Black Caucus-Fox News to Sponsor Presidential Debates

Kudos to the leaders of the Congressional Black Caucus Political Education & Leadership Institute for seizing on the opportunity to co-sponsor presidential debates with Fox News.

It's just too bad that the Hispanic Congressional Caucus is so deep into petty dramas that it's essentially forfeited.

Perhaps CBC can give Joe Baca some tips on how to ensure the HCC is politically relevant.

Immigration Reform is a Golden Opportunity for the GOP

In Immigration deal working (Los Angeles Times, 3.30.07), Nicole Gaouette reports that the Bush White House is working behind-the scenes to advance immigration reform. The next step is for U.S. Senator Ed Kennedy (D-MA) to respond with a senate proposal.

The White House's reasons for a deal are simple: 1) they're in desperate need for a domestic policy success; 2) sensible immigration reform is a requirement if the GOP is interested in winning back Latino support; and 3) the growing power of independent voters means that the GOP must focus less on demagoguery and more on fixing problems such as immigration.

Of course, the site of constructive liberal Democrats and conservative Republicans working to reform immigration in the U.S. will drive Tom Tancredo, Patrick Buchanan, xenophobes and racists, nuts.

Immigration reform is a wonderful opportunity for the GOP to embrace the future and shed itself of the reactionaries. When Tancredo-Buchanan threaten to lead angry nativists out of the Republican Party, the GOP should open the door wide and say good riddance.

Mayor Mike's 'Cash for doing right' Scheme

'Cash for good behavior' schemes have existed in one form or fashion since I can remember. But now according to this story Mayor Michael Bloomberg has raised lots of money to try a scaled up experiment involving 2500 families.

Let's just say that I am deeply skeptical about paying people--poor, rich or middle class--for doing what they ought to be doing anyway. I was once a "recipient'.

While in high school, well-intentioned but misguided people included me in a program that paid me for my grades. The money--raised privately--was doled out in small monthly checks which was put in an envelope with my name on it. It was supposed to give encouragement to disadvantaged but promising minority students to stay on the right track.

I took the envelopes home and dutifully stuffed them in my dresser unopened.

I viewed the payments as an insult. Just because my family was poor didn't mean that I lacked the internal motivation to go to school, finish my homework, stay away from drugs, etc.

That's not to say that I don't support all rewards programs targeted to the poor. For example, it seems to me that what would have worked better in my case would have been prepaid college tuition. Even then the cost of attending a low-cost state college appeared to be virtually impossible financially. The knowledge of a pre-paid tuition as a reward for high school success would have done wonders for me as a person and a student.

The truth about NYC's program is that the folks doling out the money will screen for families that are already motivated in the right ways. The families will collect the money and the Mayor and his people will claim success. But what will have changed?

Clooney on Obama

"We were at a rally on Darfur," Clooney said. "People were standing around backstage. All of a sudden, Obama walks out and steps onto the stage. Everyone stopped to hear what he had to say…. I've never been around anyone who can literally take someone's breath away."

"I spend a lot of time talking with other people, and I tell them, 'You really have to educate yourself on Obama because the guy is real,' " he said. "He fascinates me. People say, 'Oh, he's too young,' you know. But you cannot learn or teach leadership. You either have it or you don't."

"Everyone says the country isn't ready for a black president. I think that's ridiculous. Is he going to lose Illinois? Is he going to lose New York or California because he's black? No. And maybe he makes some inroads into other places, and maybe, for once, he could get young people to show up and vote."



The Shifting Romney

Is Mitt Romney not the most transparent politician out there?

First he was for "reproductive rights", and now that he's running for president, he's against abortion. He was for gay rights; now he's opposed. He voted against Ronald Reagan; now he claims to have been a fan all along. And on and on.

This week's flip happened in Iowa. While speaking to a Council Bluffs luncheon, he came out against a pathway to citizenship for the country's undocumented immigrant workers--something he was for as recently a year ago.

Whether liberal, conservative or a moderate, how can anyone vote for a person that appears to change with the wind?

Photo: Reuters

A GOP Edge for '08?

With all of the current problems of the GOP and the Bush White House, TIME's Jay Carney (Poll: A Surprising G.O.P. Edge for '08, 3.29.07) wonders why the leading democrats for president continue to struggle against their Republican rivals?

TIME's recent poll and others consistently show Rudy and McCain out polling Clinton and Edwards. Only Obama gives Rudy and McCain a run for their money.

Carney suspects that it's coming down to how people feel about the individual candidates and less about party affiliation. I agree. Personal qualities of candidates is increasingly trumping party labels at a time when the public is fed-up with both major political parties.

As I indicated in yesterday's post, a major problem for Democrats is that Americans know AND dislike Hillary Clinton. And people still don't have much of a feel for Edwards or Obama. On the other hand, Rudy and McCain are well-known AND well-liked.

However, likability is just one in a string of factors people use in deciding who to vote for. Additionally, the campaigns of serious candidates can be upended by the tactics of clever opponents or by unforeseen events.

NOW, Forbes and Jesse Pick Horses

There were a number of big endorsements yesterday. Jesse Jackson is voting for Obama because he'll work to form a more perfect union. NOW likes Hillary because she's a 'feminist'. And Steve Forbes backs Rudy because he, too, is a supply-sider. (Additionally, John Edwards seeks to build on his '04 support from labor unions.)

While I'm not sure these endorsements will in anyway prove decisive, they're interesting in two ways:

1) Define the Candidates - Politicians get their early support from the people and groups they best relate to--and/or they are most eager to represent. Obama needs a solid African American vote if he's to beat Hillary. Hillary needs the women's vote is she's to prevail against her male opponents. CEO Rudy wants to be the business vote. And trail lawyer Edwards seeks to be Big Labor's boy.

2) Horsey Rides - The early endorsers are looking to trade of the value of early support for big time access later. It's a big risk because their favored horse may pull up lame. However, the gamble can make all difference in who gets contracts, whose ideas become policy and who gets to make important decisions.


Expanding Legal Immigration as Nation's Destiny

Expert sees expanding legal immigration as nation's destiny (by Sid Salter, The Clarion Ledger - 3.28.07)

With an estimated 12-to-15 million illegal immigrants already in the United States and more coming to the tune of 1.5 million each year, the illegal immigration debate is one certain to dominate presidential and congressional politics in 2008.


Tamar Jacoby, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and a nationally respected expert on immigration issues, is a rare breed of think tank author and speaker - a fiscal conservative who believes that "sensible levels of open immigration" is in this nation's best interests.

Her conservative message? "People are sick of porous borders and sick of immigrants ignoring the rule of law."

Her conservative solution? "Get illegal immigrants legal and in the system, make them accountable and help the ones who are here illegally to do the things necessary to get legal."


"Supply and demand creates a flow of 1.5 million Hispanic immigrants a year, but current laws only allow 1 million to legally enter the country," said Jacoby. "The other 500,000 enter the country illegally and there is a cost for that illegality."

Jacoby said the answer to the nation's immigration debate is to bring current legal immigration quotas "into line with supply and demand."


Is the GOP Doomed in '08?

Conservative Republican Bob Lonsberry thinks so.

The way it stands now, we Republicans are on track to get the thumping of a lifetime. We are about to get spanked, and spanked hard.
Read why in his WILL 2008 MEAN DOOM FOR REPUBLICANS? (3.28.07).

Of course, some Republicans believe that a crushing defeat in '08 doesn't so much represent the demise of the GOP, but rather the beginning of its liberation from the looney right.

Saturn's Mysterious Hexagon

A mysterious giant hexagon lies above Saturn's north pole, captured by cameras on NASA's Cassini Orbiter.

Spanning 25,000km - equivalent to the width of two planet Earths - the bizarre geometric feature appears to remain virtually still in the atmosphere as clouds swirl around it.

Click here for NASA's animation of Spinning Saturn and the other unworldly phenomena.

Report by Universal Taíno (Just kidding!)

Hillary 'Milhous' Clinton on Track to Win?

In Hillary on Track for Nomination (RealClearPolitics, 3.28.07), Tony Blankley has an interesting take on Hillary Clinton's political chances. He believes she's well positioned to win the Democratic nomination--and possibly the White House.

