Archive for September, 2007


September 29, 2007


In another clear signal of the rise and effectiveness of a new political trend- one combining old school and new school groups and technologies- Jena 6 defendant Mychal Bell was released Thursday. Reports like this one from yesterday’s New York Times describe or imply how the massive movement in support of the Jena 6 led to the release of the Bell as well as to his being tried as a juvenile instead of as an adult as was orginally intended by the lead bad guy in the story, district attorney Reed Walters.

What’s especially interesting about the story is how it didn’t BECOME a story until local groups got important support from about 80-90 black bloggers like James Rucker at the Color of Change site. Prior to the involvement of the bloggers, the Jena 6 issue was ignored not just by the mainstream media, but also by the likes of the NAACP and other old school black civil rights organizations. But after local activists joined bloggers and then radio hosts, it became politically impossible for the larger, better-funded industrial age organizations to ignore the momentum of the blackroots and black netroots. Together, old school baby-boomer civil rights community and new school, 18-34 year olds organized petitions, raised hundreds of the thousands of dollars and a march that some estimated had more than 60,000 people.

Similar generational, organizational and technological dynamics were at work during last year’s immigrant rights marches. This fact did not escape black bloggers like Kari Carter who notes the impact of the great marchas on some in the black community:

“When the Latino community showed in force how they felt about immigration reform, it served to paint the picture of a people on the rise, politically active as well as economically powerful. These demonstrations and movements are needed. If communities of color let injustice go by, we run the risk of becoming voiceless and powerless.”

And like last year’s student “walkouts”, activists, community organizations, actors like Mos Def and others are calling for a national college student walkout this Monday Oct. 1 at noon central time. More to come about this. Walkout. Speak out. Tune out.


September 28, 2007

NEW YORK — “Why are you going to go listen to that idiot? That racist indio (Indian) can’t even talk during interviews,” snarled my blonde-haired, green eyed Cuban friend when I told him I’d be covering the visit of Bolivian President Evo Morales. He was clearly unhappy with the friendship between Morales and Fidel Castro. My friend was not alone.

Here in the North, the Bush administration regularly denies visas to indigenous, mestizo (mixed Spanish and Indian), and even white members of Morales’ cabinet. In the South, meanwhile, right-wing Peruvian novelist Mario Vargas Llosa recently published an article about Morales titled, “A New Racism Approaches the Region: Indians Against Whites.”

“To put the Latin American problem in racial terms as do some demagogues is senseless and irresponsible,” said Vargas Llosa.

Indian power ruffles feathers in the modern world.

The first time I saw Morales during his visit to New York for the United Nations General Assembly meeting this week, he was suited up as a midfielder in a soccer match on the Lower East Side. Though impressed by some of what I’d heard about the very smart reform agenda of the first indigenous head of state in Bolivia — a majority indigenous country — in 500 years, the journalist in me in was skeptical about political theater, even if it took the form of soccer, the only sport I really like.

Yet, even from a distance, he looked very much at ease, undistracted from his game despite the blaring cacharpaya (traditional Andean music) or the throngs of Bolivianos screaming “Evo!” at his slightest pass or shot. I asked Mathilde Lazcano, a Bolivian psychologist and social worker who has met Morales and who worked among indigenous populations for more than 20 years, why people were so effusive about Evo. “For most of our lives, the indigenas, the poor of our country could not express ourselves. I’m here because he (and) his movement brought to life my work,” she said, adding, “He’s the real thing.”

After the match, which his team won despite the presidente’s missing a penalty kick, he was whisked by his soccer-uniformed security crew through the crowd. He stopped for a moment and stood right near me. I studied his lanky frame, his straight hair and aquiline nose. Most striking were his intense, but warm brown eyes. He looked like a more genial version of the Geronimo pictures I grew up with. He looked “integro” or “integral” as some of my most respected Salvadoran revolutionary friends called those personifying the highest political — and personal — ideals. But my biggest surprise was when I saw how tall he was. Most Bolivianos I grew up with were short mestizos like the Chavez brothers who played on a soccer team my not-so-PC brothers in San Francisco’s Mission district named the “Conquistadores” or (Spanish) “Conquerors.” Like them, it was easier for me to identify with the Spanish and nationalist side of the mestizo equation than with the indigenous side.

