Tuesday, May 26, 2009

LCLAA on Sotomayor



WASHINGTON, DC –The Labor Council for Latin American Advancement (LCLAA) applauds President Obama’s nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the United States Supreme Court. Sonia Sotomayor is a distinguished judge, renowned for her acumen and public service throughout her career. Since 1998 she has served on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. A summa cum laude graduate of Princeton University and an editor of the Yale Law Journal, Sotomayor is a commendable choice for the nation’s highest court. President Barack Obama makes history with the selection of this exemplary judge who would be the first Hispanic and third woman to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court.

"Judge Sonia Sotomayor is more qualified than anybody currently serving on the U.S. Supreme Court at the time they were nominated. She brings a wealth of knowledge gained through her illustrious legal career and her life experiences. She will undoubtedly enrich the perspective and deliberations of the law as it applies to all people in this country. Once confirmed, Sotomayor will join Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Gainsburg, the only woman currently serving on the Supreme Court bench. With the departure of Supreme Court Justice David Souter, Sotomayor will also be the only Justice with trial judge experience. She is well-qualified and posseses exceptional credentials. We welcome her nomination.," stated Milton Rosado, LCLAA's National President.

“We embrace the nomination of Sonia Sotomayor to the highest court of the land. This nomination inspires hope in the Latino community and all people in this country who come from humble beginnings, aspire to serve this nation and live the American Dream. There is no question that Sotomayor will adhere to the principles that America's founding fathers fought hard to achieve and will apply them to the many questions and controversies that face our nation today,” stated Dr. Gabriela D. Lemus, LCLAA's Executive Director.

“A qualified Latina in our highest court will diversify judicial deliberations, bringing the perspective of an individual who possesses first hand experience on the issues faced not only by ordinary Americans but also under-served individuals and communities. This nomination increases public confidence in our legal system by reinforcing our Constitution’s axiom of “equal justice under the law,” added Hector E. Sanchez, LCLAA's Director of Policy and Research.

Sotomayor's credentials are widely recognized across party lines. She has been nominated to judicial posts by both Democratic and Republican presidents. She has been confirmed by the Senate on two separate occasions, receiving bipartisan support. Before becoming an appeals judge, Sotomayor served on the federal district bench in New York, a position to which she was appointed by Republican President George H.W. Bush. Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Chairman of the Judiciary Committee which will hold Sotomayor's confirmation hearings, highlighted Sotomayor's qualifications to fill the Supreme Court vacancy and commended President Obama for reaching across the aisle to consult on this nomination. LCLAA will work arduously to ensure that Judge Sotomayor receives an expeditious confirmation.

The Labor Council for Latin American Advancement, LCLAA is the home of the Latino Labor Movement. LCLAA is a national Latino organization representing the interests of over 1.7 million Latino trade unionists throughout the country and the Common Wealth of Puerto Rico. LCLAA was founded in 1973 and is America’s premier national organization for Latino workers and their families. LCLAA advocates for the rights of all workers seeking justice in the workplace and their communities. LCLAA is a constituency group representing Latino workers in both the AFL-CIO and Change to Win Federation.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Roberto Martinez: Presente

Helped immigrants fight discrimination

By Norma de la Vega Enlace Staff Writer , Blanca Gonzalez Union-Tribune Staff Writer 
2:00 a.m. May 21, 2009
When Roberto Martinez was growing up in San Diego, he was harassed by law enforcement and threatened with deportation, even though he was a fifth- generation Mexican-American.
He was a native English speaker who didn't learn Spanish until he was an adult, and the injustices he saw in the local immigrant community spurred him to a life of activism for human rights. Mr. Martinez, considered a pioneer in defending immigrants against discrimination and racial intolerance, died yesterday at home after a long illness. He was 72.
After working more than 20 years at a factory that manufactured airplane engines and rising through the ranks to become a supervisor, Mr. Martinez left the job in 1977 to work in the Latino community. He eventually became director of the American Friends Service Committee in San Diego.
"He never sought to be a public figure or a leader, but he had a keen sense of justice," said Christian Ramirez, national coordinator of the American Friends group, a Quaker-sponsored human-rights organization.
"He was a pioneer in defending immigrants in a very difficult era, when that cause enjoyed no political or economic support."
"He was a warrior for human rights," said David Valladolid, a local activist and president of the Parent Institute for Quality Education. "And the best part was the humility and modesty with
"He's the one who started getting attention for the deaths from Operation Gatekeeper," longtime friend and fellow immigration-rights activist Enrique Morones said in reference to the federal push in the 1990s to strengthen border fences in San Diego. Opponents say the move pushed illegal crossings east into harsh terrain, where many people died.
Mr. Martinez was the first U.S. citizen honored by Human Rights Watch when the international group gave him an award in 1992. He was one of about a dozen activists who were named "human rights monitors" around the world.
Roberto Martinez was born Jan. 21, 1937, in San Diego to John and Mary Martinez. He grew up poor, the youngest son of a carpet-layer and a homemaker.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Ethnic Studies: 40 Years