Blankley says that Bush has created a deep hole for the eventual Republican nominee. And that neither Edwards or Obama appears capable of knocking Hillary out of contention. If anything, he says, they're unwittingly helping her sharpen her act.

Fast forward to the fall of '08: The GOP is fractured over the Iraq War and the public's low regards of the Bush administration. Their nominee is forced to fight a multi-front campaign just to survive. Meanwhile, Edwards and Obama split the anti-Hillary opposition and a sharper and stronger Hillary prevails.

While winning against a politically weakened Republican is still not a sure thing, the Clintons are masters at eking out close national victories.

Blankley acknowledges as much when he compares Hillary's skills and drive to Richard Milhouse Nixon--another unloved politician that won campaigns largely through tactical brilliance. That's why he sometimes calls her Hillary Milhous Clinton.

Last January, I posted If '68 is like '08, then who's Nixon? in which I drew a comparison between 1968 and 2008. I ended it with this question: And who is the Nixonian politician of 2008? You tell me? (And by the way, the question is gender neutral.)


Hazelton's Immigrant Codes Trial

Jackson Chin, Associate Counsel, Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund (PRLDEF), has written The Hazleton immigration ordinance trial: an inside perspective for the JURIST's Hotline.

Here's an excerpt from Mr. Chin's article, which makes clear that Hazelton's anti-immigrant ordinance is as much about terrorizing and chasing out Latinos--citizens and noncitizens alike--as it is about anything else.

Plaintiffs showed that in the months that followed [the adoption of the anti-immigrant ordinance] and in a national election year, the Defendant Mayor’s media driven campaign stoked panic and fear among the City’s newcomer Latino residents and business owners. Latinos complained about illegal police ID checks of Latino immigrants in the streets, public insults, and, parents fretting over the welfare of their school-age children. These led to Latinos staying at home, the flight of immigrant families, businesses in the City’s Hispanic district losing customers, mounting sales income losses due to a “ghost-town” effect, mortgage defaults arose, Latino businesses closing, and landlords with hardships renting to tenants. The court issuance of the TRO (October 31, 2006) provided a stabilizing effect but the ordinance’s intended impact was palpable. Plaintiffs also showed that the police chief and other officials were not consulted by the Mayor, that no research existed tending to show a crisis of illegal immigrants existed before the bills were proposed, and, that the City’s blame failed to distinguish its Latino residents, whether citizen, immigrant or undocumented, causing community fear and discord.
According to Chin, the parties will submit their post-trial briefs due in April 2007. Then, the court will make a decision. It is likely the losing party will take an appeal to the 3rd Circuit.

Bush War Doctrine Sustains Another Blow

Three months into their take-over of the U.S. Congress, Democrats landed their second body blow to the Bush War Doctrine by narrowly approving (50-48) a nonbinding resolution in favor of an Iraq War withdrawal.

The Senate has now joined the House in passing resolutions to end the U.S. combat presence in Iraq. The vote assures that the U.S. Congress will send legislation to the White House later this spring mandating a dramatic change in war policy.

The president has promised to veto any change to the Bush War Doctrine.

While Senator Joe Lieberman (I-CT) voted with the Republicans, Senator Chuck Hagel (R-NE)cast the deciding vote in favor of the resolution.

Click here for the APl story.

50% Say No to Hillary

According to a Harris Interactive poll released today, half of the country's voters would not vote for Senator Hillary Clinton for president.

50%! Ouch!

Has there ever been a 1st time candidate for president with the negatives of Hillary Clinton? I don't think so.

If nominated, Hillary's negatives suggest disaster for the Democrats in the fall of '08. Here's why:

1) Even with sky high negatives, Hillary Clinton can win the Democratic nomination. All she has to do is win pluralities in enough primaries, and she has the 30-35% of activist Democrats to do so. Additionally, the front-loaded primaries of '08, which includes New York and California, make Hillary the favorite given her big money and total name ID.

2) But when her campaign pivots towards the November vote, it'll be hit with what appears to be an impenetrable wall of profound general voter antipathy. For example, the poll shows that an unbelievable 69% of seniors (age 62+) won't support her--nor will most (52%) of married women.

Hillary is essentially the Democrat Newt Gingrich. Both are smart, ambitious and have their own fiercely loyal band of adherents; however, neither is much loved by the public.

Gingrich seems to understand his limitations and appears to have set his sights, instead, on becoming the conservative VP to a popular but moderate presidential nominee. For example, a Rudy-Gingrich ticket maximizes Gingrich's political strengths while minimizing his weaknesses.

Hillary, on the other hand, has made no such adjustment. She's 'in it to win it' as she's fond of saying. But it's still early with plenty of time for recalibrations.

Florida Pols Seek Legal Status for Refugees from Chavez' Venezuela

US representatives call on Bush to let Venezuelans stay (by Laura Wides-Munoz, AP, 3.27.07)

MIAMI - Five U.S. representatives are calling on the federal government to provide temporary legal status to Venezuelans who may be in the country illegally for what they contend is a recent increase in political persecutions in the South American country.

U.S. Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart, R-Fla., Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., Mario Diaz-Balart R-Fla., Connie Mack R-Fla. and Jerry Weller, R-Ill., sent a letter Monday to President Bush asking him to order the Department of Homeland Security to temporarily stop deporting Venezuelans.

"We strongly believe that the Chavez government in Venezuela at this time is persecuting its citizens for their political views," the representatives wrote in the letter.



Is Velazquez a Troublemaker Pushing PR Self-Determination?

As soon as I posted U.S. Corporations Lobby Against Puerto Rico Statehood?, I came across Julie Shapiro's Velazquez tries to solve Puerto Rico status limbo (The Villager, 3.14-20.07).

Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez wants to put decisions about Puerto Rico’s future back in the hands of Puerto Ricans. A commonwealth — neither a state nor an independent country — Puerto Rico is often caught in the middle of a heated debate about its identity.

At the end of last month, Velazquez introduced the Puerto Rico Self-Determination Act of 2007. The bill, with 25 co-sponsors, describes a process for Puerto Ricans to decide the status of their home.

“Any proposal regarding the future of Puerto Rico must first come from Puerto Ricans,” said Velazquez, who was born on the island. “Self-determination needs to come from the people of the island — to do otherwise would be tampering with their free will."

Given the clear message in favor of short-term profits over the long-term interests of the Puerto Rican people by U.S. corporations, it seems that Nydia Velazquez may have taken on a bigger challenge than merely winning authorization in the Congress for a PR plebiscite.

This reminds me that PR Governor Acevedo's economic development plan is linked to his buddies in the political and drug manufacturing worlds of New Jersey. I suspect that island and New Jersey status quo interests may not be all that happy with a New York Boricua insisting on a democratic vote and self-determination in Puerto Rico.

U.S. Corporations Lobby Against Puerto Rico Statehood?

A majority of Puerto Rico residents may prefer statehood, but U.S. multi nationals prefer things just the way they are. That is the essence of Dan Caterinicchia's story Big business may keep Puerto Rico from statehood published by Associated Press (3.25.07).

More than half of Fortune 100 companies operate there, with billions invested in factories and trained workers. Eli Lilly & Co., Abbott Laboratories and others, including Microsoft Corp. and Coca-Cola Co., don't want to lose Puerto Rico's tax-free commonwealth status, politicians and academics say.
Puerto Rico's leading statehood advocate, Senate President Kenneth McClintock, believes that the firms won't leave an educated, loyal and skilled work force.

But that may not be true. Corporate lobbyists argue that the multi nationals would dump Puerto Rico in favor of the greener pastures of Singapore, India and elsewhere if Puerto Rico's status changed.

My bet is that the corporations also like Puerto Rico's high unemployment rate because it keeps workers wages dramatically below U.S. national scales.

Wow, so much for Puerto Ricans deciding their own fate. The clear message is for islanders to stop wanting equal status and get back to their novelas.

This bit of patronizing news must be welcomed by lackluster Governor Anibal Acevedo and leader of the island's status quo party.

