During the Cold War of the last century when the news media talked about ” the wall” everyone’s mind turned to East Berlin and the wall that the Soviets built to keep the citizens of that part of the divided city from defecting to the west. Now talk about “the wall” is back. This time, …
Mar 21 2016
Nov 23 2015
One of my favorite pundits is comedian John Oliver. Since leaving “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart,” he has made his mark on the premium cable network HBO with “Last Week Tonight.” Once a week, John takes a satirical look at news, politics and current events, often laced with “colorful” language, videos and costumed characters. …
Sep 05 2015
The Ninth US Circuit Court of Appeals has overruled an immigration judge and the US Board of Immigration Appeals in the case of transgender woman Edin (Carey) Avendano-Hernandez’s deportation.
Born in a small town in southern Mexico, Avendano-Hernandez started identifying herself as female at age 5 or 6 and was beaten by her father and schoolmates, and raped by her older brothers and cousins, the court said. She dropped out of high school at 16 and moved to Mexico City, where she was harassed by customers of a nightclub where she worked. After she returned home to care for her dying mother, an older brother threatened her with death.
Aug 24 2015
There can be no doubt that the behavior of international capital is a major driver of immigration. Looking outward from the US alone, capital has long been at play in Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean, extracting resources and supporting dictatorial elites with little interest in economic development, forcing many of those deliberately impoverished masses to look north. Capital builds and destroys economies and rends people’s lives to the point of desperation, forcing the poor to pick up and move wherever they can to survive.
Ironically, there is great controversy over immigration in the developed world whose system did so much to create the prospective immigrant’s desperation. In the United States and Europe the right is obsessed with immigration as a threat to cultural identity; but immigration is also controversial in the center and even on the left, or what passes for the left, allegedly because it depresses working class wages and diminishes the prospects of native-born working people.
Yet if we look at the history of the United States, we see that mass immigration can co-exist with broad prosperity or even drive it. The US absorbed millions of immigrants from the 1880’s to the 1920’s and they helped to build the wealthiest, most powerful nation that ever existed. The US continues to to absorb large numbers of immigrants, documented and undocumented, and still the nation’s wealth expands, if mostly for the elite.
As anti-capitalists, we are naturally suspicious of the nativist, chauvinist notion that immigration is a threat to our security or prosperity individually or collectively, yet few of us would say that immigration without conditions or limits would produce a good result for immigrants or the native-born working class.
How do our various leftist perspectives on immigration address objective conditions in developed economies? Does the working class of one nation owe a welcome to all others who want to come? What is in the long term interest of workers at home and around the world?
Aug 03 2015
I don’t know about you, but if I never have to read another piece that mentions the Koch brothers in the first sentence that would be fine with me. Oops. It seems so unnatural to do so, especially during a hot summer of so much fun, except for the police killings, right wing terrorism, ongoing Greek tragedy, and countless other bummers that are absolutely ruining my beach blanket bingo.
But I generally assume their will to power must be confronted by mine at every opportunity. And because their will to power (collectively including that of their amazing retinue of bought and paid for attendants) is way bigger than mine, it’s going to be pretty miserable if I spend much of my time dreaming of how to bring down their kingdom, but I do it anyway.
They alone (and they are not alone) also have a huge head start in cultural hegemony, with a massive perpetual intellectual propaganda campaign involving not only think tanks, billions of dollars, binders of semi-famous dead and living capitalist economists and other scholars, and a famous dead mercenary woman with a cool first name who wrote two incredibly awful but famously anti-altruistic novels in the 1940s and 50s followed by decades of mostly inhumane essay writing, but also by a famous and imposing dead German philosopher whose name until recently I could neither spell nor pronounce.
I suppose I should on some level study up. Instead, what a major part of me really feels compelled to do down deep on hot summer days with the planet melting is to ignore my anti-capitalist comrades, to practice the fine art of chilling out, which apparently involves working on thinking more happy and grateful thoughts, appreciating family, friends, and neighbors more, and whimsically watching life drift by with the thermostat turned way down. And I think on some level those ultra-rich superior brothers know that, which disturbs my reverie-potential even more. So, in truth, for me, it is much easier to want to fight them compulsively with all my meager energy and will to power, every single waking minute until, like the Black Knight in Monty Python, I can fight no longer, the assholes.
