Saturday, June 23, 2007


Ever notice how every time there is news about, say, more than 5 American soldiers being killed in Iraq in, say, 24 to 48 hour periods of time, "the military" (as this msnbc story quotes without being more specific and as if anything from the Pentagon or commanders in the field should be believed) immediately follows this bad news with claims that they captured or killed al-Qaida militants? Their propoganda office must be working overtime.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Borders as Big Scary Business: USA and Mexico, Israel and Palestine

Naomi Klein presents frightening and well-researched information about Israel's economic success as a leader and innovator of "disaster capitalism" in this article published on common dreams: Gaza: Not Just a Prison, a Laboratory.

Klein writes about Thomas Friedman's ridiculous theories and the way Israel has prospered in recent years selling Homeland Security technology to the West. She then talks about how many of the Israeli innovators will be showing off their gadgets at the Paris Air Show this month, and in doing so she demonstrates a connection between the militarized border of an illegally expanding Israel with Palestine (image right) and the border of the USA with Mexico (image left):

"Another star of the Paris Air Show will be Israeli defense giant Elbit, which plans to showcase its Hermes 450 and 900 unmanned air vehicles. As recently as May, according to press reports, Israel used the drones on bombing missions in Gaza. Once tested in the territories, they are exported abroad: the Hermes has already been used at the Arizona-Mexico border; Cogito1002 terminals are being auditioned at an unnamed US airport; and Elbit, one of the companies behind Israel’s 'security barrier,' has partnered with Boeing to construct the Department of Homeland Security’s $2.5 billion 'virtual' border fence around the United States."

Fear and racism is big, scary business.

Friday, June 15, 2007

The Pentagon Supports the Senate Immigration Bill, So Why Should We?

"A senior defense official expressed hope today that a provision in the stalled immigration bill that would have allowed some undocumented aliens to join the military won’t fall off the radar screen," according to this article from American Forces Press Service.

"Certain non-citizens have been eligible to enlist in the military since the Revolutionary War. Today, about 35,000 non-citizens serve in the military, and about 8,000 permanent resident aliens enlist every year, said Marine Maj. Stuart Upton, a Pentagon spokesman."

For all those progressives who are confused about where they stand on the immigration bill because they keep hearing that the most reactionary Republicans and independents are strongly opposed to the bill, this should be another red flag: the Pentagon wants the bill to pass. Add that to the other red flags: Bush wants the bill to pass - a president who has never supported any major proposal that was good for the average American; a handful of elite, pro-big-business Democrats want the bill to pass; organizations like LULAC and the NLG want the bill to fail; the AFL-CIO opposes the bill; etc. etc.

Of course the reactionary, xenophobic, anti-immigrant crowd opposes the bill. They won't be happy with anything that doesn't round up millions of immigrants and deport them to the other side of a 10 foot thick wall with snipers posted every 15 feet. They lost their Sensenbrenner bill last year, but they aren't going to keep quiet. Still they are a minority (admittedly a vocal and powerful minority with right-wing radio, cable news pundits and a few Republicans in Congress on their side). But the rest of us, particularly pro-immigrant activists, shouldn't feel like our starting point has to be a compromise with these bigots.

As a matter of principle, progressives should oppose this bill and clearly state their reasons to counter the radical right. A strong principled stand for amnesty that doesn't obsess over the details of Senate amendments or the latest Fox/CNN/MSNBC talking points can only pull the debate in our direction and further undermine the nativist movement.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Immigration Bill Fallout

Was the Senate compromise bill on immigration really a struggle between the reactionary anti-immigration "hardliners" and the more moderate, bipartisan, "pragmatic" center? That is how Joshua Holland seems to paint the picture at Indeed judging from the angry mobs attacking Latino bystanders in Hazleton Pennsylvania, perhaps he has a point. But David Bacon has, I think, a better analysis on called Who Killed the Immigration Bill, and Who Wants It to Come Back?:

"Meanwhile, legalization proposals in the same tradeoff bills were presented as the payoff for immigrant communities. Yet, many of the legalization schemes threatened to disqualify immigrants guilty of document fraud. ICE now says this includes anyone who's given a false SS number to get a job, something almost all undocumented workers have done. Other proposals would have imposed employment requirements, imposed high fines difficult for most working families to pay, and required people to take an undetermined amount of time off work to return to their home countries to apply for readmittance, with no guarantee they could pass a host of bureaucratic checks. Most proposals would have had people wait at least a decade before they could get a green card for permanent legal residence (not citizenship). Legalization programs wouldn't even take effect until the US gained 'operational control' of the border, leaving the door open for years of increased enforcement with no change at all in the status of the undocumented ...

The beltway lobbying strategy started by asking what employers and a Republican administration would be willing to accept. Groups like the [National Day Labor Organizing Network (NDLON)], however, proposed building a popular movement to change the political terrain in Washington, like the civil rights movement of the 1960s. Responding to lobbyists who called the Senate bill the only chance to reform immigration law for years, NDLON said 'We know the struggle for justice and immigration reform requires a long view of history, and we will not be pressured into accepting an insufficient compromise simply for sake of political expediency. We owe it to this and future generations to pass a bill that we can all be proud of.'"

Friday, June 08, 2007

The Bill is Buried

Maybe not, but the Senate compromise bill on immigration is at least on its death bed. Either way I think this is a positive development, though not necessarily something to celebrate. We will have to wait and see what happens next - to some extent in Washington, but to a greater extent on the street. We have to continue to fight for real amnesty and change the terms of the debate, the way millions marching on May 1st did in 2006.