Chuck Hagel's 8 Minutes that Rocked Congress

This month's Esquire has a fascinating special feature on Nebraska senator and maverick politician Chuck Hagel. It's titled A multimedia exploration of Chuck Hagel's historic moment, and what it means for a declining presidency (by Charles P. Pierce - 3.11.07) and includes an extensive report along with video snips of key speeches and television interviews.

All voting age Americans should read and listen to the whole Esquire feature. But if you don't have the time, at least watch the 8:21 minutes that rocked Congress--and may have ended the Bush War Doctrine.

Update: The Republican minority blocked Chuck Hagel's proposed resolution preventing a U.S. Senate debate on the Iraq War. Subsequently, Hagel announced that his decision on whether to compete for the Republican presidential nomination was put on hold.

Ron Paul's Vote Against Iraq War Funds

The Upcoming Iraq War Funding Bill (by U.S. Congressman Ron Paul, Republican of Texas - 3.20.07)

The $124 billion supplemental appropriation is a good bill to oppose. I am pleased that many of my colleagues will join me in voting against this measure.

If one is unhappy with our progress in Iraq after four years of war, voting to de-fund the war makes sense. If one is unhappy with the manner in which we went to war, without a constitutional declaration, voting no makes equally good sense.

Voting no also makes the legitimate point that the Constitution does not authorize Congress to direct the management of any military operation-- the president clearly enjoys this authority as Commander in Chief.

But Congress just as clearly is responsible for making policy, by debating and declaring war, raising and equipping armies, funding military operations, and ending conflicts that do not serve our national interests.

Congress failed to meet its responsibilities four years ago, unconstitutionally transferring its explicit war power to the executive branch. Even though the administration started the subsequent pre-emptive war in Iraq, Congress bears the greatest responsibility for its lack of courage in fulfilling its duties. Since then Congress has obediently provided the funds and troops required to pursue this illegitimate war.

We won’t solve the problems in Iraq until we confront our failed policy of foreign interventionism. This latest appropriation does nothing to solve our dilemma. Micromanaging the war while continuing to fund it won’t help our troops.

Here’s a new approach: Congress should admit its mistake and repeal the authority wrongfully given to the executive branch in 2002. Repeal the congressional sanction and disavow presidential discretion in starting wars. Then start bringing our troops home.


Ron Paul, Republican candidate for U.S. President, opposed the Iraq War from the beginning. Click here for his compelling statement on the Iraq War.

Surge in Citizenship Applications: Hallelujah, Right?

Talk about unintended consequences.

The Christian Science Monitor reports today that there has been a 79% SURGE in applications for U.S. citizenship--a raise that's expected to spike even higher over the next few months.

The surge is credited in part to a citizenship push by a coalition of pro-immigrant/Latino groups in Southern California whose battle cry is 'Ya Es Hora. Ciudadania!' (It's time. Citizenship!).

Why citizenship now?

A major reason is an increased desire by America's 8 million permanent legal residents to vote – the key benefit of citizenship – spurred by a year of debate over immigration policy and massive demonstrations in large US cities. Many immigrants are rightly appalled by the barbaric treatment of immigrants by elements of the government and anti-immigrant groups.

"The same kind of political abuse that used to go on in Argentina I am now seeing in the US. I'm applying to become a citizen because I want to vote, to make a difference, to have a voice in democracy." Andrea Sbardellati

Ironically, the anti-immigrant/anti-Latinos drum beat of nativists has spurred one of the largest waves of citizenship applications in recent history. And the citizenship wave will ensure that the U.S. gain millions of newly minted U.S. citizens of Latino heritage.

For claiming their beef is with "illegal" immigration and that they're neither anti-immigrant or anti-Latino, we should expect endless articles and posts praising the movement towards citizenship, right? The airwaves and tabloids should be packed with tearful stories of joy as waves of "legal" Latino immigrants swear oath to the U.S. Constitution and arm themselves with the right to vote, yes?

Sadly, it's more likely we'll hear a lot of angry muttering instead. Why? Because their problem has never had anything to do with whether Latino immigrants filed the right set of papers.


The Bloomberg Scenarios

There's yet more buzz about a possible Michael Bloomberg for president--even though he has said he won't decide until next year.

Part of it is that Bloomberg has had some success as mayor of New York City, is term-limited, has endless wealth, and is deeply committed to public service.

Waiting until next year to decide means either he is:

- not running for president but Republican VP might be nice
- running for president as an independent and can, therefore, afford to wait
- not running but hinting at it gives him unusual political leverage

Here are three scenarios that could sweep Bloomberg into the upper reaches of American political power:

1) Bloomberg the Independent Candidate

If the parties go knee-jerk and nominate ideologues with questionable executive ability, a third party Bloomberg for president movement would be powerful. While this scenario appears unlikely--you never know what can transpire between now and next year. For all we know, we could have Democrat Dennis Kucinich squaring off against Republican Tom Tancredo. Under that scenario, Bloomberg wouldn't even have to campaign to win.

2) Bloomberg the Republican VP

If the moderate Republicans running falter and the nomination goes to a mainstream conservative candidate, such as a Fred Thompson, a Bloomberg VP would make a contest against the Democrats quite interesting. Some of the typical political and cultural lines of attack used by Democrats against Republicans would be blunted.

3) Bloomberg the Democrat VP

Bloomberg as a Democrat? Why not. Bloomberg was a life-long Democrat until '01 when he ran for mayor. Bloomberg maintained his standing as a mainstream liberal.

A Bloomberg as Democrat VP would blunt GOP attacks, too. He would instantly make the Democrats look less partisan. On the issues, a Bloomberg VP would be add gravitas to any ticket and he would help deflect charges of being anti-business, or too soft on national security.

Bloomberg's role on national security would be very interesting. In today's politics, determining whether a politician is strong or weak on national defense is often gauged by views on support for Israel. As a strong defender of Israel, the GOP would have a hard time making the case that the Democrats are unrealiable on national security and the fight against terrorism.

While two New Yorkers on the same ticket has never happended before, a Clinton-Bloomberg ticket could be the sort of breakthrough that could bullet-proof Hillary's quest for the White House.

The same could be said of an Obama-Bloomberg ticket. These two mean--more than any other combination--match each others strengths and weaknesses. Obama is charismatic; Bloomberg is not. Bloomberg has a ton of money; Obama needs a ton of money. Obama is African American; Bloomberg is White. Obama is from the Midwest; Bloomberg is from the Northeat. Obama knows policy; Bloomberg knows management. Opponents have made Barack Hussein Obama's religion an issue; Bloomberg is Jewish.

Re-igniting the African American-Jewish Alliance

An Obama-Bloomberg ticket could re-ignite the historic African American-Jewish alliance--a partnership that has frayed over the years. From an alliance for civil rights laws, a victorious Obama and Bloomberg could bring the partnership into the highest reaches of civil governance.

National Bloomberg

Time will tell whether Michael Bloomberg decides to throw his hat in the ring for national office, but one thing is certain: Michael Bloomberg will be heavily courted by Democrats and Republicans a like. If he doesn't run for president--and he probably won't--the country is still likely to benefit from a Michael Bloomberg, public servant, at the national or international arenas.

Photo: nycgov

Elvira Arellano: Saul's Mom and Immigrant Rights Leader

Saul Arellano's mother, Elvira Arellano, has become a symbol for the resistance against the government's barbaric practice of fracturing immigrant families by forcibly arresting and deporting the "undocumented" mothers of children whom are U.S. citizens.

Against American law, the U.S. citizen children of these immigrant mothers are also deported, or--as happened last month in Bedford, MA--the government deports the mothers and leaves the children behind, alone, to fend for themselves.

Last August 2006, Arellano defied an order by ICE to turn herself in for deportation. Instead she sought refuge in Adalberto United Methodist Church where she has lived with her son since under the historic religious practice of Sanctuary.

Click here for a CBS interview with Elvira Arellano recorded last August, 2006, at the Adalberto United Methodist Church last August.

The church sits in the center of Chicago's Humboldt Square, a Puerto Rican community represented by Luis Gutierrez in the U.S. Congress. The Puerto Rican community has rallied to Arellano's cause--and Gutierrez has become a leading champion for immigrant rights and immigration reform.

