Archive for May, 2009

Sotomayor’s Confirmation Hearings Will Be a Trial-of the GOP

May 27, 2009

The Huffington Post

As she faces what is already expected to be a host of hostile questions from the Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee in her confirmation hearings, Judge Sonia Sotomayor, President Obama’s first nominee to the Supreme Court, should remember one thing: that it is not she who will be on trial, but the Republican Party.

Rather than allow herself to be put at the center of another racism and sexism-laden political circus around the qualifications of a candidate who brings more real-life prosecutorial and actual judicial experience than any other Supreme Court nominee in the last 100 years, Sotomayor should consider another strategy. She – and we – should instead view those hearings as nothing less than a trial to determine whether the GOP is ready to make restitution for its role in a number of judicial and political wrongdoings perpetrated in the Bush era. Those wrongdoings include unleashing unprecedented and dangerous political attacks on Latinos, and breaching the political and electoral contract the “new GOP” said it wanted with Latinos, one of the country’s most important voting blocs.

The Sotomayor hearings will determine whether members of the Republican Party are ready to renew fundamental principles of justice and the rule of law.

Consider the case of U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas. Cornyn supported the nomination of the last Latino to be considered for a high office dealing with matters of justice — disgraced former Attorney General and Republican Alberto Gonzales. Even after Gonzales’s role in crafting the now infamous “torture memos” became apparent, Cornyn raised none of the “red flags” and “lots of questions” he now says he has about Sotomayor.

During the Senate Judiciary hearings around the Gonzales nomination, Cornyn declared that the candidate would be vindicated by history: “The growing consensus behind the president’s decision that al Qaeda terrorists are morally entitled to humane treatment but not legally entitled to the special privileges afforded to prisoners of war under the Third Geneva Convention of 1949 provides compelling vindication to supporters of Judge Alberto R. Gonzales’ nomination to be our nation’s 80th attorney general.”

Even when Atty. Gen. Gonzales came under fire for his role in the firings of a group of United States attorneys in late 2006, Cornyn and other Republicans on the Senate Judiciary defended Gonzales as an “honorable and decent man” who “finds himself in a bad situation.”

Though Gonzales will likely turn into the invisible brown GOP man, or go on a long vacation during the Sotomayor confirmation, millions of Latinos will watch what for them is a historical event of the utmost political and intimate importance. Many of these Latinos will be watching to see any signs of the racism and xenophobia many Latinos blame the GOP for and voted overwhelmingly against in the last election. Latino voters will, for example, be vigilant about what GOP Senate Judiciary members like Jeff Sessions say before and during the hearings.

Earlier this month, reports linking Sessions, the ranking Republican on the committee, to anti-immigrant groups filled Spanish-language
media. According to the Washington-based America’s Voice, the Alabama senator has appeared at several events organized by the Center for
Immigration Studies (CIS), NumbersUSA, as well as the Federation for American Immigration Reform, which was designated by the Southern
Poverty Law Center and other organizations as a “hate group.”

Anything in this must-see Latino political event resembling the anti-immigrant rhetoric that has been Sessions’ trademark will cost his party for years to come. Such concerns about GOP leaders among Latinos, who are only beginning to realize their enormous political potential, pose a gigantic dilemma to a Republican Party that must make inroads among Latino voters if it is to have a political future.

Whatever they say in the hearings, Republicans will be at a great disadvantage when it comes time to counting votes in a Democrat-controlled Senate that will be at, or very close to, the filibuster-proof 60-vote majority needed to confirm Sotomayor.

So it will be the GOP and not Sotomayor that will be on trial in this high-stakes judicial confirmation of the post-Bush era of Republican dominance. Latinos will watch to see if GOP leaders will use the Sotomayor hearings to distance themselves from Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck and others many Latinos consider to be anti-immigrant extremists.

And we should all be watching to see if Republicans are prepared to use the Sotomayor confirmation as a way to communicate a willingness to redeem themselves for the great injustices of our recent past.

Time to Declare “Silence=Death” on Immigrant Death & Detention as Obama Signals Right On Reform?