The 5-foot-10-inch Evo came, it seems, to turn over the tortilla of our consciousness about Indians, race and power — and about our selves.

When I saw him on stage during a speech he gave the next day at the historic Great Hall of the Cooper Union, he started looking even taller. He nervously began by telling us that he was honored to stand at a podium where the likes of honest Abe Lincoln (another lanky president) have stood. But unlike Lincoln, he located himself in relation to not just the “intellectual and professional” and “western” tradition of power but also to the 2,000-year-old collective political tradition of the Aymara people he descended from. “For 500 years,” said Morales, “we have had patience.”

“It’s amazing how he’s able to weave and connect so many issues while connecting them back to his base,” said my friend, a highly respected former Latin American diplomat in the audience.

Evo Morales also said things Lincoln or any other U.S. president could or would never say, things like, “Capitalism is the worst enemy of humanity” or “We need to decolonize internally and externally.” I’ve never heard a head of state, certainly not inside the United States, interrogate and point out the cultural similarities between both rightists and leftists of the “West.”

Morales strikes a 180 degree difference from other indigenous South American heads of state. Peru’s Alejandro Toledo, the Stanford-trained Ph.D. and former president, championed U.S. free trade agreements and drug enforcement policies rejected by Morales. Strongly supported by the U.S. State Department and Vargas Llosa, Toledo ranked among the least popular presidents in Latin America, with 23 percent approval in polls taken by the respected Mitofsky International last year. The same polls ranked Morales among the most popular by margins of 81 percent.

It’s not just that he’s indigenous, but that he communicates honesty and centeredness, even on TV as he did during his smash-hit (raucous audience applause sounded like the fans at the soccer field in the Lower East Side) appearance on Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show.

By the time I met and spoke with him on the third and final day of my time tracking him, I, like the growing number of those nominating him for the Nobel Peace Prize, believed him when he looked at you and said things like, “We do not have a vengeful mentality” or “We must build a culture of life”; and I also understood why my white Cuban friend, the U.S. State Department, Vargas Llosa and a slew of others criticize Morales with such intensity: fear.

They fear him not only because he is indigenous, not only because he is a leftist in the presidential palace with a massive base of support across the entire insurgent continent; they fear him because his public and private persona, his gentle charisma and ethical approach forces them — and us — to look at the long history of violence and hate buried in our individual and collective subconscious, our top-down notions of political — and personal — modernity. He forces us all to look at the inner Conquistador — and the inner Indio.

We are ill-prepared to deal with someone who can say without blinking, “I think that indigenous people are the moral reserve of humanity.”

Though he uses state bureaucracy and other instruments of modernity, he also wields them with an unprecedented difference. He has, for example, established in Bolivia something like a Department of “Decolonization” designed to help those wanting to deal with the ravages of modernity.

As he crisscrosses, like a skilled soccer player, New York City between TV studios, skyscrapers, freeways, the 9-11 memorial and other symbols of New York life, I hope he leaves the blueprint for such a department for us to study and apply here.


September 27, 2007

This could be your next President laughing it up, up, up to Pennsylvania Avenue:


September 27, 2007


For up-to-date and informative reporting on the situation in Myanmar, go to the Irriwaddy News website, where I got this cartoon from.



September 26, 2007

This interview with Bolivian President Evo Morales on Jon Stewart inspires as much as it makes us laugh:

Besides Evo’s inducement to save the planet, my favorite part is when he says, “Please don’t consider me part of the axis of evil.”

Univision’s monopoly on these kinds of interviews by their sometimes right-leaning hosts appears to be crumbling. I tried to do my part too.