When government laws and authorities act in inhumane ways, people have historically sought refuge and/or help from religious institutions. There is a long and proud tradition in this country--as well as in others--to defy the immoral and inhumane actions of government from the sanctuary of institutions of faith. Think of the U.S. civil rights movement, the under-ground railroad, the struggle against apartheid, the U.S. sanctuary movement of the 1980s, Poland's Solidarity Movement and Mahatma Gandhi's campaign against British oppression.

What's especially gratifying to see is the leadership role of Chicago's Puerto Rican community. Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens and could, therefore, simply look the other way--as so many Americans have done. Or they could join in the ugly American tradition of taking free shots at the most recent and beleaguered immigrants. But in Chicago, it's Puerto Ricans--among others--that have formed the human shield necessary against the brutality of the U.S. government.

Visit Puerto Rican Legal and Education Fund's website to learn about how Cesar Perales and his Boricua associates are fighting injustices against immigrants and Latinos.

Photo: AP

Saul's Letter to President Bush

"We are U.S. citizens
but the government
is taking away

our mothers and fathers."

Letter to President Bush
From Saul Arellano

I Saul Arellano age 7 an American citizen, do now formally request a mettin with President George W. Bush. I request that he grant safe passage for my mother, Elvira Arellano, so that she can be with me at this meeting and can return safely to our Church. I request also that our United Methodist Pastor, Rev. Walterd L. Coldman and his wife, Emma Lozano and my Congresmen Luis V. Gutierrez, Boby Rush, and Rafael Pulido and Abel Uribe and my friend Daysha Delvalle also be present at this meeting.

I want to tell President George W. Bush why I believe my mother should be allowed to stay with me in my country. I want to tell him also that there are more than 3 million children like me. We are U.S. citizens but the government is taking away our mothers and fathers.

I ask all Good people to help me to get this meeting with President Bush.

Saul Arellano

Source: ColorLines is the leading national, multi-racial magazine devoted to the creativity and complexity of communities of color. Photo: AP


Shock Jocks' Anti-Latino Bigotry: Smart Business?

In an effort to gain new listeners, Trenton shock jocks Craig Carton and Ray Rossi of WKXW have added anti-Latino bigotry to their daily adolescent jokes and racist rants.

According to a NYTimes story, "The Jersey Guys" are running “La Cucha Gotcha,” a listener-participation game that encourages people to turn in friends, neighbors and “anyone suspicious” to immigration authorities. The show uses mariachi music and set the culminate on Cinco de Mayo, a major Mexican holiday.

Needless to say, New Jersey's Latinos--which are 15% of the state's population--are unimpressed with the show. Last Thursday, Latino elected officials and others condemned the show as “dehumanizing,” “poisonous” and “idiotic.

But Latinos may yet get the last laugh.

Latinos are the fastest growing radio audience in the country with spending power estimated at $700 billion per year--and it's expected to triple by 2010. This is why Latino radio stations are surging to the top in many major markets.

Perhaps it's time to reformat WKXW. After all, the "over-aged adolescent, titillated by racist radio chatter", demographic--even in Jersey--has a short life span.


Kurdistan - The Other Iraq

At the end of Waiting for Kurdistan there's a link to Kurdistan- The Other Iraq, a site for a campaign to inform the West of the peaceful, friendly and prosperous region of Iraq called Kurdistan.

Iraq's Kurdistan is actually part of an ancient people that straddles the borders of 5 separate countries. With over 30 million people, the Kurds are the world's largest ethnic group without a nation of its own.

Kurdistan - The Other Iraq has links to a number of videos, audio recordings and articles on Kurdistan. Here are four of the videos:

Video 1: Who Are The Kurds? - The Kurds have struggled to survive at the crossroads of the ancient world. This video is a short history.

Video 2: CBS' Kurdistan Strives For Autonomy - Bob Simon reports on a secure area, next to a war zone, that may or may not get its own sovereignty: Iraq's Kurdistan.

Video 3: CNN's Interview of Bayan Rahman, Chairperson of the Kurdistan Development Corporation.

Video 4: CBS' An American In Kurdistan - Bob Simon asks Ahmed Gilani, a college student, why he returned to Kurdistan after growing up in Texas.

Dine Bizaad Shilnili: The Navajo Language Immersion School in Fort Defiance, Navajo Nation

Many American Indians were forcibly sent away to Indian boarding schools across the country. (Read about one of these schools in The Porto Rican Indians of The Carlisle School.) The idea was to eradicate the native language and culture by crushing of the children's spirits.

Thankfully, times have changed and today Indian children are gaining new educational options with new opportunities to learn state mandated content as well as the native language and culture.

The current issue of Education Week has done a series on the Navajo Language Immersion School in Fort Defiance, Arizona. It's a school in which Indian children are taught in English and in Navajo.

The series is in three parts:

Part 1 is an article A Culture Put to the Test: For Navajo children, a rigorous program draws on tradition to spur achievement by Mary Ann Zehr, in which the Navajo Language Immersion School's success is examined.

The K-8 school with 235 students in the Window Rock Unified School District, here on the reservation of the Navajo Nation, draws on both Navajo tradition and modern accountability tools to improve student achievement.
Part 2 includes an interview with Laurinda Davis Moore, a Navajo mother who's enrolled her children--Lailauni, Malayne and Latreyal--in the Navajo Language Immersion School. Laurinda mentions that her parents attended an Indian Boarding School where they were punished for speaking Navajo.

The audio is linked to photos which capture a bit of the Moore's life at home and at school.

A nice complement to the school's program is the presence of Nellie Curley, a Navajo elder who spends time in school helping the children with their language lessons.

Part 3 are short audio interviews with Navajo parents. The first is with Delphine Chief, a devout Baptist who prefers to home school her children. The second is with Laulani Moore, 13, whose parents regret not having learned Navajo. And the third is with Nancy Yazzie who chose the Navajo School for her children so that they could learn the language and culture so that they could pass it on to future generations.

But does it work academically? Yes. The Deseret Morning News found that "[s]tandardized test scores...showed that after two years of immersion in the Navajo language, students actually fared better in English than peers who did not learn Navajo."

Also, read Navajo Language in the Navajo Nation by Carolyn Joy Wiles (ESLGlobe, NC State University, Spring 2006)

Photo Credit: Christopher Powers/Education Week

Noruz: A Very Kurdish New Year

A Very Kurdish New Year (by Andrew Lee Butters, TIME, 3.22.07)

Noruz, the Zoroastrian New Year and the first day of spring, is celebrated by Iraq's Kurds every year on March 21. The holiday is a much bigger deal next door in Iran — ancient Persia is the birthplace of the Zoroastrian religion, and the government practically shuts down for weeks. The Kurds are given fewer days off and hold fewer rituals, but Noruz remains an important holiday, in part because it is used to commemorate one of the founding myths of Kurdish identity.

Legend holds that Kowa, a blacksmith's son, killed a child-eating giant and, after slaying the beast, lit a fire to signal his terrorized people that they no longer need live in fear. Nowadays Kurds, the descendants of Kowa, light fires during Noruz — often by burning tires — as a symbol of resistance, independence and survival in the face of tyranny. They also do some serious picnicking.

The struggle to survive as a people is a continuing theme for the Kurds, an ethnic minority living in the mountainous border regions of Iran, Iraq, Turkey and Syria. I joined the family Noruz celebration on Wednesday of an Iraqi Kurdish friend, who had several relatives (also Kurds) visiting from Sanandaj in Iran.

Over lunch, they complained that oppression by the Iranian government has accelerated dramatically under the current government of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Iran's ruling clerics have systematically discriminated against Kurds, whom they see as threats to the ethnic, linguistic, and religious unity of their predominantly Farsi-speaking, majority Persian and Shi'ite nation. Not only do Kurds have their own language; most are also Sunni Muslims. "They hate us twice," said a young cousin. "We are Kurds and we are Sunni."

Besides banning political activity and free speech, the Iranian government has been settling ethnic Persians in Kurdish regions, and tempting Sunni Kurds to convert to Shi'ism Islam by offering preferential jobs and treatment, according to my friend's family. They said that 40 percent of Kurds in Iran are losing their language and their traditional religion.