But I awake need more than my compulsions, even my compulsion for fighting the power. I awake need to be both among the familiar and a small hopeful part of nurturing a better world. I awake do not wish to be a human commodity waiting on economic growth to trickle my way or anyone else’s, but neither do I wish to be the silly Black Knight.
I awake am not, and you are not, to use the term in Le Gauchiste’s piece last Sunday, “homo oeconomicus.” I awake want to be unchained, and I awake want others to be as well.
But how can we take power away from the Koch brothers and those like them without saying their names with the repetition of a liturgy, becoming fixated on their power and our lack thereof, and even routinely employing martial metaphors in our theory and practice? I am not talking about “eliminationist” language, which of course is disgusting, authoritarian, and rightly verboten. I am talking about the language “of force,” using imagery we may routinely feel justified if not compelled to use, but which we sometimes would prefer not to use on some internal level.
Perhaps sometimes to be squeamish is to be healthy. I may be hesitant, but I cannot simply stay inside and ignore the cries and gasps of my brothers and sisters on the outside who cannot breathe. In that situation, I have no choice, if I am to be moral, but to go outside and to join some way in the revolt against the hands and ropes literally around their throats.
Interestingly, Dr. Fanon’s full quote begins with, “When we revolt it’s not for a particular culture.” Revolution is not culturally, much less genetically, predestined, and neither is it designed in advance to implement this or that 10-point plan. “We revolt simply because, for many reasons, we can no longer breathe.”
If I am not of the particular culture that is the oppressed group outside my window, I cannot pretend to be in a position to lead them in their time of greatest need, to tell them what their priorities should be, or to attempt to move their gaze from the hands and ropes around their necks back to the Koch brothers, income inequality, global warming, TPP, or even to the holistic and fundamental need for global system change from anti-human unsustainable capitalism to deep democracy with economic, social, and cultural, as well as civil and political, rights for all. It is their breath being lost in that moment, not mine.
Similarly, if one is being deported, or one’s parent or spouse is, in that moment, nothing else matters. Or, if a woman is being forced to abandon control of her own body because of someone else’s religion or brutality, the invasion of her person, her human dignity, and her most personal liberty and privacy is being violated, which cannot be condoned or made to wait.
While never forgetting root causes, I need to join them, follow them, take whatever solidarity positions in the masses they prefer me to have. I may even catch some words or glances of misdirected hostility or suspicion from time to time, because, THEY CAN’T BREATHE and can’t be expected always to speak or see clearly and fairly in their agony toward those who fit the outward description of the oppressor group who show up in peaceful support. Within strict limits of my right and duty to protect my own person, I should be tolerant and forgiving of their occasional minor mistakes that result from the confusing plight for which they did not ask.
And indeed, if I am not in the oppressed group, I may make mistakes too–some of my “fighting words” and show of support from time to time may not be helpful or revolutionary but rather inauthentic, presumptuous, or pretentious. While self-flagellation helps no one, neither does grandiosity.
More broadly, even from a revolutionary perspective, by being a fighter all or most of the time when I want or need more than anything to be a lover, am I not thereby becoming in some way part of the system I detest? I want to have a clean conscience as regards my friends and even my enemies as much as possible, but it is more than that. I awake want to reject holistically the system that has been foisted upon us, but even “to reject” at every turn is to live in contrast to that system rather than in freedom from it.
I am guilty as charged in some or all this and raise this complex issue of “just means” in all sincerity. In fact, I recently, ironically rather haughtily, stated as such in a religiously-themed piece I published at Daily Kos, which thankfully only a few of my best buds read (which may be the same with this here piece!): “[I] don’t claim to be pious and admit to being something of a fighter out of a sense of obligation, but with words only.”
In my opinion, apathy, not confrontation, is the social disease of our time. Faced with the seeming choice between allowing myself to be apathetic and risking imperfect confrontation, I often feel obligated to do the latter in part because so many choose the former. But is that wise? Is that the best I can be doing as a species-being?
We won’t get any modicum of heaven on Earth without raising a lot of hell. We still live in a “fighting age” and need to put on our “fighting clothes” (shout out to JayRaye and the Hellraisers like Mother Jones who are daily chronicled in Hellraisers Journal). But how we each choose to raise hell must be personally authentic to the time, place, and particular Hellraiser, with justice in the service of love not unforgiving fanaticism.