September 26, 2007


A picture is worth a hundred thousand silences………………

But words like these from monks to their community can be cool too:

“We monks will do this, please don’t join us. Don’t do anything violent. We will send loving kindness to them”

“We Have Great Patience”: Evo Morales Speaks of & to América

September 25, 2007

I had the privilege and honor of having breakfast with Bolivian President Evo Morales this morning. He met with a small group of journalists and discussed a number of issues including the Bolivian economy, US foreign policy (better known as intervencion), the need to extradite former Bolivian President Sanchez de Lozada so he can face genocide charges, indigenous rights and constitutional reform to name a few (more detailed report after his speech at the UN manana).

Most fascinating to me is the way in which, in word, deed and by his very breath, Evo distorts the “truths” of western domination; how he and the indigenous, labor and other movements he represents short circuit the legal, cultural, economic, religious white-mestizo matrix of colonization that is the history Of América. “We’ve been subjugated for 500 years” he told us in response to a question about the obstacles to his political and economic reform program put up by the US-backed “neoliberal” opposition, adding with a smile “We have great patience.”

To hear a head of state firmly, but gently discuss the “descolonización” of the political, economic and cultural systems of the his country and the entire hemisphere -including the “intellectual” and “professional” left- is to understand why the US is trying to put up walls between us and the insurgent continent Of América. But, as he and the indigenous people of the hemisphere and planet are teaching us to act before the walls of empire, “We Have Great Patience.”

Much more on this soon.


September 24, 2007

(Members of CPCC during 2007 Puerto Rican Day Parade in June)

Private First Class Jose Peralta stopped smiling. He looked straight into me and answered the unsettling question about war, “I would go to Iraq if they asked me.” His chubby companion, PFC Garcia, and his female companion, PFC Juarez, nodded soberly in agreement while their immigrant parents smiled politely. Their radiant brown hands and faces glowed against their starched straight white uniforms. But, instead of drawing the usual looks of admiration from onlookers, their regalia – shiny black shoes, tight white slacks and white hats and white shirts colored with shiny medals – drew stares of disgust on the Manhattan-bound D train. Riding from the working class immigrant part of Brooklyn near the Navy Yard to Union Square, the historic center of peace marches in Manhattan since the end of the Civil War, they didn’t seem to let the stares distract them. They are committed; they are proud members of the Coastal Patrol Cadet Corps (CPCC); they are ten years old.

PFC Peralta and his fellow cadets are but a few of the thousands of Latino children targeted for early indoctrination into the military by programs designed for the very young. The Coastal Patrol Cadet Corps website states clear goals: “Our activities are designed to build upstanding Americans, with physical and mental stamina, discipline and obedience. Instructions are given in numerous categories, including military discipline, leadership, infantry drill, rifle drill, seamanship, navigation, first-aid, communications, boat handling, drum, bugle and band instruments.”

I asked PFC Peralta if he knew anything about the Latino PBS “The War” controversy raging across the country. “No. I don’t know nothing about that,” said the bright-eyed son of immigrants from Puebla, Mexico. But he had, he told me, already made up his mind about the military: “I’m gonna be the Captain of a navy ship.”

I thought about that earlier encounter with PFC Peralta and his crew as I watched Ken Burns’ War documentary Sunday evening. The 14 and a half our epic was as much about the current and future PFC Peralta’s as it was about the septuagenarians and octogenarians featured in the film. The controversy around whether and how to include Latinos should matter to all as should the issues around artistic license.

One can only the imagine the agony Burns experienced as he was forced to correct his Latino oversight with scenes a reviewer at the New Yorker magazine said had a “tacked-on” feel to them. Placed at the very last ten minutes of the first episode, the East LA accents and bolero music of the Latino interviews do, in fact, make those characters and stories seem completely foreign to the small town USA stories at the heart of the first two hours and the entire epic.

More than the actual film, the controversy around the film will have done more to educate the country about the more than 500,000 Latinos who enlisted, fought or died during World War II. Premiering during a historical moment of unprecedented anti-immigrant, anti-Latino sentiment, The War’s “Oh-yeah,-Latinos-fought-too” feel will not inspire future PFC Peralta’s to enlist. Viewed from the perspective of peace activists, Burns’ jerky editing of Latinos into history (ie; even his Southwestern US-focused “The West” documentary included only 2 Latino characters out of a cast of 80) may actually be a good thing.

