evil people of Latin American origin (e.g., Pinochet). Coincidentally, the U.S. government has often propped up those dictatorships, and the Bush family doesn't have clean hands on this issue. The quote from our press release seems to demonstrate that the Guild is an anti-racist organization, but the basis of our anti-racism is human rights, not identity politics.

So, he was the son of a farm worker. Why should that give him a free pass?

It's true that the Guild could work on recruiting more Latinos to our organization, but there are more of us than LULAC might know. Resorting to listing the names from our website is a weak attempt to peg us as a white, liberal organization. "Wilkes" doesn't seem like a Latino name to me, but I would have never criticized LULAC because of it. In a way the Guild is more multi-ethnic, multi-racial, and multi-cultural than LULAC. We have done a lot to support labor movements among Latinos and other people of color, we have built close relationships with Arab American, South Asian, and Muslim communities. At our convention this year we had rooms full of African Americans, Arab Americans, Palestinians, South Asians, Latinos, Muslims, Jews, and of course plenty of gringos. We could do better, and we will do better in the future, but we are not just another white, liberal organization.

I think LULAC (along with NCLR and other Latino mainstream organizations) need to apologise for embracing Gonzales along with all of his alarming views. It is a great tragedy, not a triumph, that the first Latino to hold such a high office would be this dangerous right-winger. I am insulted.

Monday, November 15, 2004


Talib Kweli's new CD is worth a spin. I recommend it over Mos Def's new disc, which at times is homophobic and generally uninspired. The Beautiful Struggle, however, is smart and makes me wanna dance, cry, and throw rocks at banks. Lyrics are always important to me. Here are some of his:

From Beautiful Struggle:

"Yo, I heard it's said the revolution won't be televised; But in the land of milk and honey there's a date you gotta sell it by; Otherwise it just expires and spoils; And these folks jump out the pot when the water too hot; Cuz the fire boils inside; You go to church to find you some religion; And all you hear is connivin' and gossip and contradiction and; You try to vote and participate in the government; And the muh'fuckin' Democrats is actin' like Republicans"

"You fight in the streets, start bleedin' 'til the blood is pourin'; In the gutter, mothers cry 'til the Lord be livin' by the sword and; All that folks want is safety, they goin' gun crazy; The same reason Reagan was playin' war games in the '80's; The same reason I've always rocked dog chains on my babies; The struggle is beautiful, I'm too strong for you to slave me"

From Around My Way:

"We be takin' gypsy cabs and chasin' 50 bags; They be laced with shitty swag and it really get me mad; The way we saluting flags, wrapping them around our heads; when niggaz ain't become American till 9/11; Feeling like you gotta sneak into heaven; When the reverend looking like a pimp and the pimp look like the reverend"

From Going Hard:

"people ask me how we wearing diamonds; when theres little kids in Sierra Leone losing arms for crying while they're mining; probably an orphan whos momma died of AIDS; he built a coffin working often but he never paid; forever slaving in the world thats forever cold; becoming the man of the house at 11 years old; this reality rap I get inside the mentality that; terrorize you like a cowardly act"

From We Got The Beat:

"yo these soldiers die in petroleum wars; think they fighting for the holiest cause; it don't matter if you muslim, hebrew, or you a christian; information is the newest religion, is a true way of living; ain't no rule to a supestition stop me with going through with my mission; come on man"

This last verse makes me think Talib is becoming a materialist; or maybe I'm reading too much into these lyrics. Anyway, I can't say I agree 100% with his message, but I respect his message. That's pretty rare.

So which cable news network is Colin Powell going to work for? Which AM radio station is John Ashcroft going to work for?

Thursday, November 11, 2004


From Indy Media in Los Angeles:

LOS ANGELES, November 9, 2004 - At 7:50 PM,

What were first reported to be tanks and now identified as Marine APCs showed up at an anti-war protest in front of the federal building in Westwood.

The APCs circled the block twice, the second time parking themselves in the street and directly in front of the area where most of the protesters were gathered.
Enraged, some of the people attempted to block the APCs, but police quickly cleared the street.
The people continued to protest the presence of the Marines, but after about ten minutes they drove off. It is still unclear as to why they were deployed to this location.

Check this out: Turn Your Back On Bush

Tuesday, November 09, 2004


From Indy Media:

US Attacks Falluja: Protest In SF Tuesday Night

Protest At Powell & Market Tuesday November 9th At 5 PM
11/08/2004: The US ground assault on Falluja has begun. Fallujah General Hospital has been occupied by U.S. soldiers; an unnamed American officer justified it by saying that doctors' and administrators' reports of civilian casualties during the last assault made the hospital a "center of propaganda." At least 200 Iraqi troops had deserted their posts in the American-led offensive. Marine commanders have warned the new offensive could bring the heaviest urban fighting for US forces since the Vietnam War. An influential Iraqi Muslim group has urged Iraqi security forces not to fight with US troops ...

Saturday, November 06, 2004


So there is some crazy logic coming from liberals these days. The Democrats have to find their religion? The Democrats have to reach out to the heartland? The Democrats have to appeal to rural America? NO! How about reaching out to the progressives, the Greens, the leftists? Of course not, they'd rather confuse their message further, trying to stand just to the left and just to the right of the fascists in the white house. I can already predict these Democrats' choice for a ticket in 2008: Joseph Lieberman and Colin Powell. These people need to get the hell out of the way.

Then there are the slightly more left-leaning liberals, like Katha Pollitt of The Nation. She wrote a column this month that should really just be a speech for her therapist. These are the sad folks who put all their hope in John Kerry and the electoral process, so now they are devestated and considering leaving the country. These people need some Zoloft and a beer, and then maybe they can try writing for major publications again.

Some of the best analysis is coming from Alexander Cockburn of Counterpunch. He's been writing some great stuff and revealing some interesting facts. For instance, he claims that "The youth vote (18 to 24) stayed the same as in 2000. The turnout among the 25 to 35 cohort was 4 per cent less than in 2000." This confirms one of my theories. Young people were not excited by Kerry because he offfered us nothing. It was mostly those age groups that took to the streets last year to oppose the war, but they faced two candidates promising to continue the war. For those in the younger bracket who may have a possible draft on their mind, there was no mainstream candidate with a plan to get out of Iraq and avoid such a possibility. For those in that age group facing skyrocketing tuition - again, why vote for either major candidate?

The Liberal Democrats didn't offer answers for these folks, and they have no good answers for defeating Republicans in four years. But I don't think they're going to disappear. So those of us on the left have to be ready, or else we will be dealing with this argument in 4 years: "Sure the Lieberman/Powell ticket isn't perfect, but at least they aren't as bad as DeLay/Rumsfeld."

Wednesday, November 03, 2004


One of the more interesting statistics I saw this morning: about 42% of Americans who voted yesterday reported attending church weekly or more than weekly! I think it was 16% who said more than weekly. I know there are people who go to church on Wednesday and Sunday, and the very rare person who goes almost every day, but I had no idea they were such a big voting block. As you might expect, those votes went mostly to Mr. Bush.