But the Iranian government hasn't always been so hard on the Kurds. In the 1990's, at the height of Saddam Hussein's genocidal campaign against Iraq's Kurds, Iran sheltered thousands of Kurdish refugees, as well as the Kurdish political parties that today run Iraqi Kurdistan and are the key coalition ally of the ruling Shi'ite alliance in Baghdad.

That history is one reason why Kurdish leaders in Iraq, all the way up to President Jalal Talabani, take a much more diplomatic approach to Iran than the more confrontational stance of their U.S. allies. Kurdish leaders protested when American special forces raided Iranian government offices here in Erbil earlier this year, capturing several Iranians whom Americans claim are intelligence agents. And Kurdish leaders have built (or at least allowed for the founding of) a couple of Shi'ite Muslim community centers in Kurdistan, as a gesture of goodwill to their friends in Iran.

Maintaining warm ties with Iran may also be designed to help the domestic political agenda of Iraq's Kurds, reassuring their more powerful neighbor that an autonomous Kurdish region in Iraq or some future independent Kurdistan will not promote Kurdish separatism elsewhere in the region. The days of Kowa and giant killing are over.

U.S. House Vote Against War is a Vote of No Confidence

Expressing the will of the people, the U.S. House of Representatives voted Friday to impose a cutoff deadline on the Iraq war, agreeing by a thin margin to pull combat troops out by next year and pushing the new Democratic-led Congress ever closer to a showdown with President Bush.

See Dems Challenge Bush With Iraq Timetable by Anne Flaherty, AP, 3.24.07.

The 218-212 vote, mostly along party lines, was a hard-fought victory for Democrats...Passage marked [Democrats] most brazen challenge yet to Bush on a war that has killed more than 3,200 troops and lost favor with the American public.

Understandably, President Bush is angry about the vote and has threatened to veto the measure. But frankly, he has only himself and his administration to blame. While the public went along with the Iraq invasion--even when military leaders and allies cautioned against it--the administration consistently fell short in terms of military intelligence, war strategy and public communications.

My view is that the House's vote is really a vote of no confidence in the Bush administration's handling of the war in Iraq and the larger 'war of terror,' and not an expression of pacifism--as some on the left would claim. Surge or no surge, a rise or fall in the number of explosions--it doesn't much matter at this point. The public has lost confidence--and trust is not recoverable.

Mythology aside, Americans are comfortable with the role of a 'warrior state'. America are hawks. Time and time again, Americans have proven their preparedness to go to war--even when that fight is half way around the world. But equally, Americans have proven that they will not support an endless, poorly conceived and/or poorly executed war--no matter the worthiness of the architects' intentions.

If we had a parliamentary system such as in Israel or England, President Bush would already be history. But we don't. So the public expresses its will indirectly through votes such as the one that just occurred--and it waits for the president's term to end.


Standing While Latino: Video of the Suffolk County Anti-Loitering Debate

In Suffolk Legislature Votes Down Anti-Immigrant Code (3.21.07), I posted that the Suffolk County Legislature defeated a controversial anti-loitering bill aimed at immigrant day laborers who congregate along county roads to solicit work from passing motorists.

The bill, dubbed "The Standing While Latino" code by Latino and immigrant advocacy groups, sparked strong opposition from the county's large Latino and immigrant populations.

The lead up to the defeat of the bill included two days of hearings by the legislature's public safety committee. The hearings took place on 3.15.07 and 3.16.07 and they were videotaped by Ian and Kimberly Wilder, artists from the Town of Babylon, Suffolk County. They've posted the videos on their weblog On The Wilder Side.

Standing While Latino: Part 1 features the eloquent commentaries of legislators Elie Mystal (D)and Kate Browning (WFP*) in opposition. Both legislators are immigrants: Mystal from Haiti and Browning from Northern Ireland. Presiding Officer William Lindsay (D)is also shown speaking against the bill because of concerns that it could be used against congregating union workers.

Standing While Latino: Part 2 features the testimony of Dr. Luis Valenzuela, Executive Director of the Long Island Immigration Alliance and Professor of Social Work at the Adelphi University on Long Island.

What's fascinating to watch is the exchange between the sponsors of the bill, Jack Eddington (WFP*) and Joseph Caracappa (R), and Dr. Valenzuela. Dr. Valenzuela challenges the legislature to find a nondivisive solution to the problems, but the legislators defend acting on behalf of property owners while also expressing resentment at opponents' use of the word racist.

*Working Families Party

Waiting for Kurdistan

I love Christopher Hitchens' brilliant Letter from Kurdistan: Holiday in Iraq (VanityFair, April 2007) because of what it says about the resilience of the Kurdish people.

The Kurds are the largest nationality in the world without a state of their own. The King of Bahrain has, in effect, his own seat at the United Nations, but the 25 million or so Kurds do not. This is partly because they are cursed by geography, with their ancestral lands located at the point where the frontiers of Iraq, Iran, Turkey, and Syria converge.
Hitchens sees the terrific changes in Kurdish Iraq since George W.H. Bush imposed a no-fly zone over northern Iraq. Bush I did so in order to stop Saddam Hussein from continuing his mass murder of the Kurdish people. But Hitchens wonders what might have been had the U.S. honored its commitments to the Kurdish and the Iraqi people.

The thing that I've never understood--and never will--is why 25 million are denied nationhood by the world's community of nations. Based on what principle do nations such as the U.S., England, Russia, China, India and most others stand opposed to the emergence of Kurdistan?

None--other than a knee-jerk reaction to protect the status quo. But that status quo denies 25 million of their birthright to nationhood. Doesn't that matter?

Why on earth is it better to allow Syria, Iran, Iraq, Armenia and Turkey to the legitimate aspirations of the Kurdish people? It's not like any of these countries are especially good global citizens seeking to do right by the people whose lands they're squatting on.

While I'm glad to learn what Kurd can do with a measure of freedom in northern Iraq, I'd like to see civilized nations press for the emergence of a whole Kurdistan.

Is Kurdistan too much to hope for?

How much longer should the Kurds be made to wait?

Click here for Kurdistan - The Other Iraq.

Young Latinas in Crisis

CHLI and the Girl Scouts Shed Light on the Crisis Facing Young Latinas (HISPANIC PR WIRE, 3.23.07)

At a congressional briefing held today, the Congressional Hispanic Leadership Institute and the Girl Scouts of USA (GSUSA) shed light to the crisis facing Latina teenagers and discussed ways to work together with other organizations to reach out to Latinas.

Patricia Diaz Dennis, the GSUSA Chairwoman, shared the alarming statistics associated with the significant health and social disparities among Latina teenagers:

17% of Latina adolescents attempt suicide – their rate is more than 150% higher than other girls.

24% of Hispanic teenagers get pregnant, which is the highest pregnancy rate of any of their peers (other statistics show this rate at 51%).

One of every five Latina teenager is obese.

Latinas are at disproportionately high risk for HIV, Chlamydia and Gonorrhea.

One-quarter of all Latina girls drop out of school.


BTW: The Congressional Hispanic Leadership Institute is separate from the Hispanic Congressional Caucus, a Democrat party entity engulfed in controversy

Rudy's Big Mo

While the right and the left work feverishly to deep-six Rudy's chances of becoming president, polls consistently put him as the candidate to beat. Check out this chart distributed recently by Rudy's campaign on how he's doing against his Republican rivals.

At this point, it's no contest.

While I'm not sure what was the significance of February 5th, I suspect it was around then that the wheels started to fall off of the McCain candidacy.

Adding to Rudy's growing momentum is the tact that Mitt Romney's "I'm pretending to be a staunch conservative" roadshow has yet to gain traction.

For a nonRudy campaign data source, look at these charts on RealClearPolitics.com. Note on the graph how McCain's slippage mirrors Rudy's gains.

Expect social conservatives and leftists to gin up "swift-boat" type attacks on Rudy--his politics and his personal life. (And just today, the NYPost went after Judy Nathan Giuliani ran with a story about her first marriage.)