Those who depend on war and those who advocate peace know that future wars and the future of the US military itself depends on the decisions of young Latinos like Peralta. As Larry Korb, former Assistant Secretary of Defense for Manpower, Reserve Affairs, Installations and Logistics in the Reagan Administration Defense Department, once told me, “Latinos are very important to the national security of the United States,” adding that, “A decrease in Latino enlistment numbers would make things very difficult for the armed forces, because they are the fastest-growing [minority] group in the country and they have a very distinguished record of service in the military.” If he were Secretary of Defense, Korb, would “be very worried about the possibility of decreasing Latino numbers. I’d be thinking about how to make do with smaller numbers of troops or with further lowering standards for aptitude, age, education and other factors.”

Programs like PFC Peralta’s CPCC are part of an armada of programs and campaigns linked to or influenced by a Pentagon that needs 22 percent of the Armed Forces to check off “Hispanic” on enlistment forms if it is to meet recruitment and deployment goals by 2025. As if mounting a major offensive on a domestic adversary, the Pentagon is, unlike Burns, paying extremely close attention and spending millions to find out about the world of PFC Peralta: what he wears, where he hangs out, what kinds of groups he belongs to, what he reads, what he watches on TV, his grades, his dreams. Members of the Pentagon’s many and well-funded recruiting commands are a permanent feature of urban school systems; programs like the No Child Left Behind guarantee that schools give recruiters PFC Peralta’s home phone number, address and other information. Even popular children’s restaurant chain Chuck E. Cheese is doing its part to make sure PFC Peralta gets the martial message when he’s not at CPCC. Puppet shows at some restaurants include military music and Chuck E. Cheese television has broadcast images of Latinos and others in the Army giving food and supplies to children in Iraq.

Burns failed to fulfill promises to activists that he would “seamlessly” integrate the Latino portions of the film. But his failure will do little to inspire PFC Peralta and other Latino kids to enlist between now and 2025. Hopefully, documentarians of future US wars will lack Latino subjects because there will be fewer PFC Peralta’s to film.

Thank you, Ken Burns, for barely including us in your War.

‘Resident Evil: Extinction’ Flick Based on Racist Video Game Series

September 22, 2007

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Those gamers and moviegoers in the house may want to read this piece I just wrote for Alternet about the Resident Racism in some of the most popular video games, including the blockbuster Resident Evil series. More than a few gamers are pissed and have written me and Alternet because the article takes a racial lens to stuff many gamers apparently feel no discomfort about, stuff like Heart of Darkness motif in this Resident Evil 5 trailer promoting the follow-up to this weekend’s movie:

You may also have noted that one of the zombies in the trailer has a bullhorn, as if activists are also the object of gamers restorative violence. If you read the piece, check out the “comments” which are enlightening in terms of how passionate people are about these games -even if they’re racist.


September 22, 2007

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(Poster inviting veterans and community to anti-school segregation event in Taft, Texas)

As a critic of much what passes for news in the mainstream (MSM), I have to give credit where it’s due. This piece by the Washington Post’s David Montgomery is one of the best I’ve seen in the MSM. He tells well the story Chicano, Puerto Rican and other activists have, been telling for years about the racist realities WWII veterans came back to – and fought against. Take this quote for example:

“But the rhetoric flying over “The War” on PBS has obscured a richer story about the Latino experience in World War II, and the battlefield courage of those men is but the beginning chapter. In a sense, you can’t fully understand phenomena like C¿sar Ch¿vez, Chicano power, Latino civil rights activism, those big immigrant-rights marches of last year, Daddy Yankee and the recent Democratic presidential candidates’ debate in Spanish on Univision without a feel for World War II — and the bittersweet homecoming.

When have you ever heard mainstream media talking about this? Nunca. While Montgomery and the Post are to be lauded for doing something different, more credit goes to Maggie Rivas and the Defend the Honor folks who initiated and continue this critical work. Their work is an extension of the work started after WWII.

We are more than likely not going to get the editing we want from Burns. But, as the article makes clear, this is as much about the present and about how Latinos edited and continue editing the narrative of rights in this country as it is about war.


