Archive for August, 2008
If you have a moment and want to hear some stuff I’ve not written about, but am soon to release, check out this podcast of a panel organized by the Nation and the Progressive Democrats of America. The Nation’s John Nicols did a stellar job of asking the pointed political questions that allowed Bob Moser and I to tease out further that which remains largely unspoken within the confines of the DNC Matrix. If I do say so myself, we did a rather smashing job of moving the lens towards the wider angle of national and geopolitical interests and structures that are holding the strings behind the curtain of the DNC and party politics generally; You know the folks who are ringing in the era of corporate sovereignty and blaming migrants, “criminals” and anyone else for the dangerous decadence. Hope you like it!:
DENVER, Colo. – On the eve of the official nomination of presidential candidate Barack Obama, the son of an immigrant, some of the leading voices shaping the Democratic Party’s immigration reform platform reveal a mix of reserved optimism and pragmatism.
While the Blue Dog Democrats – a group of 47 moderate and conservative Democratic Party members of the United States House of Representatives – support a position on immigration that bears more than a passing resemblance to the “enforcement only” approach of many Republicans, other Democrats support a combination of legalization and major reforms as alternatives to the raids and detentions that defined the Bush era of immigration.
In between these two positions are a significant number of Democrats and their supporters, who want to focus primarily on legalization without including any significant changes to the policies that enable raids and massive detention like this week’s raid in Mississippi.
Outside of the Pepsi Convention Center are hundreds of immigrant rights groups planning a major mobilization this Thursday – the day of Obama’s acceptance speech. They will protest what they believe is the unwillingness of Democrats and their Washington-based immigrant rights allies to seriously support what the press release of the March 25th Coalition calls “human legalization and a moratorium on raids and deportations.”
As she anxiously awaits the end of Bush era, Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), Chair of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship, Refugees, Border Security, and International Law, says she sees real change on the immigration horizon. “I’m confident that with an Obama presidency we will have comprehensive immigration reform in the first term – but it’s not going to be easy.”
Lofgren, a former immigration attorney, and other panelists speaking at one of the few events on immigration among the hundreds at the convention, were cautiously optimistic. But they also expressed a number of different interpretations of what the types of policies define “comprehensive immigration reform.
Though he, too, decries the raids, detention and deportation cited by Lofgren and others as the “least humane part of the broken immigration system,” Simon Rosenberg, President and Founder of the New Democrat Network (NDN), which sponsored the panel, is not optimistic that these issues will be included in whatever reform package gets introduced next.
“Although desirable, I think it would be difficult to include fixing the detention and (immigration) judicial system in comprehensive immigration reform, because it really wasn’t a critical part of what came about last time,” said Rosenberg. “It doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t get done. I’m just not sure if that’s the best vehicle for it. If the goal is to include these issues in comprehensive immigration reform, then we have lots of work to do to make them front and center in this debate.”
Frank Sharry, executive director of America’s Voice, a Washington-based immigration reform group, admitted that he and other supporters of the McCain-Kennedy legislation failed because they “made concessions” on detention, enforcement and other issues in order to woo Republicans, who, Sharry said, “failed to bring any votes.”
“We knew the Senate bill was deeply flawed, but we believed the legalization component for the 12 million immigrants was decent, and the family reunification provisions could be fixed before the final passage,” Sharry said.
Sharry also stated that he and others were “hopeful” they could change some of the more than 700 pages of enforcement language in the McCain-Kennedy legislation.
For his part, Congressman Raul M. Grijalva, whose district in McCain’s home state of Arizona was referred to during hallway talk at the DNC as “ground zero” for the immigration reform debate, said he has been pushing for his colleagues to place a priority not just on legalization, but on detention and raids as well. “We can’t wait any more when it comes to demilitarizing and improving enforcement and detention,” Grijalva said, as he received word of the ICE raid in Mississippi. “It’s what I hear in my district all the time; all the time. And things have gotten better for us (Democrats) in the past five years. Our side has to get tougher. We can’t afford to be as muted this time.”
Today’s pre-Convention events here in Denver included a heavy dose of what has, since before 9-11, become a staple of coneventioneering: cops, paramilitaries and other displays of state power. I took the picture above while dining at Sam’s Diner downtown because it offers us a view into the cultural side of domestic militarism, how normal it is to sit within feet of several heavily-armed people in uniform.
I was especially taken at how the officer in the center of the picture looks like a little girl jumping out of her seat as the smiling waitress shows her a plate full of deserts. She might’ve jumped higher were it not for the weight of her thick revolver, her batons, her mace and other weapons she and others from among the thousands of police, secret service, FBI and other security agents attending the Convention wore. And though they weren’t wearing any of the ubiquitous red, white and blue plastic badges plastering chests all over this place, those wearing silver badges and paramilitary get-ups got VIP treatment as when those of us standing in line at Sam’s watched them cut in front of us on their way to eating cake.