The College of Ethnic Studies
Ethnic Studies 40 Years Later: Race, Resistance and Relevance

In 1968-69, students of the black student union and third world liberation front, staff and faculty, as well as members from the larger Bay Area community, organized and lead a series of actions to protest systematic discriminiation, lack of access, neglect, and misrepresentation of histories cultures and knowledge of indigenous peoples and communities of color within the univeristy's curriculum and programs. Their specific demands included the establishment of our departments - Asian American Studies, Black Studies, La Raza Studies, Native American Studies - in Ethnic Studies. These demands reflected a respect for the diverse intellectual traditions and cultural expressions of the scholars, activists, and artists of communities of color and indigenous people throughout the U.S., and a fierce commitment to the concept of self-determination through education.
October 7-10, 2009 / CALL FOR PROPOSALS

The College of Ethnic Studies (CoES) at San Francisco State University (SFSU) invites proposals for papers, panels, roundtable discussions, workshops and performances for a conference marking the founding of The College and the emergence of the field of Ethnic Studies. The first College of Ethnic Studies, inaugurated in 1969, was accompanied by ethnic studies initiatives, programs, centers and departments at universities and colleges around the world. This 40th anniversary of CoES presents an opportunity to examine contributions, developments, and challenges within the field of Ethnic Studies. We welcome the exploration of themes that include but are not limited to the following:

• Where is Ethnic Studies in the world today, and what are the similarities and differences between our contemporary goals and those of decades past that led to the creation of the field?

• What fruitful relationships are possible—and what obstacles exist--between Ethnic Studies programs, local communities of color, and related diasporas?

• How are social justice pedagogies relevant to the field of Ethnic Studies?

• In what ways have our conceptual tools for discussions about race, racialization, racial formation, and power changed since the founding of Ethnic Studies? How are we addressing class, gender, sexuality, religion, and citizenship within Ethnic Studies?

• What strategies allow for inclusion of a full range of ethnic experiences, philosophical perspectives, methods, and analytical frameworks within the field?

• How might recent events such as restrictions of civil liberties domestically and internationally, the election of Barack Obama, ongoing wars, and the international economic crisis affect the field of Ethnic Studies and the centering of race relations?

Please send your submissions with the cover sheet to fortieth@sfsu.edu
Priority will be assigned to proposals in the order of submission deadlines:

Friday, May 15, 2009

Correa Triumphs in Ecuador

Correa Triumphs in Ecuador, and Thereby Becomes One of Latin America’s Most Successful Political Figures

Ecuadorian President, Rafael Correa, was re-elected yesterday with an impressive 51.7 percent of the vote, in a large field, to serve another term as head of state. Illustrating his widespread popularity in the country, his untainted presidential victory comes as the first such electoral triumph since 1979 that did not require a later run-off vote. His closest contender, Lucio Gutiérrez, managed to command only 28.4 percent of the ballot. Finishing in third with the lowest level of support in his four bids for the presidency, banana magnate, Álvaro Noboa saw his right-leaning electorate seriously dwindle.

It could be argued that Correa is one of the most successful contemporary Latin American political leaders of the era. Since taking office, he has come forth with a very specific socio-political program which has significantly alleviated the country’s political instability and hobbling strategic and economic conditions, while at the same time advancing his overt leftist platform aimed at job creation and lifting the country’s living standards. “Socialism, of course, will continue. The Ecuadorian people voted for that,” he exclaimed after his victory Sunday. “When have we concealed our ideological orientation? We are going to emphasize this fight for social justice…”

Despite having expelled a pair of U.S. diplomats stationed in Quito this year on allegations of their “unacceptable meddling” in Ecuadorian matters, Correa has generally avoided going out of his way to flail at the U.S. At the same time he did not fawn over seeking Washington’s goodwill when he announced that the U.S. lease on the military and anti-drug base at Manta would not be renewed in November. The same cannot be said of his left-leaning counterparts, Hugo Chávez of Venezuela, and Evo Morales of Bolivia, who never avoided exchanging pot shots with the Bush White House, but seem more interested in re-establishing a diplomatic relationship with Washington now that a new incumbent is occupying the White House.

Having been largely effective at maintaining relatively good relations with Washington while still holding his own, Correa appears keen on continuing his social and economic programs. Although he does expend a good deal of time on political dickering and forming non-productive alliances, he is not anything like a regional visionary in the mold of Chávez or Morales. Correa’s pragmatic, hands-on nature and his genuine preference for domestic matters over foreign affairs, and being his own man rather than fabricating a satellite personality is a decided asset. Correa’s feisty performance has improved the myth or reality that the Ecuadorian poor believe that their president has drastically improved the lives of everyday Ecuadorians, including themselves.