September 21, 2007


( Latino soldiers in Cebu , Phillipines during WWII)

Eighty-seven year-old Carlos Alvarez remembers his first experience of war, when he dodged the bullets of Japanese gunners and airplanes in the Philippine jungles during World War II. Now, 60-plus years later, he’s on the front lines of a media war pitting grassroots Latino groups against the multimillion-dollar guns of PBS, its corporate sponsors and legendary filmmaker, Ken Burns.

Since learning that “The War” initially excluded him and the more than 500,000 other Latinos who fought, were injured or died in World War II, Alvarez says he was “upset but not surprised” by what he calls “Mr. Burns negligence for omitting the Hispanic WW II experience.” Rather than fume about it, he and other friends in Brawley, CA collected money and took out a full page ad in their local newspaper. The former Private First Class, in the Army’s 7Th Cavalry’s Troop G, hopes that his campaign would “make people think and realize World War II was not fought and won solely by white males.”

Though “The War” now includes 28 minutes of footage of two Latino veterans, most major leaders of Latino organizations, members of the Congressional Hispanic Congress and a constellation of grassroots groups across the country remain dissatisfied. Different groups with different agendas have organized a number of activities to show dissatisfaction including protests, forums and possibly even boycotts of PBS and their corporate sponsors Anheuser Busch, General Motors and Bank of America.

Burns and PBS have, for the better part of the year, been embroiled in the “War” controversy since early March, when UT Austin scholar Maggie Rodriguez and several other Latino leaders discovered that the film excluded Latino vets. After an initial March 6th meeting between activists, PBS CEO Paula Kerger and advertising and public relations executive Lionel Sosa (a PBS board member and former chief Latino strategist to Ronald Reagan and Karl Rove), Rodriguez and several other Latino leaders organized the “Defend the Honor” (DTH) campaign. After initially agreeing to some of the demands of DTH, Burns – who was not in the initial meeting – held a separate meeting in May with two other Latino groups, the American GI Forum (AGIF) and the Hispanic Association on Corporate Responsibility (HACR) and eventually reached what HACR Chairman, Manuel Mirabal called “an understanding” about the film.

Since then, the national PBS office, which sent a press satement in lieu of the interview requested, has widely distributed that statement, which says, “the producers have shown portions of these stories to audiences at screening events, including one at annual conference of the American GI Forum, a national organization for Latino veterans; The reaction has been overwhelmingly positive.” Asked if any groups besides AGIF and HACR were part of their consultations with groups other than DTH, both the PBS national office and its local affiliates contacted did not name any.

Burns, PBS and their supporters are now on the offensive. In addition to making Latinos a visible part of their unprecedented $10 million marketing campaign for the film, they have also heavily promoted the deal struck with AGIF and HACR. The PBS local affiliate in Orange County said that “the vast majority of concerned groups and individuals have found the PBS response and additional materials produced for the series to be a good solution to the matter” while noting that “there are still a couple of fringe groups who refuse to be satisfied.” Burns went on the attack during a speech at the National Press Club, saying that no Latinos came forward when he put out the call for war stories in the four towns spotlighted in the film: Mobile, Ala., Luverne, Minn., Waterbury, Conn., and Sacramento, Calif. Burns also stated that no one came forward to provide him with databases and other archival material about Latinos for the film.

In response, DHS leaders point out that the filmmakers selected sites with miniscule Latino populations: Latinos in Luverne make up 1.56 percent of the population and 1.42 percent of Mobile. They also say that the little, if any (Rodriguez does not believe Burns did any) outreach to the 15 percent of Sacramento’s population that is Latino and Westbury’s 21.7 percent – took place only after the DHS campaign forced PBS and Burns to hire filmmaker Hector Galán in April. The interviews included in the film came from Los Angeles, which along with San Antonio, is home to the overwhelming majority of Latino WWII veterans.