Many of us would prefer to stay in our caves, preferably a well-appointed man or woman cave. Nonetheless, caring humans crawl out even when we do not have to, blink at the uncaring sky, and seek out peace, liberty, and justice for all or at least for those we see before us being choked by “the man.” In that case, our duty is to do whatever we can to stop the choking. Our solitude and circumspection may have to wait.
But they cannot always wait. We must in general follow our bliss even as, when duty calls, we “confront,” “battle,” and “defeat” the “foes” who are the beneficiaries of divide and rule. Not always an easy balancing act. Even to begin to describe the system is to risk a migraine and to expose our own disproportionate political-economic weakness as individuals in it–a bubble-driven system powered by financial gimmickry, non-dischargeable consumer debt, production based on profits and not human need, and environmental destruction; the unsustainable but seemingly unstoppable use of non-renewable resources; the exploitation of labor and the reserve army of the unemployed; and prejudice and discrimination by “race”/ethnicity, sex, sexual orientation, place of birth or other happenstance that has nothing to do with one’s infinite value as a beautiful human being; and which, in a workplace and on a street near us, is reinforced not only by institutionalized state violence but also by cultural hegemony.
Pass me the bong. As bad as the global system is, we the people, taken off the farm and often wedged into inhumane living conditions, are not at all inclined to or interested in external violence. Stress results in massive self-medication involving alcohol and other drugs, at its worst a form of internal violence. However, right wing terrorists who say, for instance, that they are trying to provoke a two-way “race” “war” are not only grotesquely immoral but also liars. It is a one-way war of right wing terror and police violence against people of color. The former (and sometimes the latter) hope to dehumanize African Americans and to encourage other lone wolves and small groups of racist killers. They do not seriously expect that African Americans are going to engage in retributive racially murderous acts.
Almost all working people, regardless of our race or ethnicity, first and foremost want peace and security for ourselves, children, elderly, and other vulnerable persons with whom we may come into contact and will not purposely engage in violence except as a last resort. In short, except for the terrorist who is exercising a bloodthirsty and hateful will to power, every normal human instinct is to walk or even run away from a gunfight. That is why stand your ground laws are not only completely unnecessary but also causative of violence. They pretend people are in harm’s way who are not in order to sell unnecessary guns that cause unnecessary injury and death. We may chafe at and hopefully do protest injustice, but we do not use violence unless truly exceptional circumstances are presented–unless, that is, we are among those mercenaries engaged in state-sanctioned local or international police action or those desperate who have been unable to find lawful employment and get caught up in the illegal non-prescription drug industry.
But how do we ourselves also avoid wallowing in the toxic language of hate?–for there are things to hate. Should we avoid the intellectual exercises and temptations involved with understanding and refuting the intellectuals and propaganda gurus of the powerful? Must we ourselves eschew aesthetics, intellectual development, and intellectual pleasure? How can we engage in the study that leads to greater ability to engage in argumentation against the philosophers of the powerful, such as Nietzsche and Rand, without becoming mesmerized or coopted in the process?
I will not link to “The Atlas Society” website, but in a 3/5/11 piece by one Stephen Hicks, the many differences in the two are, to my view, overwhelmed by their similarity in rejecting socialism and aid to society’s losers and exalting “the hero”:
In politics, they agree that contemporary civilization has very significant problems, and that socialism and the welfare state are nauseating; but while Nietzsche has good things to say about aristocracy, slavery, and war and bad things to say about capitalism, Rand says the opposite. Finally, they share the same exalted, heroic struggle sense of life–although Nietzsche adds to that a strong dose of bloodthirstiness that we do not find in Rand, while Rand regularly adds a strong dose of anger that we do not find in Nietzsche.
We have no choice but to “fight the power” and the ideas they use to blind us to the fact that they are not actually engaged in exalted, heroic struggles but mass injustice to maintain their system of divide and rule by any means necessary for the purpose of controlling the world’s resources for their own profit-taking and capital accumulation. However, we refuse to lose sight of what makes us beautiful, which has nothing to do with how we look or winning spelling contests, or our fighting ability
or winning anything else, from awards to games to wars to battles for interpretation of our history.
True allies respect the disrespected:
“I cant speak on it ’cause I’m not gonna see it,” [Spike Lee] tells VIBETV. “All I’m going to say is that it’s disrespectful to my ancestors. That’s just me…I’m not speaking on behalf of anybody else.”