May 8, 2009

silence-death

This post was inspired by a spirited and sometimes overly visceral discussion on a listserv. More specifically, we were discussing recent statements by President Obama, who made “get tough” statements about the border and immigration reform during a press conference according to the right wing Washington Times reports,. “If the American people don’t feel like you can secure the borders,” Mr. Obama said at his press conference last week, “then it’s hard to strike a deal that would get people out of the shadows and on a pathway to citizenship who are already here, because the attitude of the average American is going to be, ‘Well, you’re just going to have hundreds of thousands of more coming in each year.’

Republicans say the shift is a sign that Mr. Obama, who during the campaign repeatedly called the issue a priority, is uncertain how to move forward.”

Such a debate and discussion would seem to fall along the same lines as the debate and discussion around immigration reform in 2006-except for 1 thing: we’re no longer in those halcyon days before 2006, days when all we had to worry urgently about were 3500-4000 people dying in the desert of crimmigration-filled U.S. migration policies first crafted by smiling Democrat Bill Clinton; we’ve reached a deadly stage where hating and dying and killing of immigrants are getting institutionalized on a national and unprecedented scale (anybody remember those who said “this will die down when we elect a Democrat”?)

Support for punitive policies has become dangerous and must be interrogated in open debate so that our communities can decide what is best by having all the facts; Better that than what too often passes for “immigration news”: the carefully crafted messages of powerful right wing and liberal groups with big budgets and lots of media power-PR, bloggers, pollsters, multimillion dollar campaigns and the like. In the media age, political legitimacy depends as much on media power as it does on moral power. You be the judge of which power prevails around immigration.

Some folks are starting to think about how to stop Obama’s effort to sell us the same old enforcement wine in the “hope”-filled new bottles of his political stardom. Will report back soon on this.

Though there is and will be a much-welcome, but hardly sufficient change of tone along with a softening on some enforcement, some forget that Obama has said absolutely nothing about altering or dismantling the massive multibillion dollar legal, bureaucratic and economic structures propped up in the name of “defending the homeland” from maids, gardeners and construction workers. The “tradeoff” will likely be supported by Obama, Dems, some big important and rich unions, Big Business (Ag,service,etc) DC advocates and the big foundations and other economic interests that support them as the main voices around “immigration reform”.

Whether these powerful liberal interests are willing to go the same dangerous tradeoff McCain-Kennedy route will ultimately depend on the ability of out-of-the-Beltway groups (or at least those intrepid enough to confront even the big foundations that fund them) and individuals to make it difficult to impossible to support any more punitive immigration policies without paying a high moral and political price. Making it widely known that you either support a moratorium on punitive policies ( as opposed to that embarrassing scarecrow that screams “they want to open up all the prisons) as part of a new CIR or you don’t. That wide Washingtonian gap has to be closed if there’s to be any shift in the deadly direction rooted in the immigrant=criminal premise underlying both right wing policies and the punitive components of CIR.

Of course, centrist Democrat Obama never promised any of this in his campaign. so, he is actually doing much of what he said he’d do, including dipping into the same civilizationally diseased pool of punitive policies-Obama’s support for the wall, his complete silence on the death and devastation in jails-and streets- and the inability to use his leadership pulpit to draw attention to the plight of those most mangled by the banker-led economic crisis and the hatred it’s unleashed, immigrants- yeah.

Obama should be the first to speak out against all the killings and hate towards immigrants, bu he doesn’t. just that would do alot. Yes, he’s got alot of other priorities. But silence in the face of so much devastation rained on migrants right now is, quite frankly an abomination for an openly declared Christian who used the images of Martin Luther King in his campaign. Just can’t imagine MLK either remaining silent before such officially and unofficially manifest injustice; Don’t see a suited up Jesus cutting deals in DC with extremist, even fascistic Republicans in the name of legalizing the 12 million.

