Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Jan Brewer is the new Katherine Harris: on the Arizona bill and the GOP's newest voter disenfranchisement effort

I sensed--make that, I knew--there had to be something more to the Arizona "Papers please!" bill than that which the media was reporting, which is to say, the racism angle and the concomitant immigrants-are-fighting-back angle, that classic binary (and delightfully simplistic) narrative of which our newsfolk are so regrettably enamored. I also knew I wasn't alone in my sense of being ill at ease with this whole ugly mess.

(My discomfort with the Arizona bill is rooted not only in my being an immigrant myself--albeit a blonde, blue-eyed one--but also in the fact that I speak Spanish and live in Florida, where entrenched Old White Dude attitudes regularly clash with the heterogeneous, multilingual reality of the state's populace. Then there's this: I'm married to an Italian-American who to this day, despite being a law-abiding and socially responsible citizen, continues to face a dispiriting and disgusting amount of...extra scrutiny, shall we say, because his name ends in a vowel and his black hair and deep tan give the less-enlightened authorities pause to suspect him of doing something he hasn't or being someone he's not. So, fair complexion notwithstanding, I do get it. I observe the manifestations of xenophobia and racism all the time; indeed, I've experienced the former in a more personal way than you might imagine.)

As it turns out, there is quite a bit more going on behind the illegal-foreigners-are-causing-crime-waves fearmongering--and the attendant façade that is Governor Brewer's bill--than meets the eye. Considerably more. And as he has done countless times before, Greg Palast nails down the sickening specifics (emphasis mine):
Don't be fooled. The way the media plays the story, it was a wave of racist, anti-immigrant hysteria that moved Arizona Republicans to pass a sick little law, signed last week, requiring every person in the state to carry papers proving they are US citizens.

I don't buy it. Anti-Hispanic hysteria has always been as much a part of Arizona as the Saguaro cactus and excessive air-conditioning.

What's new here is not the politicians' fear of a xenophobic "Teabag" uprising.

What moved GOP Governor Jan Brewer to sign the Soviet-style show-me-your-papers law is the exploding number of legal Hispanics, US citizens all, who are daring to vote -- and daring to vote Democratic by more than two-to-one. Unless this demographic locomotive is halted, Arizona Republicans know their party will soon be electoral toast. Or, if you like, tortillas.

In 2008, working for Rolling Stone with civil rights attorney Bobby Kennedy, our team flew to Arizona to investigate what smelled like an electoral pogrom against Chicano voters ... directed by one Jan Brewer.

Brewer, then Secretary of State, had organized a racially loaded purge of the voter rolls that would have made Katherine Harris blush. Beginning after the 2004 election, under Brewer's command, no less than 100,000 voters, overwhelmingly Hispanics, were blocked from registering to vote. In 2005, the first year of the Great Brown-Out, one in three Phoenix residents found their registration applications rejected.

That statistic caught my attention. Voting or registering to vote if you're not a citizen is a felony, a big-time jail-time crime. And arresting such criminal voters is easy: after all, they give their names and addresses.

So I asked Brewer's office, had she busted a single one of these thousands of allegedly illegal voters? Did she turn over even one name to the feds for prosecution? No, not one.

Which raises the question: were these disenfranchised voters the criminal, non-citizens Brewer tagged them, or just not-quite-white voters given the José Crow treatment, entrapped in document-chase trickery?

The answer was provided by a federal prosecutor who was sent on a crazy hunt all over the Western mesas looking for these illegal voters. "We took over 100 complaints, we investigated for almost 2 years, I didn’t find one prosecutable voter fraud case." This prosecutor, David Iglesias, is a prosecutor no more. When he refused to fabricate charges of illegal voting among immigrants, his firing was personally ordered by the President of the United States, George W. Bush, under orders from his boss, Karl Rove.

Iglesias' jurisdiction was next door, in New Mexico, but he told me that Rove and the Republican chieftains were working nationwide to whip up anti-immigrant hysteria with public busts of illegal voters, even though there were none.

"They wanted some splashy pre-election indictments," Iglesias told me. The former prosecutor, himself a Republican, paid the price when he stood up to this vicious attack on citizenship.

But Secretary of State Brewer followed the Rove plan to a T. The weapon she used to slice the Arizona voter rolls was a 2004 law, known as "Prop 200," which required proof of citizenship to register. It is important to see the Republicans' latest legislative horror show, sanctioning cops to stop residents and prove citizenship, as just one more step in the party's desperate plan to impede Mexican-Americans from marching to the ballot box. [...]