We must also respect ourselves and our own imperfect humanity. Permanent deployment is deadly, including participating in endless political battles against mercenary politicians, pundits, think tanks, and advertising gurus who wish to define and commodify us at so many dollars per vote under a “First Amendment” that speaks not the language of justice in the service of love but the language of money in the service of more money. And it is not simply a matter of getting back to the future either. Our ancestors made horrible mistakes too, often of tribalism, paternalism, sexism, and other forms of division and social hierarchy, so that to awake is not merely a retrospective cultural event.
So not only the will to power but also power itself as an end or a means to money stinks with the stench of greed, selfishness, and death. We absolutely don’t want to become like the Koch brothers.
But is there an easy, or at least emotionally cathartic way out? When we awake, as we must, should we try to make being a loser “cool”?
That “loser as coolness” commodity was produced and sold two decades ago to great aesthetic effect … seems like yesterday
We should refuse to be purchased by a consumer culture that can even package the language of the desperate and their would-be allies for commercial purposes. Surely the stuff of revolution is more than adoption of a certain fashion consciousness. Signs of solidarity must be more than proudly affecting the pose of “losers” in some kind of kubuki show of support for those who truly suffer from the grosser forms of injustice.
As a precaution from being frauds, do members of the left then need to adopt cultural austerity? Do we need to stop reading all books other than our chosen school of socialist thought and lose what little sense of humor we still have? Will doing otherwise lead us down the slippery slope to being poseurs? Of course not. We should not try so hard to “fight” “the winners” in their own fixed games that we either adopt the tokens and terminology to which we have been assigned or only speak with our own insider terms of reference.
The advertisers and other mercenaries working for the ruling class have decided all manner of linguistic packaging to keep us enticed and preoccupied when all the while inside the packages there is very little there there. “Mystique” itself is such an impressive French-sounding word. But we should not adopt an anti-intellectual pose any more than we should adopt the pose of “loser.”
Still, when we unwrap the supposedly precious intellectual commodities of the ruling class, when we touch those rings of power, we should be careful and realize that, like Frodo Baggins, there is nothing so special or moral about any of us that makes us beyond temptation.
Let us begin to be awake by giving up our craving for acceptance in the supposedly glamorous world of waiting for Mr. Übermensch. Let us not be so occupied with the minds of our enemies that we are unable to free up our mental energy away from that which does not make us more loving global citizens, including the “correct” spelling and pronunciation of the names of mercenary intellectuals we are expected to admire. Let us not be taken in either by their brilliance and mental dexterity or our own.
We do not want to become one of the ruling class or one of their mercenary class who gets to stand nearby in the high places, feed our betters grapes, and wave fans over them in their exalted, heroic struggles.
Apr 18 2015
Nicoll Hernández-Polanco tried to enter this country twice when she was 17. The Guatemalan native was caught and deported.
In October of 2014, Nicoll again crossed the Sonora desert to the Arizona border. This time she turned herself in and asked for asylum. Guatemala is one of the most dangerous countries in the Western Hemisphere for transgender women, battling for second with Honduras behind Brazil.
Having experienced about a decade of sexual and physical abuse in Guatemala and then Mexico, ICE threw the new fish into the shark tank that is their Florence, AZ all-male detention center. Since she has been there she has been assaulted by another detainee, forced to shower with men, verbally abused by both the guards and the other inmates, and placed in solitary confinement for standing up for herself.
Mariposas Sin Fronteras (Butterflies without borders), the Transgender Law Center, and other LGBT and immigration rights advocates have been fighting for her release…for an end to the torture…but ICE refuses to budge. In their eyes, her deportation is a priority because of her two previous deportations.
Jul 27 2014
‘But I don’t want to go among mad people,’ Alice remarked. ‘Oh, you can’t help that,’ said the Cat. ‘We’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad.” (Alice in Wonderland)
The past month or two I have been running from one demonstration and issue to another in support of various causes. I have attended several of the various demonstrations in support of Palestinian rights as Israel, with the backing of the United States, once again, exercises it’s barely hidden genocidal agenda. The past week and a half, Israel has been pounding Gaza with a massive bombing campaign and an aggressive ground war. The Palestinian people have already been devastated from a seven year siege. Many people aren’t aware that Israel, which puts forward the myth that Gaza is an independent entity, still controls most of the power, water and goods going in and out of Gaza – Gazans currently get about four hours of electricity a day and three hours of water once every three days. In the week and a half since the “war” began over 1,000 Gazans have been killed (a majority women and children), millions of dollars of infrastructure have been destroyed. At last tally, 45 Israeli soldiers and three Islaeli civilians have died in the conflict and Israel gained controlled of approximately 1/3 of the remaining land in Gaza which they now call a “buffer zone.”