Though the first of the many protests planned for the Convention were quite peaceful, news reports here in Denver seemed to neither notice the peace nor make a distinction between protesters and those posing serious threats of violence. In much the same way that the Convention is a scripted event, local Fox and non-Fox stations reported from the MSM’s default position of conflating protesters with terrorist and other threats, threats requiring such massive displays of policing power. This article by my friend Chip Berlet provides a nice historical and documentary context for how “government law enforcement, intelligence, and security agencies are planning to treat dissidents like potential terrorists because of a reliance on flawed research, hyperbolic assessments, and political bias.”
And, as the photo above makes clear, after a hard days work of bashing skulls and pushing people in the name of protecting us from those who would threaten the democracy taking place inside the fortressed Pepsi Convention Center, the cops also got to have their cake and eat it too.
In another telling truism about how ‘demography is destiny”, the Census Bureau recently released a report with a most radical implication: whites will be a ‘minority’ by 2042 or a full 8 years before most experts predicted. Coming from places like California, many of us have witnessed firsthand some of the white minority dynamics that will define the future United States Of América. Scholars like my friend David Hayes-Bautista, writers like Dale Maharidge, author of the ever-prescient “The Coming White Minority”, and people in Whiteness Studies programs have long analyzed the extreme fluidity of whiteness. Yet, the news from the Census is nothing less than astonishing in terms of its political, economic, and cultural implications.
Viewed from the perspective of such startling demographic developments, the current anti-migrant climate, a climate filled with fear and with tragedies like the recently reported death of Chinese immigrant Hui Lui Ng , reflect the workings of personal and institutional fear or what I call “White Fear” in this article. Though I do not have any direct insight into the workings of the mind of An Other, I imagine that news of the coming white minority status must inspire images like those depicted in this photo-parody by San Diego-based Chicano artists Richard Lou and Robert Sanchez formerly known as “Los Anthropolocos”:
While the idea of the coming white minority may inspire sardonic humor and premature triumphalism in some while also inspiring intense fear and extreme loathing in Others, we must move beyond these preliminary responses; We must understand and prepare for the implications of such profound shifts in the demographic order. Consider, for example, how no previous Euro-dominant empire has ever witnessed a situation in which a white majority became a minority. Add to this demographic cocktail other, unprecedented and simultaneous developments like the decline of U.S. hegemony and the fundamental reconfiguration of the global economic and political system, and current political issues like immigration became more easy to understand in all their complex intensity and insanity.
How the political and economic elites and the mainstream and other media begin introducing the issue of white minority status into the public discussion must be monitored as it will have definite and deep impacts on whether and how future race relations and racial conflict in the U.S. will evolve. Without a smart, balanced and balancing approach to this intensely personal and racially-charged topic, an approach that is severely lacking today (ie; we don’t even talk about whiteness as it relates to the crisis of immigration), we run the risk of opening up a Pandora’s Box of racial resentment and violence that will make the current immigration conflict look like a pizza party. Current talk of a “post-racial” United States is not just silly; In the age Of América, the Soon-to-Be Land of White Minorities, it’s dangerous.
Much, much more on this critically important development in future posts.
No stranger to deploying totalitarian-lite methods before a severe economic and political crisis, Italia became but the most recent country to militarize its streets under cover of what has rapidly become one of the most fascionable excuses for militarism: immigrants. This article in today’s New York Times (NYT) should be considered a free advertisement for the cottage industry that’s bringing us police states all across this crisis-ridden globe.
Rather than view immigrants as a human expression of the dire crisis the global elites have created, the NYT and other media have instead opted to uncritically accept the elite solution for the problem elite neoliberalism created: militarismo. Though such cowardice and crisis-ridden states like Berlusconi’s Italy are not new, the intensity of the worldwide focus on immigrants as a threat requiring military solutions is pretty unprecedented. The degree of global political alignment between government, economic and media elites reflected in the Times piece also causes one to pause for a second look.
Those of you interested in exploring this migrant-militarization trend, especially its U.S. variant, further might want to check out this analytical piece I wrote for Political Research Associates, a Boston think-tank.
Please be charitable as you watch this clip from the very exciting show I’ve been asked to be a part of, Meet the Bloggers. Despite lighting that makes me look like a Miami Drug dealer wearing dapper summer duds, the clip does capture some of the alternative thinking you’ll find on this important new show from the folks at Brave New Films.