This analysis was prepared by COHA Staff
April 27th, 2009

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Wage Theft

This week the TPM Café Book Club is hosting a running discussion of Kim Bobo’s Wage Theft in America: Why Millions of Working Americans Are Not Getting Paid—And What We Can Do About It. Commenting on the book are Dean Baker, Liza Featherstone, Steven Greenhouse, and Nathan Newman. Chiming in soon will be Bill Fletcher, Jr. and T. A. Frank. You can find the forum at:


Here are the individual posts thus far:

Kim Bobo -- “The Crime Wave No One Talks About”


Nathan Newman -- “Stealing With a Pen Instead of a Gun”


Saturday, May 09, 2009

U.S. Strategy in Latin America was wrong

The Obama administration admits its approach must change, as Latin American countries unite against the US

Mark Weisbrot
guardian.co.uk, Wednesday 6 May 2009 19.00 BST

Three years ago I wrote an article arguing that the political changes sweeping across Latin America were epoch-making and probably irreversible, and that they would fundamentally alter the relationship between the region and the United States. Some of the most important economic causes of the region's shift to the left – including the unprecedented long-term growth failure since 1980 – were unrecognised then and remain mostly unacknowledged to this day.

At the time, Washington's stated strategy was to isolate Venezuela from its neighbours. This was before the election of additional left governments in Ecuador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Paraguay and El Salvador. I argued that this strategy was based on a fundamental misunderstanding of what was happening in the region, and that it would only succeed in isolating the United States from its southern neighbours.

All this has come to pass, but more interestingly, for the first time we have an acknowledgement of this failure from the US secretary of state, Hillary Clinton. At a press conference last Friday, she said in response to a question about Venezuela:

When we look around the world, actually, we see a number of countries and leaders – Chávez is one of them but not the only one – who, over the last eight years, has become more and more negative and oppositional to the United States. ... The prior administration tried to isolate them, tried to support opposition to them, tried to ... turn them into international pariahs. It didn't work.

This is a remarkable confession, and it didn't get a fraction of the attention it deserved. Clinton did not name the countries, but in Latin America, Bolivia would have to be included as a country where Washington has incurred resentment by supporting opposition movements against President Evo Morales. And of course there is the 47-year failure of the embargo against Cuba:

"We're facing an almost united front against the United States regarding Cuba. Every country, even those with whom we are closest, is just saying you've got to change."

She didn't mention that they are also saying that Washington must change its policy toward Venezuela. President Lula da Silva of Brazil, who has consistently defended Hugo Chávez, has told Barack Obama as much and reportedly counselled him at the Summit of the Americas not to listen to his advisers – most of whom have appeared to seek continued hostility toward Venezuela and possibly Bolivia.

It is remarkable that pressure for a reality-based view of the world has had to come from the south, and says a lot about the state of civil society in the US. How is it that nobody from our leading foreign policy institutions could have figured this out years ago? On Cuba, there has been dissent – partly because there are powerful business interests that want access to the island, and partly because 47 years of failure is a long time even for slow learners.

But on Venezuela, the primary focus of US foreign policy in the hemisphere for the past seven years, there has been an overwhelming consensus of fantasy and hype. Chávez is the only democratically elected leader in the world, facing a media that is still overwhelmingly controlled by his political opposition, to be successfully maligned as a "dictator". And a threat to the US – what exactly has he done to the US, anyway, other than provide a $100m annual subsidy to poor people here for heating oil?

The sad reality is that while the US has at least some civil society organisations that can present an independent view to the public on domestic issues, on foreign policy issues we are much more like Russia. The vast majority of expert opinion on foreign policy that is allowed access to major media in the US consists of government officials, former government officials or people who or are otherwise influenced by the government. This is one reason why it was so easy to invade Iraq and so difficult to get out of there or out of Afghanistan – in spite of the American public's long-standing lack of enthusiasm for sending combat troops overseas.

Hillary Clinton also took note that Russia, Iran and China are gaining economic and political influence in Latin America, and recognised that we are operating in "a multi-polar world." This is also obvious – China has recently invested billions in Venezuela, Brazil, Cuba and Ecuador, and agreed to a $10bn currency swap arrangement with Argentina. This week China also passed the US as the number one recipient of Brazilian exports. But Clinton's recognition of a "multi-polar world" is unusual and probably unprecedented for a US secretary of state.