This is the third such incursion since 2008. The other two bombing operations resulted in thousands of additional deaths and demolished neighborhoods and the ongoing blockade prevented Palestinians from rebuilding. People often forget that the destruction of the infrastructure, once the bombing stops, is often more dangerous to the people’s health when they cannot have drinkable water (95% of Gazans don’t), adequate power and shelter.
For the first time, Palestinian voices are being heard, even by the mainstream — if only because the devastation is so great they cannot be ignored. Demonstrations in Europe reached over 100,000 in England and France. There is clearly a movement that is stronger today than in the past. Many of the demonstrations I attended were sizable – between one and two thousand people. In New York City, a stronghold of Zionism, that is no small number and shows the changing landscape in regard to the Palestinian issue – even here in the belly of the beast. And yet, today, as I write, there is no cease fire and the people of Palestine are still under attack.
I could go on about Gaza, but there are so many other issues. Like the 57,000 undocumented children coming across the Mexican border, fleeing from dictatorial states like Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras that the United States supported. Most recently the USA supported the coup in Honduras which ousted President Zelaya after he made two fatal mistakes – he doubled the minimum wage and he planned to join ALBA, a group of seven Latin American countries which have formed a coalition to fight the United States neoliberal agenda in the South. President Obama was the only leader in the western world who did not condemn the coup and gave immediate recognition to the new government. The United States government plans to send the majority of the fleeing children back to these states for their “safety” which is the reason that they fled and made the dangerous trek to the United States in the first place.
And then there are the other “domestic issues.” Thousands of poor, elderly and disabled people in Detroit are being denied water because they can’t pay their water bill, often after the state cut off their pension due to the Detroit bankruptcy. A young man brought my attention to another black man, Eric Garner, killed in Brooklyn due to excessive police force. .(The young man who told me was unaware of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict).I also just learned, today, that there was yet another incident yesterday in which the NYPD stomped on another black man’s head – also captured in a video. Oh, and there was newspaper headline about the “open carry (guns) advocates who stood on the grassy knoll (where Kennedy was killed) and criticized Obama. Guess what man – you’re still black.
Finally, there is the civil war in the Ukraine which recently resulted in the deaths of 298 civilians in an air crash (many of them AIDS researchers) when the Russian backed rebels shot the plane down by mistake. Many of the US backed forces, which recently took the Ukraine over in a coup are real old fashioned fascists (which feels a lot worse in Europe than it does here given the fact that Fascists have actually held power in Europe and we experienced the results).These new Ukrainian leaders are pressuring Europe to put more and more sanctions on Russia. I’m old enough to remember the cold war between the Soviet Union and the United States and this certainly feels like de javu.
But I digress. There is a big demonstration planned in Washington for August 2nd for Palestinian rights. Kerry is negotiating right now for a short cease fire that does not actually change any of the conditions in the siege on Gaza. Hamas (and it seems like most of the Gazan people including those who don’t back Hamas) say the cease fire must include the ending of the Siege on Gaza (what have they got to lose? They are already being slowly killed anyway with no drinkable water and half their land destroyed). Israel is unlikely to comply (Why should they ? They have our backing and the Seige meets their long term goals for a greater Israel just fine).
IN THE MEANTIME THE DEMONSTRATION IN WASHINGTON, D.C. IS STILL 7 DAYS AWAY – HOW MANY MORE PEOPLE CAN THEY KILL AND HOW MUCH MORE INFRASTRUCTURE CAN THEY DESTROY IN 7 DAYS? Of course, this is just an infinitely small fraction of the devastation we have visited on the rest of the world in just the 20th and 21st century. (Pick a region)
Have you signed your 150th petition today? Have you written your congress person or Obama? Have you gone on a demonstration? Do you feel good about doing your civic duty? I was watching TV the other night and the ad with the dog with sad eyes and the sentimental music came on soliciting donations so that the dog and other dogs could live without abuse. There is a similar ad with a small clearly starving child in Africa. As Bill Clinton would say “I feel your pain.” Synthetic, televised pain is not enough.