While one would think that the anti-Rudy campaigns would benefit his likely Democrat opponent, it'll probably be a wash at the end. Why? Because that candidate--whose likely to be Clinton--will undoubtedly face his/her own "swift-boating".

Obama's Irish Roots

Obama's heritage traced to Ireland (RTÉ, 3.15.07)

US Presidential hopeful Barack Obama can now count himself as one of the millions of Americans with Irish heritage.

Research by the genealogy website ancestry.co.uk reveals that Mr Obama's great great great grandfather was born in Ireland, although it is not yet known where.

Falmouth Kearney sailed from Ireland to New York in 1850 at the age of 19 on the S.S. Marmion arriving on the 20th of March.

Morning Ireland: Simon Ziviani of the family history websiteancestry.co.uk talks about Barack Obama's hunt for his Irish ancestry.
He initially settled in Ohio, got married, had eight children, and later moved to Indiana, right next door to the state Obama currently represents in the US Senate.

Mr Keaney was part of the great American migration to escape the 1840s potato famine in Ireland.

Mr Obama's father was from Kenya, while his mother grew up in Kansas.

'A great deal has been made of Obama's Kenyan roots, however his European ancestry has until now been overlooked', said Ancestry.co.uk Managing Director Simon Harper.

If Mr Obama gets elected, he would be the first multiracial US president in history - and join a long list of those with Irish ancestry including Bill Clinton, Ronald Reagan, and of course, John F. Kennedy.

Ronald Reagan's great-grandfather, Michael O'Reagan, was born in Ireland in the 1820s. John F Kennedy's great-grandfather Patrick Kennedy came from Dunganstown, Co Wexford, while Bill Clinton's maternal ancestors are said to have come from Co Fermanagh.


María de la Soledad Teresa O'Brien: Journalist, News Anchor, Irish Latina

María de la Soledad Teresa O'Brien, 40, anchor of CNN's American Morning news program, embodies what is right about America: immigration, education, diversity and achievement.

Soledad is the daughter of immigrants: Edward, an Australian from Toowoomba, Australia, is of Irish descent, and was a university professor; Estrella, an Afro-Cuban, was a French and English teacher.

Soledad is the fifth of six children--who all graduated from Harvard University.

Prior to joining CNN, Soledad had been at NBC News since 1991, where she contributed reports for the Today Show and weekend editions of NBC Nightly News. She was anchor of Weekend Today since July 1999. In 1998, Soledad covered Pope John Paul II’s historic visit to Cuba, and later in 2003, she covered the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster.

Soledad began her career as a news writer in Boston, and then worked as a local reporter in San Francisco.

Soledad's work has been honored several times, including a local Emmy for her work co-hosting the Discovery Channel's The Know Zone. She has been named to People's 50 Most Beautiful in 2001 and to People en Español's 50 Most Beautiful in 2004. She was named to Irish American Magazine's "Top 100 Irish Americans" on two occasions. She is also on Black Enterprise magazine's 2005 Hit List. Also in 2005, she was awarded "Groundbreaking Latina of the Year" award by Catalina magazine. Most recently she was awarded the 2007 NAACP President's Award.

Soledad is a member of the National Association of Black Journalists and the National Association of Hispanic Journalists. She serves on the board of directors of The Harlem School of the Arts.

She's also earned the honor of being Stephen Colbert's favorite "Omniracial Newswoman".


Latinos Off Line

Oh, that's why!!!!

According to Latinos Online, a report issued jointly by the Pew Hispanic Center and the Pew Internet & American Life Project, Latino adults living in the United States are considerably less likely than other adults to access the internet. Latinos now comprise 14% of the U.S. adult population and about half of this growing group (56%) goes online. By comparison, 71% of non-Latino whites and 60% of non-Latino blacks use the internet.


Suffolk Legislature Votes Down Anti-Immigrant Code

Suffolk lawmakers Tuesday night defeated a controversial anti-loitering bill aimed at immigrant day laborers who congregate along county roads to solicit work from passing motorists.

The 10-6 vote, with one abstention, came after hours of charged rhetoric from immigrant rights groups, civil libertarians, ministers and residents of Farmingville and other affected communities.

Some demonstrated in the afternoon and then packed the legislative auditorium in Riverhead. Many were forced to listen to the debate in the building lobby.

"I don't believe this bill would have any impact on the problems," Suffolk County Legislator Vivian Viloria-Fisher (D-Setauket) said in an interview. "We should be looking for a solution that brings people together."

Viloria-Fisher, deputy presiding officer of the legislature, is one of two Latinos elected to the 17 member legislature. Ricardo Montano of Central Islip in the other.


Bill Gates: Freedom of Migration is a Good Thing

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates, the world's richest man, said on Tuesday the United States should reform its immigration laws and give more flexibility to higher-skilled foreign workers.

Speaking at a conference in Mexico, the birthplace of millions of immigrants to the United States, Gates said reforms "would be helpful so we are predictable, so we are clear."

"I'm a big believer that as much as possible, and there's obviously political limitations, freedom of migration is a good thing," Gates told reporters.



Latina Lista: AG Gonzalez Just Doing His Job

I like reading Marisa Treviño of Latina Lista, especially her work exposing the lunacy of our immigration policies and enforcement.

That's why I find her comments regarding Attorney General Gonzalez so disappointing.

In The Extent of Gonzales' Guilt Should Serve as a Wake-Up Call to Latinos (3.19.07), Treviño writes that she's shocked that the GWB administration sacked 8 federal prosecutors.

What was done to those eight federal prosecutors for only doing their jobs was a travesty, ironically, of justice.
The real question is not why they were sacked, but why they weren't sacked at the outset?

See, it's unusual for an incoming administration--such as GWB's in 2000--to keep all of the holdover prosecutors. But that's what Gonzalez and the GWB folks did. In contrast, Hillary and Bill fired all 100 prosecutors on day one and installed their own loyalists.

What is most unfortunate is that Treviño believes its a disgrace if Gonzalez resigns or is fired. She writes:

If Gonzales leaves his post, either by resignation or fired himself, it will be an act of disgrace for him, his family and the Latino community who still measures our progression and success on the backs of those who make it.
As in the case with the prosecutors, Attorney General Gonzalez is a political appointee. Part of the deal is that if called upon from above, he is expected to fall on his sword for the good of his patron. His ethnicity has absolutely nothing to do about it. So how would it be a disgrace for his family or the Latino community.

Perhaps Treviño has a point if she were embarrassed by Henry Cisneros' payoff to a girlfriend he then lied about, or Bill Richardson's role in moving Lewinski out of the oval office and into an out-of-town gig that paid her way more than she was worth. But even in those situations, I certainly don't take any responsibility for the stupid things those Latinos did.

In some ways, it's a sign of progress when Latinos in high places are free to embarrass themselves on equal footing with whites and blacks.

But rest assured that there's no shame in a Latino doing his/her job--including the political part of a political job.

Obama's Video Record on the Iraq War

Whether you support him or not, you can not deny the fact that Barack Obama was courageous in his opposition to the Iraq War when all others were equivocating, and that his analysis of the possible outcome of a poor war plan, delivered six months before the war commenced, was dead-on.

Now Obama's political opponents, including the Clintons and the rightwing media (FoxNews, Hannity, Limbaugh, et al), are desperately trying to confuse the public.

Clearly, a individual with courage, conviction and intelligence is a huge threat to these folks. They'd like nothing better than for the public to believe that Obama is simply another political hack like themselves.

But Obama has the truth--which they can't away. And his words have been recorded. As Warner Wolff, the colorful NYC sportscaster loves to say, "Let's Go To The Videotape!"


Luisa Valenzuela: Hugo Chávez Stings Like A Bee

In What We See in Hugo Chávez (NYTimes, 3.17.07), Argentine and writer Luisa Valenzuela offers her perspective on why Latin Americans of all classes are drawn to Hugo Chávez.