State Senator Russell Pearce, the Republican sponsor of the latest ID law, gave away his real intent, blocking the vote, when he said, "There is a massive effort under way to register illegal aliens in this country." How many? Pearce's PR flak told me, five million. All Democrats, too. Again, I asked Pearce's office to give me their the names and addresses from their phony registration forms. I'd happily make a citizens arrest of each one, on camera. Pearce didn't have five million names. He didn't have five. He didn't have one.

The horde of five million voters who swam the Rio Grande just to vote for Obama was calculated on a Republican website extrapolating from the number of Mexicans in a border town who refused jury service because they were not citizens. Not one, in fact, had registered to vote: they had registered to drive. They had obtained licenses as required by the law.

The illegal voters, "wetback" welfare moms, and alien job thieves are just GOP website wet-dreams, but their mythic PR power helps the party's electoral hacks chop away at voter rolls and civil rights with little more than a whimper from the Democrats.

Indeed, one reason, I discovered, that some Democrats are silent is that they are in on the game themselves. In New Mexico, Democratic Party bosses tossed away ballots of Pueblo Indians to cut native influence in party primaries.

But what’s wrong with requiring folks to prove they’re American if the want to vote and live in America? The answer: because the vast majority of perfectly legal voters and residents who lack ID sufficient for Ms. Brewer and Mr. Pearce are citizens of color, citizens of poverty.

According to a study by prof. Matt Barreto, of Washington State University, minority citizens are half as likely as whites to have the government ID. The numbers are dreadfully worse when income is factored in.
Go read the whole thing.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Easter Sunday earthquake in Baja California, Mexico: whither the American media?

Photo via Border Angels

Yesterday, April 19, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger asked President Obama to declare a federal emergency in California, where an Easter Sunday 7.2 earthquake in the Baja area of Mexico has wrought an estimated $91.3 million in damages stateside.

This figure is sure to climb; furthermore, as of this writing, I've been unable to locate even a back-of-the-envelope estimate of the damages on the Mexican side, where the devastation is widespread and horrific, even as the fatalities are, thankfully, few in number.

Forgive me--I know they've all been busy this month, and I mean no snark here--but where on earth is our media on this?

People are suffering, and aid is desperately needed! According to reader and friend to this blog, Minstrel Boy, who lives in the area, there are more than 50,000 people in Mexicali who are now without homes. Writing at Group News Blog, Minstrel Boy reports:
Aftershocks are close to continuous. We don't even notice most of them. Some of them are downright troubling though.

Food, what we have, is moving well. Special thanks to the Firefighters of Calexico and El Centro. I know that their job description is to be the hero when it's what is called for, but these guys are special. Viva Los Bomberos. [...]

Last night, we had a rain. Nothing horrible. We almost never get that kind of rain. It's a desert after all, but, the rain reminded us all that shelter needs are next on the triage list. In a few short weeks the temperatures here will be topping 100° on a consistent basis. The homeless will need shelter from that I'm searching for things to link, but, I can't find any. We are still mostly the forgotten disaster.
Please help if you can, readers; there has been precious little national media coverage of the disaster, but the need is, nonetheless, real and pressing and staggering in its enormity. Even a little money will go a long way in the hands of The First United Methodist Church of El Centro, who've ramped up their food bank efforts. And of course, the aid of the brave Border Angels is needed more than ever.

For updates, please stay tuned to the Group News Blog, where Minstrel Boy, Maggie Jochild, and other wonderful writers continue in the tradition of fearless truth-telling-in-blogging established by the late Steve Gilliard.

The First United Methodist Church of El Centro

Border Angels

Friday, April 16, 2010

The Global Food Security Act, S.384, unfairly benefits Big Biotech and must not, as it stands, be passed

Its name alone makes it seem like a wonderful and much-needed initiative: The Global Food Security Act. What could possibly be bad about working toward eradicating hunger on a world-wide basis? Well, here's what's bad about it: the Global Food Security Act, S.384, contains billions of dollars in giveaways--yes, that's billions--to Monsanto and other biotech giants who are in the business of producing, and then patenting, genetically modified crops, aka GMO's. (Background on the downsides of GMO crops may be found here; a brief summary of Monsanto's behavior as corporate "citizens" and its various legal entanglements is here.)