The definition of insanity someone said is to keep doing the same things over and over and expect different results. With the advent of the internet and globalization, the world is turning faster now, and the contradictions are heightening. “We do what we can” we say. We “keep the faith, “we keep hope alive.” But as Mao would say, just “tolling the bell” (doing the usual level of political work or doing the usual rant as I am doing now) is not enough. We need to give ourselves a wake-up call.
Feb 15 2014
Cross posted from [The Stars Hollow Gazette
Have the House Democrats finally realized there is a way to beat the recalcitrant Republican majority? Somebody in the Democratic caucus must have been up watching old movies on Netflix and remembered an old House rule called a “discharge petition”
A discharge petition is a means of bringing a bill out of committee and to the floor for consideration without a report from the committee and usually without cooperation of the leadership. Discharge petitions are most often associated with the U.S. House of Representatives, though many state legislatures have similar procedures. They are used when the chair of a committee refuses to place a bill or resolution on the Committee’s agenda; by never reporting a bill, the matter will never leave the committee, and the full House will not be able to consider it. A successful petition “discharges” the committee from further consideration of a bill or resolution and brings it directly to the floor. The discharge petition, and the threat of one, gives more power to individual members of the House and usurps a small amount of power from the leadership and committee chairs. The modern discharge petition requires the signature of an absolute majority of House members (218 members). Only twice has it been used successfully on major legislation in recent history.
Rachel Maddow explains how congressional Democrats are considering the use of the discharge petition to get votes on immigration and the minimum wage.
Transcript can be read here
House Dems seek to force GOP’s hand on minimum wage hike
By Mike Lillis, The Hil
CAMBRIDGE, MD – House Democrats are launching an effort to force Republicans’ hand on the minimum wage.
The Democrats will introduce a discharge petition later this month designed to force a floor vote on a proposal to hike the minimum wage, even in the face of entrenched opposition from GOP leaders.
The discharge petition faces a high bar, as it would require at least 18 Republicans to buck their leadership and endorse the measure – a scenario the Democrats readily acknowledge is unlikely.
“I don’t think we’re ever confident that we’re going to get 18 Republicans to sign a discharge petition,” House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) conceded during the Democrats’ annual issues retreat on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. [..]
Hoyer said he hasn’t yet surveyed the Democrats to learn exactly how many would endorse the discharge petition, but he predicted it will be “close to everybody.”
Schumer Offers Long-Shot Option to Skirt House G.O.P. on Immigration
By Ashley Parker and Jonathan Weisman, The New York Times
WASHINGTON – Senator Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York, offered a long-shot option on Thursday to revive the moribund effort to overhaul the nation’s immigration laws that would require the support of more than a dozen House Republicans – and, if nothing else, pressure others to act on an election-year issue that Tea Party-aligned members strongly oppose. [..]
Mr. Schumer was responding to a recent column in The Washington Post by E. J. Dionne Jr., suggesting that Democrats go the route of the discharge petition. He also suggested during a “Meet the Press” appearance on Sunday that Congress could pass immigration legislation this year, but delay its implementation until 2017, to assuage the concern of many Republicans who say they do not trust President Obama to enforce the laws.
Now the issue is getting enough Republicans to vote with the Democrats. It’s an election year and there are a number of Republican seats that are vulnerable. So what will the Republicans do if the Democrats get all their members to sign on to a discharge petition? The bigger question is will House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) be able to rally the troops? We’re watching.
Sep 07 2013
Amy Lieberman has been covering the danger inherent in being a transgender woman for a few years now for women’s eNews. Most recently she has been in Mexico, delving into the consequences when a transwoman is deported back to Mexico.
Mexico is one of the world’s most dangerous places to be transgender. But as lawmakers try to change that, transgender women who are deported confront a social backlash that makes their homeland more fearful than ever.
If you pass inside, you will likely find yourself decrying the way Mexican transgender women are treated. But you should be aware that it is not all that much different than transwomen are treated in the US.
Aug 18 2013
The following is a guest diary by Diana Zavala. An educator, political activist and single mother of two, this is the second guest diary that Diana has written for us. Diana presented this piece as part of the panel at Left Forum 2013 organised by Geminijen.