President Chávez’s weapons of seduction are his superabundance of petrodollars and his obsession with a shared Latin American project. His plan is to realize the dream of Simón Bolívar, the old utopian vision of Latin American integration that today seems more viable than ever before.
Of President Bush's contested visit to Latin America last week, Valenzuela sees a fading imperial brawler whose punches have grown soft and short:

President Bush found himself repudiated on one bank of the Plata while President Chávez was getting ovations on the opposite one: each contender in his corner and the moral triumph to the last man left standing, as in a boxing ring.
Valenzuela is moved by the "feeling of empowerment that President Chávez instills, and that various South American governments are endorsing." She sees these as "a good engine for further progress — a means of upgrading ourselves from the status of someone’s backyard into that of a truly autonomous region."

African immigrants make the smartest Americans?

March 19, 2007
Black Immigrants, An Invisible 'Model Minority'
By Clarence Page

WASHINGTON-Do African immigrants make the smartest Americans? The question may sound outlandish, but if you were judging by statistics alone, you could find plenty of evidence to back it up.

In a side-by-side comparison of 2000 census data by sociologist John R. Logan at the Mumford Center, State University of New York at Albany, black immigrants from Africa average the highest educational attainment of any population group in the country, including whites and Asians.

For example, 43.8 percent of African immigrants had achieved a college degree, compared to 42.5 of Asian Americans, 28.9 percent for immigrants from Europe, Russia and Canada, and 23.1 percent of the U.S. population as a whole.


Hillary 1984: The Video

Carla Marinucci of the San Francisco Chronicle writes that Hillary 1984 "...may be the most stunning and creative attack ad yet for a 2008 presidential candidate -- one experts say could represent a watershed moment in 21st century media and political advertising."

"Yet the groundbreaking 74-second pitch for Democratic Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, which remixes the classic "1984" ad that introduced Apple computers to the world, is not on cable or network TV, but on the Internet."


A Failed War -- A Failed President?

Today marks the beginning of the 5th year of the Iraq War, so President Bush came on television and gave a 5 minute update. Gone was all of the theatrics. It was a plain and usual unconvincing plea by GWB to anxious Americans to hold firm because there is progress.

Rhetoric aside, what's clear is that the president looks and sounds a great deal less confident. For a brief moment, he almost looked like a haggard Jimmy Carter during the Iran Hostage Crisis telling us that the problem is real hard but that's he's staying up all hours of the day and night trying to fix the, well, really, really hard problem.

And it doesn't help when GWB tells us that his shiny new commander, General Petraeus, reports that the situation on the ground in Iraq is the hardest he's ever seen in his 32 years in the military.

Clearly, none of this is working with the public. GWB's standing with the American public has sunk to the lows of failed presidents such as Carter and Nixon. Today, only 35% (Gallup Poll) of Americans believe GWB is doing a good job. And it's his handling of the Iraq War that's torpedoed his presidency. According to the latest CNN poll, 61 of Americans now believe that the Iraq War was not worth it, and only 35% support the war.

It seems that GWB and the American voter--and possibly the enemy--are all just now counting down until January 21, 2009.


The Porto Rican Indians of the Carlisle School

It was common for the federal government and religious institutions to remove young Native Americans from their families and placed them in Indian boarding schools far from home.

Hundreds of these schools operated in the United States from the late 1800s through the 1950s.

“Kill the Indian and save the man.”
Founder of The Carlisle School, U.S. Army General Richard H. Pratt

Indian schools proliferated after Army officer Richard H. Pratt, who worked with Apache prisoners in St. Augustine, Florida, convinced the U.S. Congress to give him funding and use of deserted army barracks to operate boarding schools for Indian children.

Pratt believed that removing Indian children from their culture and subjecting them to strict discipline and hard work would force their assimilation into mainstream society.

Congress' support was based on cost. It was also thought that the U.S. Army could save the thousands of dollars it took to kill an Indian by forcibly changing young Indians into ‘Americans’, which would cost only a few hundred dollars.
Needless to say, many Indian students did die, and many more were physically and mentally maimed for life. At the Carlisle Indian Industrial School in Pennsylvania alone, there 186 graves of Indian children.

Surprisingly, many students from Puerto Rico and Cuba were also enrolled at the Carlisle and other U.S. boarding schools. It was part of a U.S. program following the Spanish American War of 1898 to "Americanize" the populations of Puerto Rico and Cuba.

Educator and author Sonia M. Rosa discovered this forgotten part of American-Puerto Rican history and has written about it a paper titled The Puerto Ricans at Carlisle Indian School. It's a short but fascinating study of the Puerto Ricans at the Carlisle Indian School, a group of young Boricuas which came to be known as the Porto Rican Indians.

Obama's Hawaii Youth: Preparation for a World Leader?

In A Search for Self in Obama’s Hawaii Childhood (NYTimes, 3.17.07), Jennifer Steinhauer provides an interesting glimpse of a young Barack Obama through the comments of his sister, Maya Soetoro-Ng, and school pals.

What's clear is that Obama learned early on to value diverse peoples and views. For example, Maya Soetoro-Ng has these things to say about her brother:

There was always a joke between my mom and Barack that he would be the first black president.

He had to pursue those answers actively. People from very far-away places collide here, and cultures collide, and there is a blending and negotiation that is constant.

I think Hawaii gave him a sense that a lot of different voices and textures can sort of live together, however imperfectly, and he would walk in many worlds and feel a level of comfort.
Isn't this the type of person that America needs today?

AP Photo: Barack is 3rd from left in top row


'Tar Baby' in American Politics

As far as I can recall, ‘tar baby’ has been a racist term. It dates back to the Uncle Remus stories, which included a doll made of tar that traps Br'er Rabbit. In the 1800’s America, the black sticky doll symbolized the festering "black problem" for whites and, as such, has been a racial epithet for over a 100 years.

So why would Governor Mitt Romney in a speech in Boston last July, and Senator John McCain while campaigning just this week in Iowa, use the term?

Incredibly, Romney and McCain say they used the term to simply mean a “sticky problem”, and that neither knew it was racist. Unlikely. Both are smart, veteran politicians that know the meaning and powers of words. They knew exactly what they were saying and why they were saying it.

My belief is that they may be engaged in an old American game of appealing to voters for whom the use of such terms is common, while pretending not to.

In the past, politicians in certain quarters would simply use the “N” word and not apologize for it. In today’s PC world, politicians use more subtle ways. Using a term with a double meaning like ‘tar baby’ and then claiming innocence is clever. Having used the term in a public speech, its coded message is sent and received by the intended audience.

As I said, coded messaging is common for politicians seeking votes from racists. For example, popular today is saying you’re against ‘illegal’ immigration. It’s code for I hate those brown people, too, and we’re going to get rid of them. Actually, there’s little PC constraint on racists today when it comes to immigrants. All they have to do is add ‘illegal’ and they enjoy free reign to say—and sometimes do—the most hateful things.

Using racist code messages is a bi-partisan thing in America. Think: GWB’s silence in regards to the confederacy flag; and Joe Biden’s boast that Delaware was a slave state.

Here are examples from two of America’s most popular recent Presidents: Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan.

Bill Clinton

As the Democratic primaries turned to the South, Clinton maintained his moderate liberal rhetoric, but he did two things to send a very powerful message to white southern voters: 1) he rushed back to Arkansas to oversee the execution of convicted killer Ricky Ray Rector, a brain-damaged black man; and 2) he posed with Georgia Senator Sam Nunn in front of a phalanx of black inmates in white prison suits taken at Stone Mountain, Georgia. Stone Mountain was viewed as a symbol of the KKK. The picture appeared in newspapers all across the south the day of the southern primaries in 1992.

Ronald Reagan

After receiving his party’s nomination in Detroit, Michigan in mid-July, Reagan waited until August 3rd, to deliver his first presidential speech. That speech was delivered in Philadelphia, Mississippi—and on the eve of the anniversary of the killings of civil rights workers Cheney, Schwerner and Goodman. The subject of Reagan’s speech? States Rights.

Are Romney and McCain racists? I don’t think so. (McCain himself was nuked mercilessly in South Carolina because his adopted daughter of East Indian heritage. GWB's allies spread rumors that McCain has fathered the girl.)

They may be, however, using racial codes in order to appeal to racists. And while what they may have done pales in comparison to what Clinton and Reagan did, it’s still despicable.