As they prepare to launch rallies, protests, forums and other activities criticizing the film, Rodriguez and her colleagues say that PBS and Burns’s response is actually helping shape the Latino civil rights tradition that began when veterans returned to fight discrimination they found following WWII, a tradition that led to the establishment of most major Latino civil rights organizations. Says Rodriguez, “History tells us that whenever civil rights groups demand their rights, the inevitable response is that they are called “fringe” and “deviant.”

For his part, Alvarez also said he would continue to the fight for memory. “Even though we were treated as second class citizens (and worse) we served, fought, bled and died to free countries occupied by the enemy powers and to ensure this country remained free. Yet our contributions and sacrifices remain largely unknown or ignored by most of our fellow citizens. Perhaps my little statement will open a few eyes.”


September 20, 2007


( Copy of document showing that Dept. Homeland Security tracks the race of travelers)

Documents obtained by privacy watchdog, the Identity Project (IP), reveal that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) keeps detailed records documenting such things as the race, reading habits, associates and other airline passenger data. The documents came to light as part of a Privacy Act request by IP and is included in a report titled “Homeland Security’s Data Vacuum Cleaner in Action”.

This part of the document shows the how DHS’s once-secret Automated Targeting Project kept records of books read by a passenger:


And this part of another document reveals that they also monitor where travelers go even after deboarding and with whom:


For further information on the important work of John Gilmore and the Identity Project you can visit their website at

Happy travels!


September 19, 2007


This just in. A very thoughtful and balanced review of PBS’ upcoming “the War” documentary in the New Yorker Magazine seems to indicate that Ken Burns failed to adequately represent the more than 500,000 Latinos who fought, died or were injured during WWII. After describing the back and forth between PBS and Burns and several Latino activist groups and members of the Congressional Hispanic Congress, New Yorker reviewer Nancy Franklin, who got to preview the film, said

“Burns eventually added twenty-eight minutes to the film, which, however, do not add much; the scenes—the extra material throws a Native American veteran into the mix, as well as two Hispanics—feel tacked-on, because they are. Burns had originally said that reëditing the film “would be destructive, like trying to graft an arm onto your child.” It turns out that not reëditing the film was also like grafting an arm onto your child.”

In anticipation of already announced protests, potential boycotts and other actions by thousands of Latinos across the country in the next two weeks, Burns and PBS, which spent an unprecedented $10 million dollars to promote “the War”, and its affiliates have already started their own PR blitz to counter potential damage. KOCE, the Orange County, California PBS affiliate, for example issued a statement saying that “the vast majority of of concerned groups and individuals have found the PBS response and additional materials produced for the series to be a good solution to the matter” and added that “there are still a couple of fringe groups who refuse to be satisfied”. It’s also rumored that “War” sponsors Bank of America, Anheuser Busch and General Motors are also deploying big executives and other resources to try to mollify actions against the film- and themselves.

In response, Maggie Rivas, the UT Austin scholar who uncovered the PBS exclusion of Latinos and organized the “Defend the Honor”campaign said, “that they call the thousands upon thousands who are taking actions “fringe” shows how out-of-touch and desperate they are. History tells us that whenever civil rights groups demand their rights, the inevitable response is that they are called “fringe” and “deviant.”

Let’s watch, wait, see – and then act. Lots more to follow on this one.


September 19, 2007


In what appears to mark the beginning of a saffron-robed revolution, thousands of Buddhist monks have taken to the streets of Myanmar this week as discontent with the military junta – and increased fuel prices – grows rapidly.

The monks peaceful protests follow several violent attacks against the monks and other citizens opposed to fuel hikes and to the junta. According to Australia’s Daily Telegraph, “At least three monks were injured after security forces fired shots into the air and used bamboo sticks to disperse a crowd of 300 monks who were protesting against a massive hike in fuel prices”

In response, the monks temporarily locked members of the security forces inside a monastery.

As fuel prices increase, as housing prices plummet and as growing numbers of children here in the US enter the ranks of the medically uninsured, maybe some of us here should meditate and march against our own budget-and people–killing militarism.


September 18, 2007


An article in today’s Hoy Newspaper reports that most major US denominations are going to Latin America to find priests, seminarists and other church leaders that will “help them attend to the needs of the Hispanic faithful, whose numbers are constantly growing.”