Three years ago I found myself closing the chapter on my marriage. I did this against the advice of my friends who tried persuading me to stay for the children, for the sake of security and until I finished my studies. I had spent 10 years in an unsatisfying marriage and the thought of one more day for the sake of something/somebody else just was not acceptable. I left the marriage and while the emotional release was satisfying; but being independent and having to be responsible for my family was a reality I don’t think I fully grasped.
I decided there had to be a way that women in my situation could qualify for public assistance. Here I was a student, with two kids, huge rent bill, no health insurance, but these circumstances were only temporary I thought, and with a little assistance I would be able to overcome them and get myself back on my feet. I thought ‘hey, I’m not the quintessential “welfare queen” so demonized by society’, I’m someone who needs help and can become independent with some assistance. I discovered it wasn’t the case, that women who were in my predicament had no safety nets available for them to bounce back. I didn’t qualify for anything because I had too much money from child support which was just enough to cover the rent. The Welfare office recommended I become homeless in order to apply for Section 8 housing and I didn’t qualify for Food Stamps, nor did I qualify for Medicaid.
Here it was, I had been a high school teacher before getting married, I left teaching to care for my son while my husband’s career progressed and so did his income and retirement. I had no money and no savings and was being advised to become homeless so I could qualify for housing assistance and food stamps, so I could provide for my children.
I had walked into the office feeling like a strong feminist who had left her marriage choosing independence from a husband and who could make it on her own. I was college educated, employable, and young enough to have energy to fight and overcome. I came out of the office understanding that my situation was no different from other women who leave, that while I had education and language, my status as a single mother did not differ much from that of my mother’s when she immigrated from Honduras after she divorced my father.
Jun 27 2012
The latest session of the US Supreme Court is coming to a close with several decisions handed down since last Thursday, that peaked today with several rulings handed down. The “grand finale” will be this Thursday when the court announces its decision on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act. The media has been focused mostly on today’s ruling that gutted three quarters of Arizona’s controversial immigration law, S.B. 1070. The overturn of a 100-year-old Montana state law that banned corporations in that state from spending any of their corporate cash to support or oppose a candidate or a political party and the ruling that struck out any requirement that life without parole be the mandatory penalty for murder by a minor got second and third billing.
What the media chose to ignore was last Thursday’s 5 -4 decision in Knox v. Service Employees International Union (SEIU) that dealt a blow against public sector labor unions and in favor of employees who are represented by a union but are not members:
The case has three holdings: (1) When a public-sector union imposes a special assessment or dues increase, the union must provide a fresh Hudson notice (the Court’s vote on this issue was seven to two); (2) the union cannot require nonmembers to pay the increased amount unless they opt in by affirmatively consenting (vote of five to four); and (3) the case was not rendered moot by the union’s post-certiorari offer of a full refund (unanimous).
So what you say? Why is this an important ruling? It’s important because it requires Unions to do something that corporations aren’t. It requires unions to get permission from their non-members, who pay fees so they are covered by SEIU-negotiated contracts, before that money can be used for political spending. Instead of the traditional “opt-out”, the now have to “opt-in.” Corporations are not required to get share holders permission to spend millions on a political campaign. This could significantly impact on labor’s ability to fight back against corporations in the political arena. It restricts the union’s First Amendment rights to spend unlimited amounts under the 2010 Citizens United ruling:
“The court’s opinion makes clear its displeasure with 60 years of precedent on the dues issue, which have placed the burden on employees who object (to political spending) to opt out,” said William Gould, who from 1994 to 1998 chaired the National Labor Relations Board, the federal agency that governs labor relations in the private sector. “This decision is an invitation to litigate this issue.”
Although the Knox case involved special assessments on non-union members, Gould said, the Supreme Court’s reasoning suggests that it could be applied to all union dues that fund political spending paid by non-members. The next time that a union goes through the standard process of notifying non-members they have the ability to opt out, the union may well be met with a legal challenge, warned Gould. “(This decision) indicates that if these five (justices) are there when these cases come back to the Court, that the Court will decide these cases adversely to unions,” he said.
That thought has the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, which represented the plaintiffs in the case, and similar groups celebrating — and labor advocates fearing the worst.
Patrick Semmens, vice president of the foundation, said via email that while some justices have used similar language in the past, the Knox decision confirms that now a majority believe “compulsory unionism” is a violation of First Amendment rights.