Here's what the excellent blog Food Freedom has to say (emphasis mine):

[SAN FRANCISCO and JOHANNESBURG] — Experts, scientists and advocates from around the world petitioned the U.S. Senate today in a concerted attempt to strip what they term a “stealth corporate giveaway” embedded in a foreign aid bill which is expected to hit the Senate floor soon. The “Global Food Security Act” (S.384), sponsored by Senators Casey (D-PA) and Lugar (R-IN), is intended to reform aid programs to focus on longer-term agricultural development, and restructure aid agencies to better respond to crises. While lauding the bill’s intentions, the petitioners object to a clause earmarking one agricultural technology (genetically modified – GM crops) for potentially billions of dollars in federal funding. $7.7 billion in U.S. funds are associated with the bill and no other farming methods or technologies are mentioned.

Monsanto has lobbied more than any other interest in support of this bill. The company is one of two or three dominant corporations in the increasingly concentrated biotechnology industry likely to benefit from the new research funding stream as well as from future profits from their patented products (both seeds and pesticides).

Today, scientists, development experts spanning a dozen countries, and 100+ groups representing anti-hunger, family farm, farmworker, consumer and sustainable agriculture delivered a letter urging the Senate to reject the “Global Food Security Act” until the bill is made technology-neutral. Their specific concern: language in the bill that would amend the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 to read “Agricultural research carried out under this Act shall . . . include research on biotechnological advances appropriate to local ecological conditions, including gm technology.”

“The bill’s focus on genetically modified technology simply makes no sense,” stated Marcia Ishii-Eiteman, Senior Scientist at Pesticide Action Network. “Independent science tells us that genetically modified (GM) crops have neither increased yield nor reduced hunger in the world. The most credible and comprehensive assessments of agriculture to date say that if we want to end global poverty and hunger, we’ll need to focus on increasing the biodiversity and ecological resilience of small-scale farming systems.”

If you follow the Food Freedom link, and I hope you will, you'll find an impassioned letter to the Senate--the signatories of which go on for pages--concluding thus:

As scientists and anti-hunger, religious, family farming, sustainable agriculture, environmental and consumer groups, we believe farmers and communities working with scientists—not Congress—should identify what technologies are most appropriate locally and what research is needed to meet socially and environmentally sustainable development goals. We ask that the mandate for GM crop research be stricken, eliminating Section 202 of the Global Food Security Act. This will keep agricultural research funding under the Foreign Assistance Act appropriately focused on the priorities and local conditions of small-scale farmers.

Please oppose S. 384 until the bill is made technology-neutral.

I urge readers to contact their senators too--simply go here--and tell them to oppose the bill until it is made technology neutral. Thank you, as ever.

[Full disclosure: as most readers are aware, my husband Robert owns and operates a family farm that grows organic and hydroponic vegetables. He is proving that it can be done--and done sustainably, responsibly, and cost-effectively--while using technology to conserve water and tap alternative energy sources. As opposed to using technology to damage and destroy biodiversity and, ultimately, if the use of patented GMO seeds continues unabated, to control the world's food supply.]

Thursday, April 15, 2010

BREAKING: President Obama orders hospitals to grant same-sex couples visitation rights

Oh my goodness, I dearly hope that this is a sign of things to come. Because I've long supported marriage equality, and I'm upset that it's taking so long for for gay friends and family members who love each other to be able to enjoy the same rights that Robert and I--and other married heterosexual couples--take for granted. And as for Don't Ask; Don't Tell, well, even conservative generals agree with me on that one--it's a hurtful, hateful policy, and it needs to go.

Still. Bravo, President Obama. As we used to yell at the Gators: First and ten--do it again!

President Obama on Thursday signed a memorandum requiring hospitals to allow gays and lesbians to have non-family visitors and to grant their partners medical power of attorney.

The president ordered the Department of Health and Human Services to prohibit discrimination in hospital visitation. The memo is scheduled to be made public Friday morning, according to an administration official and another source familiar with the White House decision.

An official said the new rule will affect any hospital that receives Medicare or Medicaid funding.

The decision injects the president squarely into the debate over gay marriage by attempting to end the common practice by many hospitals of insisting that only family members by blood or marriage be allowed to visit patients.