Not the moral universe I think of when I used to say “Si se. puede” (don’t generally use left language commandeered for sloganeering of the corporate or political party kind…that’s why I encourage saying the more accurate “Si Se Pedo” instead); The question “What would Jesus do?” really does provide a good filter thru which to weigh the actions of the powerful on issues dealing with those Jesus called the “meek.” DC crowd, including Obama, spends more time talking about bailing out bankers, “the middle class” and other interests beside the poorest among us. That’s why DC groups sponsored repeated polls that told us that “moral arguments don’t work with American voters.”

The line between Realpolitik and What’s Right can be seen in the sands of silence around detention, enforcement, deportation and the like. In a climate in which hatred has been normalized and hate violence against migrants is perpetrated with impunity, failure to say or do anything about such issues makes us complicit.

As we used to say in the fight against homophobia and AIDS, silence=death.

Climate of Hate Means Immigrant Rights Organizations Should Commit to Excluding Punitive Policies in Any Reform Proposal

May 5, 2009

This post was inspired by another post by my friend, Alisa Valdez, who uses the MSM’s coverage of the Markoff “Craig’sList Killer” case to draw our attention to how twisted -and dangerous-the values of the media ecology we inhabit have become. Reading Alisa’s tight analysis alongside reports of that the racist killers of immigrant Luis Ramirez were declared innocent (and of course, the daily bread of anti-immigrant, anti-Latino hate found on radios, TV’s and websites everywhere), triggered concerns made even clearer during a recent visit to Europe to cover the UN conference on racism. More specifically, Alisa’s piece provided me with the spark to say something I’ve been mulling for while: the dangerous even murderous anti-migrant climate requires that immigrant advocates commit not to support any “Comprehensive Immigration Reform” (CIR) proposal containing punitive immigration policies.

The piece below floats the seemingly uncontroversial idea of a petition asking immigrant rights orgs-and their leaders- to commit
to excluding, not supporting any and all punitive policies in any “comprehensive immigration reform.” Seems pretty obvious,
but the absence of such accountability allows the noxious policies-and the immigrant=criminal logic undergirding them- to pass
with the apparent support of that segment of the “immigrant rights movement” that can afford media flaks, PR spinsters, bloggers
and others allowing them to speak for the entire immigrant rights movement. Hopefully, this is non-controversial, but let’s put it to a test.

Neither aggressive, nor hostile, such a petition simply commits its signatories to excluding policies that, in such a radically hateful
climate, enable further hatred, terror and death in immigrant communities. how could anyone purporting to be a defender of immigrants
not agree to something so basic?

I encourage any comments, suggestions or disagreements those of you reading this might have. Gracias, R

Here’s the response to Alisa’s piece:

That a crazed murderer would be described with such fawning language while maids, gardeners and immigrants and other Latinos are described in the harshest, most hateful language speaks powerfully to how perverted the “values” of this decadent “civilization” have become. Reinforces a theory I have about how we’ve moved beyond the rather stale notion that legalization or increases in the Latino vote will do anything to diminish the rise in hate towards Latinos.

Between radical demographic shifts (young, rapidly growing Latino population, aging, diminishing white population), editorial rooms chock full of old- and young- still mostly white “editors” who normalize lethal logics and the companies that capitalize and profit from “news”programs, talk shows premised on promoting Darwinian racial ideologies, what we have is the possible institutionalization of perpetual race war targeting Latinos, especially immigrant Latinos, who are suffering the brunt of hatred, death and devastation.

In such a lethally charged climate, at such a decadent moment in the history of this country, we need to raise the cost of promoting or enabling the radical racial logic of the newsrooms described so cogently by Alisa. This is why I propose, for example, that we start eviscerating any trace of the racially charged immigrant=criminal logic in our own “community.” We can start addressing this by developing and circulating a petition or some document demanding that any “immigrant rights organization” commit itself to excluding any and all punitive immigration proposals they might advocate in the name of “legalizing the 12 million” or whatever spin people come up with in their efforts to legitimize the now deadly immorality known in legislative circles as a “tradeoff” (legalization in exchange for more punitive policy). We can then extend the commitment to the Hispanic Caucus and other members of Congress and move forward into the editorial rooms with greater force and unity of purpose.