SEIU Secretary-Treasurer Eliseo Medina pointed out that while this complicates matters for unions it is “doable”. But he also noted that this decision was one sided in that “There is nothing in this [Knox] decision that even speaks to the question of shareholders, or corporations having to tell shareholders about any of the contributions they make, [..] “The language, to me, signals what has been the rightward drift of the Supreme Court … Now they’ve come up with a decision to make it more difficult for workers to be able to effectively participate in the [political] process.”
MSNBC host Rachel Maddow and her guest, legal correspondent and senior editor for Slate Dahlia Litwick discussed all of these rulings with emphasis on the Knox ruling.
As was expressed in it opinion on June 23, the New York Times rightly noted:
The conservative majority strode into the center of the bitter debate about right-to-work laws preventing unions in 23 states from requiring nonmembers to pay any union expenses, including those supporting collective bargaining that benefits nonmembers. It used this narrow case to insert itself into that political controversy when there was no reason to do so.
Jun 16 2012
Well, almost. President Barack Obama, who has deported more undocumented immigrants than any president since 1892, will stop deporting hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants who came to the United States as children:
The policy, effective immediately, will apply to people who are currently under 30 years old, who arrived in the country before they turned 16 and have lived in the United States for five years. They must also have no criminal record, and have earned a high school diploma, remained in school or served in the military.
These qualifications resemble in some ways those of the so-called Dream Act, a measure blocked by Congress in 2010 that was geared to establish a path toward citizenship for certain young illegal immigrants. The administration’s action on Friday, which stops deportations but does not offer citizenship, is being undertaken by executive order and does not require legislation. It was announced by the Department of Homeland Security.
What the younger immigrants will obtain, officials said, is the ability to apply for a two-year “deferred action” that effectively removes the threat of deportation for up to two years, with repeated extensions. “This is not immunity, it is not amnesty,” said Janet Napolitano, the homeland security secretary. “It is an exercise of discretion.”
Why now? Political expediency. Obama needs the Latino vote:
The Obama administration has failed to deliver on its promise to lift the threat of deportation for law-abiding undocumented immigrants, according to an alliance of Hispanic and civil rights leaders who warn that disappointment among Latino voters could damage the president’s chances of being re-elected.
A new report from the Fair Immigration Reform Movement (Firm) (pdf) criticises the department of homeland security for failing to implement its own policy that switched the target of deportations onto serious criminal offenders, or the “worst of the worst”.
Firm concludes that the lack of implementation could “undermine the credibility of President Obama’s standing with Latino and immigrant communities nationwide“.
[C]onsider Obama’s 2008 campaign promise that he would tackle immigration reform his first year in office. He now has to explain why he failed to do this: “The challenge we’ve got on immigration reform,” Obama said in a Univision interview last month, “is very simple. I’ve got a majority of Democrats who are prepared to vote for it. And I’ve got no Republicans who are prepared to vote for it.”
That is a bold faced lie:
The DREAM Act would have passed if Democrats had shown unity on the measure.
But five Democrats voted against the legislation: Kay Hagan of North Carolina, Mark Pryor of Arkansas, Ben Nelson of Nebraska and both Montana Democrats, Jon Tester and Max Baucus. West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin announced his opposition to the DREAM Act Saturday in a statement Saturday but missed the vote.
Three Republicans crossed party lines to vote for the bill: Indiana Sen. Richard Lugar, Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski and Utah Sen. Bob Bennett.
Maybe if Obama had put some pressure on those 5 “Democrats” the bill would have passed.
The Obama administration claims that the number are up because they are focused on deporting criminals is another lie: Most of the immigrants who were deported were Latinos and not criminals:
[L]ess than 50 percent of the people removed have a criminal conviction, according to the Homeland Security Department’s own statistics. For example, 387,000 people were deported in 2010, of which only 169,000 had committed a crime. The statistics also show that the large majority of deportations are Latinos. Roughly 73 percent are from Mexico, 8 percent from Guatemala, 6 percent from Honduras and 5 percent from El Salvador.
Remember, this is a president who talks indignantly about the immigration enforcement laws passed by GOP legislators in Arizona, Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina – calling them “misdirected” and “bad law.” He has even instructed his Justice Department to challenge them in court.
This is good news for those undocumented immigrants who came to this country as children with their families. It is a step forward in solving a problem that Obama could have done three and half years ago without congressional approval but has chosen to do it now just to get the Latino community vote. The one thing it is not, a step towards citizenship. Hypocrite.