These and other trends documented in studies like this Pew Study are clear indicators of nothing less than how Latinos are a defining force in what the study calls”the transformation of American religion.”

The question is: “Which América?”


September 18, 2007


(Racist pic of “Mexifornia” drivers license, a favorite of the anti-immigrant set)

Politicians and technologists of all stripes and in most countries are mining the global immigration crisis for opportunities to advance their agendas. This report in today’s BBC about a controversial new immigration proposal made by French President Nicolas Sarkozy is a case in point. According to the report, “… the legislation would demand the relatives take a DNA test to prove their applications were genuine.”

Sarkozy’s proposals are neither new nor solely a European innovation. Earlier this year, U.S. Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., and Maricopa County, Ariz., Sheriff Joe Arpaio, proposed taking DNA samples from undocumented federal detainees as a way to facilitate identifying and tracking potential terrorists. The ACLU and other critics of science and technology “solutions” view such proposals as a way of paving the path towards application of such technologies to the general populace. Shortly after 9-11, for example, Larry Ellison, head of software behemoth Oracle, offered to provide the government “free” (renewals and upgrades would cost billions) software for the creation of a national ID card. Some have even said that the National ID components of the recent immigration reform proposal are what actually killed it. REAL ID and other immigrant and technology proposals follow the same logic of using immigrants to advance political and business fortunes in the name of “combating terrorism”, “Homeland Security” and other now thoroughly normalized terms.

Time to fear what’s normal.


September 17, 2007


As she accepted her Best Actress trophy during last night’s Emmy Awards, Ugly Betty star, America Ferrara, said “I just wish that for everybody that they get to do what inspires them and inspires them to make a change in the world.”

And she’s been doing just that by taking projects like Ugly Betty, projects that make light and beautiful and funny the issue that’s helped turn this country into America, the ugly: immigration.

Unlike its rival comedy the Office, which includes immigrant characters who are ridiculed for their accents , nationality and other traits, Ugly Betty makes light of the immigrant without the denigrating the immigrant experience. Nominated for 11 Emmy’s, the show even includes a positive depiction of Betty’s undocumented immigrant father, Ignacio, whose plight is the subject of some of the series’ storytelling.

Bucking the anti-immigrant trend in pop culture (think gamers playing Resident Evil V blowing Mexican-accented zombies to smithereens), America the actress and Betty the Ugly beautify Ugly America, the country that took as its own the name of the beautiful continent that brought us Betty La Fea .



September 15, 2007


(Department of Defense poster celebrating Hispanic Heritage)

Hispanic Heritage Month celebrations began this week with a chorus of local, national and even other-worldly figures participating in some of the hundreds of inaugural events held across the country. The September 15th to October 15th celebrations began thanks to Democratic President Lyndon Johnson, who had originally called for “Hispanic Heritage Week” (Republican Ronald Reagan made it a month-long celebration).

While Johnson was signing into law the official celebration of Latinos in 1968, he also signed documents authorizing the FBI’s Counterintelligence Program or “COINTELPRO” to give another big government abrazo (embrace) to the growing chorus of dissident Latino voices. Cesar Chavez, student groups, the Brown Berets, the Young Lords and those who yelled “Viva!” during the “Walkout” in Los Angeles were but a few of those greeted by COINTELPRO during that first year of Hispanic Heritage. Viva!

Not to be outdone during this year’s celebration, Walmart, whose 154,000 Latino employees make it the country’s largest single private sector employer of Latinos, announced that it too would sing the praises of “Hispanics” by “incorporating Hispanic product features in categories such as food, home, toys, and health and beauty aids” (NEWSFLASH: PBS superstar and kiddy icon Dora the Explorer will not be shouting her usual “Viva”‘s at this year’s celebrations due to unhealthy levels of toxic chemicals she and Walmart contracted in Chinese factories). The global giant is also celebrating by continuing its efforts to guarantee that its Hispanic workers can proudly yell “Viva!” without the burden of labor rights. Viva!