Latino Voters Critical in New Primary Calendar

Iowa and New Hampshire voters have long enjoyed a level of influence over the selection of the country's political party nominees--and, therefore, presidents of the United States--than their tiny numbers warranted.

Why? Because voters in those states have gotten to vote way before everybody else, ensuring "momentum" for their preferred candidates. By comparison, by the time the primaries of big, urban states came around, candidates have been decided.

While the primary schedule has worked against the interest of big urban states, it also has largely voided the electoral power of African Americans, Latinos and other minority groups, which are heavily concentrated in those states. Millions of Latino and African American voters in the late primary states of New York, California and Illinois means virtually nothing in comparison to the hugely powerful votes of a relatively small number of mostly white, rural voters in Iowa and New Hampshire.

Perhaps this is why instead of getting urbane, tolerant and measured presidencies, the United States has gotten Delta Bill, Peanut Carter, Oil Patch Bush and Rancher Reagan. It's not to say that these men aren't without positive attributes, or that they wouldn't have won their party's nominations anyway, but it's easy to see how an inverted primary schedule would have yield very different results.

The good news is that a number of urban states are moving their primaries up. For example, California just approved a February 5th primary--and New York, Texas, Florida, Illinois and New Jersey are considering similar moves.

What's interesting about a new primary line-up is that not only does it open the door to the presidency for a different set of politicians, but it elevates the importance of the Latino primary vote. Why? Because fully 75% of the country's Latino population live in those states.

Latinos may go from a largely ignored voter group, to a highly courted bloc, and early in the process where support leverages the most clout.

Let's Go To Ponce

For those unfamiliar with Puerto Rico, the island's South, i.e., it's glorious Caribbean side, is what the locals view as authentic Puerto Rico.

While less well known than the San Juan region in the North, it, too, boasts sun splashed colonial architecture, fine central plazas, museums, fine restaurants, botanic gardens, golf courses and nature preserves, but without the hassle--and for a fraction of the price.

And to top it off, South coast beaches are of the hugely more pleasant and emerald green variety of the Caribbean Sea.

Let's Go To Ponce is a terrific resource for tourists, business people, and real estate investors seeking information about South Puerto Rico.

We, The Taíno, are the 1st Americans!

In pre-Colombian America, The Taíno and their cousins spread across the Caribbean basin and the north coast of South America. But now we learn that the northern reaches of The Taíno included the Floridian peninsula (of North America).

In Our first citizens: Florida's earliest residents developed their own societies to match their environments, Joe Crankshaw (TCPalm - 3.6.07), identifies the native peoples that lived on the land which came to be known as Florida, including The Calusa, The Tequesta, The Jeagas, The Hobe and the Ais, and The Caribes and The Taíno.

He says of The Taíno:

The Caribes and Taíno were two tribes from the Caribbean Islands, who made long voyages between the islands in their long canoes. They were skillful navigators, tradesmen and warriors. They were the first of the native peoples met by Columbus in 1492. Some historians believe they settled in South Florida around the Miami River. They traded and raided along the Treasure Coast. In the late 1940s, a Caribe burial of about a dozen individuals was found on Hutchinson Island between Jensen Beach and Fort Pierce.

Haines Brown in A brief history of the Timucua Taíno of Northern Florida makes the case for a much more powerful presence of the Taíno in North America.

For example, he writes that in the first millennium A.D. and probably earlier, much of Florida was occupied by Taíno Arawak-speaking peoples who had migrated up from the Caribbean. Furthermore, Brown claims that even the Timucua people of northern Florida (pre-Seminole Florida) and Georgia were of Taíno heritage.

One thing we know for sure is that the Taíno descended from people that migrated across vast distances across the Americas. Therefore, it is not surprising to learn that The Taíno and related peoples travelled and made their homes across modern day Florida.

We, The Taíno, are the first Americans!


Hate Letters Confirm Racism of Anti-Immigrant Codes Movement

A leader against Hazelton, Pennsylvania's anti-immigrant worker codes, Dr. Lopez, has made public hate letters from from racists. It's yet more evidence that much of the current immigrant worker hysteria is driven by pure and unadulterated racism.

Instead of crafting solutions and fixing the broken immigration system, petty politicians seek to score easy points by passing anti-immigrant worker legislation. The result is that the more anti-immigrant codes are proposed, the more racists in America are encouraged.

Emboldened racists are very bad news for America.

SCRANTON -- A Latino community leader testified this morning to receiving racist hate mail from as far away as Hartford, Conn., and as nearby as Wilkes-Barre.

The letters warned him to stop speaking against Hazleton's Illegal Immigration Relief Act.

Recalled to the witness stand in the William J. Nealon Federal Building, retired eye doctor Agapito Lopez, who helped organize several protests against the ordinance, examined three letters sent to him in the past eight months. The first was a note slipped under his door July 12, the day before Hazleton passed its controversial law.

It included an article "We are under invasion from Mexico."

He received a second letter postmarked from Wilkes-Barre, he testified. It claimed Latinos are responsible for the city's slide toward violence and crime.

"It is implying we are criminals, we are thieves, we are lazy and our women are promiscuous," Lopez testified.

The third letter from Hartford, Conn., included a cartoon of a "Mexican warrior type" wearing a sombrero and included racial epithets which he read aloud in court.

"This is the most degrading thing I've read in my whole life."

Bloomberg Speaks the Truth about Immigration, Education and Inequality

In New York Mayor Warns Against Growing Inequality in U.S. (NYTimes, 3.14.07), Mayor Michael Bloomberg was dead on in his remarks before a gathering of financial heavy weights to discuss the country's competitiveness problem.

Bloomberg staunchly defended open immigration and free trade. He said...

The things that we have to worry about is this protectionist movement that has reared its head again in this country and the anti-immigration movement, which will destroy our children’s future if we let it go unchecked.
The mayor’s most striking remarks were about economic inequality, as he voiced views not widely articulated by his fellow Republicans.

This society cannot go forward, the way we have been going forward, where the gap between the rich and the poor keeps growing. It’s not politically viable; it’s not morally right; it’s just not going to happen.
Additionally, he blames “the abject failure of public education in this country” as a major cause of inequality, arguing that too many young people had not been given the skills essential for a technologically advanced economy.

Bloomberg clearly gets it!

It's no wonder a growing number of people are taking note of Bloomberg as a potential national leader.


Why Won't the Feds Arrest Millions of U.S. Citizens, Too?

Boston Globe's Jeff Jacoby in Illegal immigrants are here to stay, lays bare for all to see that the current immigrant worker witch hunt is fueled more by racism rather than a quest to uphold the law--as so many anti-immigrants love to claim.

If the witch hunts were really about enforcing the law, wouldn't the authorities also arrest and imprison the millions of U.S. citizens that break the law each and everyday when they employ undocumented workers? And wouldn't a real effort in this regard cause the immigrant worker supply to dry up overnight?

But this is not what is happening. Why not?

My take is that it doesn't happen because the U.S. citizens breaking the law are white. They break the law but only the workers--which are brown--get punished.

Until I see real evidence that the anti-immigrants and the government (at all levels) begin arresting U.S. citizens on par with their "criminal" activity, I'll not believe any of them when they claim that they're simply upholding the rule of law.

Applying a law unevenly is not upholding the rule of law. It is simply officially sanctioned racism.
Illegal immigrants are here to stay (by Jeff Jacoby, Boston Globe -- 3.14.07)

SUPPOSE YOU LEARN that a New England manufacturer is exploiting its employees, many of them illegal immigrants, with wretched working conditions. It fines them for talking on the job, refuses to pay overtime, and penalizes them for bathroom breaks of more than two minutes, all in addition to low wages, long hours, and squalid facilities. What do you do?

Well, if you're the United States government, you send armed agents to haul the workers off in shackles to a military base 100 miles away, then fly scores of them more than 2,000 miles to a holding pen in Texas. You provide the frightened detainees with little information and no access to lawyers. You act so rashly that many of those you seize are separated from their children and can't get word to spouses or babysitters. You display such ineptitude, in fact, that babies end up in the hospital, dehydrated, after their nursing mothers are taken away.

The company's owner and managers, meanwhile, you arrest, charge, and release on bail. They reopen for business the next day.