One news story described the bill's failure as a "failure of leadership": "Public opinion suggests an electorate open to, but by no means wildly enthusiastic about, comprehensive change that provides the 12 million illegal immigrants a path to citizenship, but only if there is an effective border security plan in place," wrote the Washington Post's Dan Balz. "Republicans are clearly divided, but perhaps not as the heated rhetoric of the campaign trail suggests. The most recent Washington Post-ABC News poll found that, on the question of a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants, the public narrowly approves: 52 percent to 44 percent. Democrats back such a plan 57 percent to 38 percent and independents 51 to 45 percent. Republicans are opposed, 53 to 43 percent -- significant but not overwhelming."

My problem with this story is that it identifies the dividing issue on this bill as the "path to citizenship" - some people support it while others do not. It looks at the polls and implies that Republicans have the big hurdle of convincing their people (a majority of whom are opposed to providing a path to citizenship). However, that presumes that the bill offered a realistic path, or even the one that most people polled envisioned. It did not. The people pushing this presumption were the most reactionary on the right (as opposed to say big business), who declared without shame that this bill was "amnesty" and longed for the defeated Sensenbrenner legislation of 2006. Most of their counterparts on the left saw the bill for what it was - a bill created to help big business, that then moved into the realm of Washington politics, opening itself up to the racism and bigotry of the right-wing Republicans in Congress and their friends at Fox and CNN (while Democrats sat on their hands, joined the right-wingers, or tried to keep pro-immigrant activists quiet).

This just proves how easily swayed both Republicans, Democrats, and the corporate media are by the right-wing, and how hard it is to move them from an equally large (if not larger) left-wing. This story didn't mention the CBS/NYTimes poll last month that found (according to the NYTimes), "A plurality of 48 percent in the poll favored imposing some controls on immigration. But large minorities on either side disagreed, with a quarter of respondents saying the United States should open its borders to all immigrants and a quarter saying that the borders should be completely closed. These polarized positions may help explain the bitterness of the immigration debate across the nation." True, but who knew a quarter of Americans want the borders open to all immigrants. Who in Congress represents that 1 in 4? What political pundit has expressed that view?

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Bury the Bill

P6020068.JPGThe immigration "compromise" bill that is. This was the message delivered directly to the multi-million dollar mansion of Senator Dianne Feinstein this foggy, cold Saturday morning in San Francisco. To the surprise of the immigrant rights activists who showed up, Feinstein herself came out to meet them. Originally her husband came out saying Dianne was still sleeping. But the assembled activists wanted to send their message directly to the Senator, and eventually (to her credit) she did come out.

But her message was unyielding. She insisted the activists on her doorstep must not understand the bill or have the wrong facts. This bill does provide a path to citizenship and the raids will stop as soon as the bill is law, she insisted. She reminded us that she represented all of California, not just San Francisco, and that most of her letters and calls about the bill have been from the "right wing."

Fine Senator - this Saturday you are hearing from the left wing then. We don't always send letters; sometimes we just show up at your door. And we aren't as ignorant as the right-wingers.

We know that the "path" to citizenship is more like a steep trail, full of land mines, brick walls, and other obstacles and hazards. Assuming all the conditions are met - including further militarization and fortification of the border - and you have a completely clean record and several thousand dollars; and assuming you can return to your home country and wait for months if not years; you may be granted citizenship. Meanwhile more detention center will be built (your welcome again Halliburton), more fence, censors, cameras, etc. will be added to our border, and more border patrol agents will be hired. Meanwhile a guest worker program will bring in just enough workers to satisfy corporate America - but those folks can't really stay. We just need them to come, work, help build this country and our economy, and then we want them to leave.

And there is NO guarantee that the raids will stop. The vast majority of immigrants without documentation will not utilize the new process because they won't be able to afford it and will probably be unwilling to do it (it is ridiculous after all). So Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers can still go after these folks, and since the new bill increases employer sanctions - they will still have plenty of workplaces to raid.

Senator Feinstein said it was hard for her to believe that anyone could describe living in San Francisco as living in a "police state." Certainly not in her Pac Heights paradise, but the immigration raids have gone on all over the Bay Area. As she returned to her mansion, you could see some of her hired help inside. It would be so much easier to keep her place clean if she could just get that Z Visa thing passed.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Alberto Gonzales = Huge Disaster

At least that's what I told the Washington Post: "My sense is there is more cynicism about both these organizations, particularly among activists," [Villarreal] said. "My sense is that it's been a huge disaster having him there, for many reasons."

The article was about how many "Hispanic" groups are reconsidering their support for Alberto Gonzales - particularly LULAC and the National Council of La Raza (NCLR) who supported him vigorously throughout his nomination process. These organizations now say their support was a mistake or that he simply hasn't done the job they had hoped he would. However, these groups still refuse to admit that he was a disaster well before he was ever attorney general or even nominated.

Back in 2004 I wrote: "[Gonzales'] legal leadership has either directly or indirectly led to the torture scandal at Abu Ghraib, the illegal detentions at Guantanamo Bay, and the worst abuses of the Patriot Act. He authored a memo that could have come out of a decades old fascist regime, arguing that the President may authorize torture under certain circumstances, up to and including the death of the victim. His older opinions for then Governor George W. Bush allowed for executions of a number of inmates in Texas who had not received due process, where there was evidence of innocence, and, in at least one case, where the inmate was mentally retarded. The victims of these policies have disproportionately been people of color, and people with few resources."

Give a guy like that more power and it shouldn't be a surprise that he'd use that power as maliciously and irresponsibly as Gonzales has.