For his part, former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales used the occasion to bid farewell while also celebrating our “founding ideals and our enduring values of faith, family, and freedom”. During a Hispanic Heritage celebration held at Bolling Air Force Base in the District of Colombia, Gonzales dazzled his captive audience of military personnel with stories of his motivations in the good fight, “….every time I see a glimmer of the evil man can do, I see the defenders of liberty, truth, and justice who stand ready to fight it.” The glimmer of Hispanic pride that hung over the military base was especially bright when Gonzales declared, “Over the past two and a half years, I have seen tyranny, dishonesty, corruption and depravity of types I never thought possible” And then, as if embodying the very spirit of (19)68 that inspired Johnson to raise up Hispanics, a choked up Gonzales added, “I have seen things I didn’t know man was incapable of.” Super VIVA! VIVA! VIVA!

And, in keeping with the theme of Hispanic goodness in the service of the nation, President Bush used his proclamation launching Hispanic Heritage to honor Hispanic military service, “In times of great consequence, they have answered the call to defend America as members of our Armed Forces.” Vivisimo!

Lastly, PBS and filmmaker Ken Burns will do their part in the celebrations by launching his epic “War” documentary in the middle of Hispanic Heritage month. Burns, whose hundreds of hours of American history in previous films contained few to no depictions of Latinos, decided to honor the more than 500,000 servicepeople of Hispanic descent who either served, died or were missing in action during WWII by dedicating a full 28 minutes of footage to them in his 15 hour film!

Viva Hispanic Pride! Viva Hispanic Amigos! Viva Hispanic Heritage!


September 12, 2007


Read the business pages and you’ll find with liquid clarity that we have indeed been immersed in the much-vaunted Pacific Rim Century for some time (actually forever if you forget the what they force-fed you in world history class). Whether its the recent recall of toxic Barbie Dream Houses made in China or the pressure on Steven Spielberg to relinquish his role as artistic advisor to Olympics sponsor China for its support of the Sudanese mass murderers in Darfur, its hard to ignore what happens around the Pacific any more.

In fact, here is where the Great Game of Geopolitics (not to be confused by Parker Brothers or Mattel products or Xbox games of global domination) will be defined; Here not in the Atlantic is where will be decided the fate Of América.

Consider this piece from the right wing, Moonie-owned Washington Times about the “increasing concern” in Washington about Venezuela’s Simon Bolivar satellite project which, the story tells us, will allow the Chavez Administration to “develop an integrated ground- and space-based air defense — presumably against the United States.”

While interesting to note the fantastical hypocrisy of the Bush Administration – the same guys who’ve spent billions building their own failed and unproven Star Wars satellite air defense system, more indicative of the hemispheric zeitgeist is that you can cut the word “China” from the article and paste “United States” as you wax nostalgic for US preeminence in 20th century, the “American Century.”

Further illustrating that everybody’s fortunes fall and rise with the ebb and flow of Pacific power, is the political-economy of pop-ups. Before I could even start reading the Washington Times story on their website, I was forced to watch two pop-ups, one chock-full of Pier One Imports products (some of which will also be joining Barbie and her lead-toxic Dream House on the dung heap of recalled merchandise) from sweatshops in Asia and the other promoting Intel microchips also produced there.

Whether or not we know or act on it, Pacific Rim dynamics determine with increasing intensity what we play with, who we play with and who will rule the world. So, embrace the Pacific Rimmer within.


September 11, 2007

As you ingest the flag-waving sobriety of the real and false tragedy (you decide which is which) of 9-11, try to remember what it used to be like to live in a society that wasn’t a perpetual psychological operation (psyops), a process by which which church, state, corporations, the Pentagon seamleessly and perpetually integrate subtle and not-so-subtle reminders that we are united in an apocalytpic war like the ones analyzed in this video by filmmaker Alfonso Cuaron & writer Naomi Klein:

While I appreciate the exploration of psyops and their relationship to trade and other “neoliberal” policies, I thought that it lacked the same critique of the domestic contours of empire severely lacking in Chomsky, Parenti and other, mostly white, definers and critics of the imperial. All to say, remember 9-11 by looking within too.