UPDATE: Pam Spaulding has posted the White House memo, which begins thus:

There are few moments in our lives that call for greater compassion and companionship than when a loved one is admitted to the hospital. In these hours of need and moments of pain and anxiety, all of us would hope to have a hand to hold, a shoulder on which to lean -- a loved one to be there for us, as we would be there for them.

Yet every day, all across America, patients are denied the kindnesses and caring of a loved one at their sides -- whether in a sudden medical emergency or a prolonged hospital stay. Often, a widow or widower with no children is denied the support and comfort of a good friend. Members of religious orders are sometimes unable to choose someone other than an immediate family member to visit them and make medical decisions on their behalf. Also uniquely affected are gay and lesbian Americans who are often barred from the bedsides of the partners with whom they may have spent decades of their lives -- unable to be there for the person they love, and unable to act as a legal surrogate if their partner is incapacitated.

Go read the whole thing. Wow.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

For Poland, in solidarity

Stefania Woytowicz, soprano, sings Wiosna (Spring), Op. 74, No. 2., one of various works by Polish romantic poets for which Frédéric Chopin composed melodies; all were gifts to his beloved, Maria Wodzińska, whom he adored but was too ill to marry.

The bright beauty of this spring morning seems appropriately defiant, given the sadness shrouding our world, every moment, in every country. May the people of Poland turn to their artist's heart and find comfort today.

Wiosna (Spring)

Błyszczą, krople rosy,
Mruczy zdrój po błoni,
Ukryta we wrzosy
Gdzieś jałowka dzwoni.
Piękną, miłą błonią
Leci wzrok wesoło,
Wkoło kwiaty wonią,
Kwitną gaje wkoło.

Paś się, błąkaj trzódko,
Ja pod skałą siędę,
Piosnkę lubą, słodką
Śpiewać sobie będę.
ustroń miła, cicha!
Jakiś żal w pamięci,
Czegoś serce wzdycha,
W oku łza si` kręci.

Łza wybiegła z oka,
Ze mną strumyk śpiewa,
Do mnie się z wysoka
Skowronek odzywa.
Lot rozwija chyży,
Ledwo widny oku,
Coraz wyżej, wyżej...
Zginął już wobłoku.
Ponad pola, niwy,
Jeszcze piosnkę głosi
I śpiew ziemi tkliwy
W niebo aż zanosi!

Stefan Witwicki (1801-1847)

Wiosna (Spring)

Sparkling dewdrops glisten,
Streamlet water splashing,
In the heather, listen,
Cowbells gently clashing.
In the meadow's elegance
Every view is alluring;
Flowers spread their fragrance,
Every bush is blooming.

Little flock, go wander
While I play my sweet song;
At the rock o'er yonder,
To myself I'll sing along.
Quiet place and lonely,
Pleasant contemplation;
Yet my heart can only
Weep with desolation.

Teardrops on my face mark
The river in me rising;
High above a skylark
Echoes my reprising;
Spreads his wings and soars there
Almost out of sight,
Higher, higher, higher,
Clouds conceal his flight.
Over stream and and field long
Since his notes are ringing;
With them my heart's sad song
Heavenward is winging!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Saturday Frank: Holiday in Berlin; The Bogus Pomp Orchestra with Jerry Outlaw; Tampa, 2004

St. Petersburg Zappaphiles (and those hailing from the Tampa area) are really, really fortunate in that we are home base to the band Bogus Pomp, a group of brilliant musicians the ranks of which include members of the Florida Orchestra and numerous teachers dedicated to playing the intricate and expansive compositions of the late Frank Zappa. So talented are Bogus Pomp, in fact, various musicians who played with FZ himself have traveled here to guest-star at their performances; Ike Willis and Jimmy Carl Black are just two that spring to mind.

(I'm feeling extra-fortunate this week because Son Two just began studying guitar with Jerry Outlaw, Bogus Pomp's fearless leader--see above--and one of the most talented artists I've ever had the pleasure of watching and listening to.)

Hooray for music! There it is, always, a momentary mental holiday that makes me immeasurably happy no matter how trying a week I've had.

Where do you go, musically speaking, when you want to get away?

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Republican Sexytime

Oh dear. As the characters' outfits suggest, this is not safe for work--not unless you have a, er, really interesting job.

Created by the inimitable TBogg on Xtranormal, I think it's probably safe to say no animals or wetsuits were harmed in the making of this video. But don't hold me to it.