The signals from Washington remain mixed. The state department last week took another gratuitous swipe at Venezuela, listing the country as a "terrorist safe haven", among other unsubstantiated allegations. (A few days later, Venezuela deported five Colombian guerillas to their home country). Obama's top economic adviser Larry Summers recently made a point of saying that Argentina would not qualify for the IMF's flexible credit line, from which Mexico had just received a $47bn commitment.

Washington is the IMF's principal overseer. Mexico and Brazil also each have access to a $30bn currency swap arrangement with the US Federal Reserve. These are large commitments, and a reminder that Washington is still using its clout in a time of crisis to play political favourites, rather than contributing to regional balance of payments support.

But Clinton's unprecedented reality-based remarks are an indication that she and Obama may have taken home some important lessons from their conversations with other presidents at the Summit of the Americas on 22 April. Such new thinking would be long overdue.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Capitalist Pigs: In Mexico

Capitalist Pigs

Think about the term "money laundering" for a moment. It suggests that the more often dirty money changes hands, the cleaner it gets.

Globalization operates according to the same imagined principle. If we tear down the barriers to the free flow of capital, our economies will cleanse themselves of protectionist impurities. The faster that money circulates in the global spin-cycle, the more efficiently the global economy will operate.

In fact, globalization just moves the dirt around. The recent outbreak of swine flu - actually a hybrid of swine, avian, and human flu - painfully demonstrates this truth. Did the epidemic begin at a hog farm run by Smithfield Foods in Veracruz, Mexico? A disease much like swine flu broke out in the community of La Gloria in February, affecting 60% of the town's population of 3,000 people. The link between this outbreak and the subsequent epidemic hasn't been determined. But the residents of La Gloria have been complaining for some time about the filthy conditions, namely the manure lagoons and the flies that love them.

As Foreign Policy In Focus (FPIF) contributor Manuel Pérez-Rocha points out in the latest video interview in our Empire strategic focus, Smithfield was polluting the Chesapeake Bay before it branched out into polluting Mexico. In 1997, Smithfield was hit with the largest water pollution fine ever - $12.7 million - for dumping you-know-what into a river that feeds into the Chesapeake. Thanks to the North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), Smithfield could easily shift operations to a place where health and safety regulations are considerably less strict. Rather than raising standards - wages, environmental regulations, health care - free trade agreements have pushed down the quality of life for workers and those living in communities around operations like Smithfield's in Veracruz.

The brouhaha over the name of the flu - it is now officially called "H1N1," which makes it sound like the latest music video channel - has largely obscured the appalling conditions at these hog operations and their pathogenic propensities. "Pigs actually serve as a wonderful mixing vessel for influenza viruses to reassort," the CDC's Nancy Cox told The Washington Post. Epidemiologist Ellen Silbergeld was even more to the point: "It's my opinion that these kinds of events go on all the time because we have so little regulation of industrial agriculture. It's appropriate to refer to these animal operations as viral mixing bowls" (By the way, if you want to get a sense of what it's like inside these porcine hells on earth, read the novel That Old Ace in the Hole by E. Annie Proulx, which in the most entertaining way rubs your face in it).

Globalization isn't just about capital, of course. Germs and viruses are thrilled at the new opportunities to spread. Epidemics have been linked to colonialism (Europeans brought smallpox to the New World and brought home syphilis in return) and to war (the great flu epidemic of 1918 spread in part because of troop movements). These days, pathogens are benefiting from the greater circulation of people, goods, and capital. Both AIDS and SARS were given a big boost by airline travel. But the creation of a global assembly line for food production - swine flu breeding grounds, avian flu Petri dishes, mad cow disease production facilities - has exponentially increased our chances of breeding a virus that can tear through our compromised global immune system. If viruses could speak, they would sound a lot like Ronald Reagan: "Mr. Human Being, tear down this wall!"

One end run around this problem is to skip livestock altogether and grow meat in the laboratory, which the Dutch have been researching (giving new meaning to the phrase "Dutch treat"). But that sends us off into Oryx and Crake territory, novelist Margaret Atwood's terrifying vision of genetic engineering and pandemics. Without giving away the novel's ending, let's just say it's apocalyptic.

A more appropriate response would be to ramp up global cooperation to deal with these global challenges. One positive sign is China's recent decision to stop preventing Taiwan from participating as an observer at the World Health Organization. We can't deal with these problems until everyone is at the table. A shift in resources away from military spending and toward global health care is another no-brainer. And our globalization should be about raising standards rather than lowering them to the level of a pigsty.

We don't need an alien invasion à la The Day the Earth Stood Still to force nations to set aside their petty squabbling and join forces. The aliens are already here. They're just too small to see. They've sent their forces into battle several times already and been defeated, sometimes after a long and expensive fight. They're now gathering their strength and developing new weapons of mass destruction. Are we going to come up with an effective non-proliferation strategy? Or will we take the A. Q. Khan route and essentially supply these pathogens with the means to take us out?