As the possibility of “comprehensive immigration reform” rears its head again, we might want to consider the possibilty that, in allowing or even supporting punitive policies, we in the “immigrant rights movement” are unconsciously accepting the logic of criminality by allowing or supporting laws premised on now extremely lethal notions of immigrant criminality manufactured in hate groups, “think tanks” and the news rooms Alisa aptly describes. Make no mistake, in times when hating immigrants is proven to yield daily profits for news organizations and their advertisers, times when you can kill an immigrant and go scott free (or even hailed as heroes as in the gross distortion that is the Compean case), “tradeoffs” mean we are willing to accept logic that kills, the same logic of the racists disguised as editors use. I also think that the institutions-news orgs, hate groups, political parties, including Democrats- invested and investing in this radical, deadly turn deserve the same treatment we used to give those who enabled the slaughter of innocents in El Salvador: pouring colored red liquid symbolizing the blood of the dead and maimed on their offices-or even their suits and dresses. Things, have, I believe, reached that point of urgency-but the “news” will not report it or, if they do, they’ll do so in the most banal terms possible. Such are the rotten fruits of decadent “civilization.”

Thanks again for your work on this, Alisa. Good writing should spark discussion and debate and you succeeded.

Best,

R

New Republic Attacks Judge Sotomayor With Sexist, Racist “Angry Latina” Meme

May 4, 2009

https://i1.wp.com/1.bp.blogspot.com/_L6pDyjqqsvY/RyVmhzdSclI/AAAAAAAAIlI/_wM61fZ6XDI/s400/new%2Brepublic.jpg

It’s that time in the political year when, in addition to “swine flu” crisis, there’s also a sudden outbreak of another dreaded disease: expertise around Latino politics on the part of the fatally ignorant. Consider this specimen (handle such disguised hatred with extreme caution) from The New Republic’s (TNR) John Rosen, who makes the case against nomininating federal appeals court judge Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court:

“But despite the praise from some of her former clerks, and warm words from some of her Second Circuit colleagues, there are also many reservations about Sotomayor. Over the past few weeks, I’ve been talking to a range of people who have worked with her, nearly all of them former law clerks for other judges on the Second Circuit or former federal prosecutors in New York. Most are Democrats and all of them want President Obama to appoint a judicial star of the highest intellectual caliber who has the potential to change the direction of the court. Nearly all of them acknowledged that Sotomayor is a presumptive front-runner, but nearly none of them raved about her. They expressed questions about her temperament, her judicial craftsmanship, and most of all, her ability to provide an intellectual counterweight to the conservative justices, as well as a clear liberal alternative.

This double sexist, racist whammy has an old, even ancient history, a very deadly history (yes, Latinos have history, despite their absence on the History Channel and other outlets, Mikey) Rosen seems to draw upon with ease. See the whole article here.

Lest we forget, this is the same New Republic that pushed the “Latinos-will-not-vote-for-a- black-candidate” meme during the elections, elections in which almost 70% of Latinos voted for Obama. What’s fascinating is how TNR and other liberal publications, media where Latinos, Latino issues, Latino writers brillan por su ausencia (shine for their absence), are suddenly demonstrating expertise on Latino issues, Latino pols, judges, etc.

This is ripe for powerful pushback. Time we started challenging and hitting sexists, racists of the liberal variety too. Right wing Jewish groups of the extreme and liberal varieties waste no time attacking some of us as “anti-Semitic” when, for example, we join the chorus of global denunciation (including Human Rights Watch, Amnesty Intl.) around the slaughter of Palestinian babies, using cluster bombs and other depredations and war crimes of the Israeli government. For those of you tempted to find an excuse to divert attention from the issues at hand, namely the racism and sexism of TNR, my statement means, ISRAELI GOVERNMENT AS OPPOSED TO JEWISH PEOPLE. so,please save it for Fox News watchers, the lobotomized or someone else with time to waste.

The opportunity here is to build out political space, political clout establishing that we will not tolerate such garbage from sexists, racists of the right wing or liberal variety.