Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Soaking up the...rain

Here in SW crAZy, we're wet. We've been like turkeys or whatever, staring up at the rain in amazement. I mean, it POURED. And it still is coming down. I do love the smell of ozone in the morning...

So far there seems to have been a dampness over a big subsection of the activist/ progressive community as well, and who can blame them? Miss Miers has been ordered to break a law, our national nominees persist in being dingbats, and bodies pile up in Iraq on our border.

We are going to be ejected from the UN, I tell you.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

The Elders

Out in the wide world, an interesting development which gives me some hope. I do love Nelson Mandela's energy and drive.

Elder Statesmen to Use Wisdom On World's Woes

Business Day (Johannesburg)

19 July 2007
Posted to the web 19 July 2007

John Kaninda

EFFORTS made by a small, dedicated and committed group of former world leaders working independently could help resolve the seemingly intractable problems the world faces today, former president Nelson Mandela said yesterday.

Mandela was speaking at the launch of The Elders, a group of former leaders who have undertaken to use their unique skills to achieve peaceful resolutions to long-standing conflicts and articulate new approaches to global problems that may be causing immense suffering.

The think-tank also plans to "share wisdom by helping to connect voices all over the world".

Mandela believes the success of the new initiative will stem from the fact that members of the group will not face the same restrictive pressures as do the world's current leaders. "Members of this group have no election to win, have no career to build or constituency to please.

"They can, therefore, speak freely and boldly, working both publicly and behind the scenes on whatever actions need to be taken," Mandela said.

Mandela's views were echoed by former American president Jimmy Carter, who brushed aside suggestions that the initiative would fail because most of its members were set to tackle issues they were unable to deal with successfully during their former political or administrative tenures.

"Some initiatives we were unable to bring to fruition due to a lack of time," Carter said. "Others could not be achieved successfully because of pressure from our constituencies."

But in the present context, the elders would enjoy a freedom that allowed them a better chance of success in their endeavours, Carter said.

Mary Robinson, an Irish president in the 1990s, said the new group would identify global projects whose implementation had ground to a halt or had not been smooth, and try to mobilise resources and goodwill to give them a new impetus.

Former United Nations (UN) secretary-general Kofi Annan remarked that the group would work to complement, not duplicate or compete with, the efforts of other organisations.

"We would not be able, for instance, to be efficient in solving a burning issue such as the Darfur conflict and humanitarian crisis if we ignored the UN or the African Union," Annan said.


I am moved by this idea. Yes, it's idealistic, but certainly there's a lot of good peolpe who could be called into service to share insight and wisdom. Let's see what they think of now. Here's just how global it really is:

It was only when he met Sir Richard Branson, the founder of the Virgin empire, and Peter Gabriel, the musician and human rights campaigner, that the idea was made a reality. Jean Oelwang, who runs Virgin Unite, which co-ordinates Virgin’s charitable ventures, is to be the director of the project.

Sir Richard and Mr Gabriel will be at the launch. The Elders are Jimmy Carter, the former US president, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who won the Nobel prize in 1984 for his role in the anti-apartheid campaign, Mary Robinson, the former president of Ireland, Graca Machel, Mr Mandela’s wife who was a government minister in Mozambique, Kofi Annan, the former secretary general of the United Nations, and Muhammad Yunus, the Bangladeshi economist who was awarded the Nobel prize for helping the poor.

Four more Elders will be introduced later in the year. Archbishop Tutu will chair the scheme, which is billed as a humanitarian initiative. A supporter of the project said: “Nelson Mandela has talked for a long time about doing something like this. He has had a vision of tapping into the power and influence of former world leaders.

“The Elders will look at global issues and conflict resolution. This will be their first meeting together. They will then decide what projects they wish to become involved with. We think they will be able to bring about real change.”

Strength and courage to them!

Things that have made me go hmm... in class

Well, I don't really have any more to rant about than before, except that I didn't expect at my relatively tender age to have to consider a chronic, pain in in the ass illness which really cuts down on my mobility. Let me just say that I have not yet racked up enough SSA credits to retire in any form, regardless of the fact I've worked on and off (mostly on) since I was about 13. Yes, it is true. I was a child laborer. And my mom worked there too!

Heh. It's true, my family is cursed with Hard Worker Syndrome, which affects virtually every brown person I know. Yes, we work long and hard, and sometimes before we legally can, even when we're born Amurrcan! Why? Well, we like to be able to survive, you know. What's interesting is that even in my generally easy (on the muscles) job now, I give 115 percent. I know I can get by giving about 70 percent, which given the state of some things in this area, would be super great.

I have to admit I was much gratified when a student in a former school said he wasn't sure why people thought Mexicans were lazy: "I see them every morning at 7am riding their bikes to work!" Well, so did I. We're not that lazy. We just get busy so early y'all lazy folk don't notice us! *grin* Or maybe they just stereotype.

In teaching Valdez' Los Vendidos, what I'm interested to see is how quickly everyone is huffy about the exaggerated stereotypes he uses. Naturally, I know satire and parody are the most difficult things I've taught (barring comma usage, ugh), but I wonder if perhaps my students and our modern world are beyond being able to critically examine these ideas. Why, for example, do we all recognize them as such (and certinly my brown students are often giggling about them), are certain we don't like them, BUT STILL KNOW THEM AFTER ALL THESE YEARS? Gee, I dunno. Maybe our inability to have a decent conversation about privilege and race in this country?

I think that the day we decide to have a honest assessment of the F&@&*%# up race relations and privilege resulting from it is the day I will declare and believe we will have grown up in the world. Let's see how long that takes.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Why oh why... Why do we do this, y'all?

No, not another musing on why Mexico can't get to the finals of a futbol championship.... (see FIFA U-20 World Cup)

Musing more on the sorry prospect of remaining a citizen of this state which seems to me, at least in the area I live, to be rushing headlong into a warm bucket of hell... it's not a pleasant concept. Hell, even though I might have some type of rheumatic arthritis, I'm certain I wouldn't stay here for the warmth. There's warmth, and then there's the warmth of people in community, working together for the betterment of the group-- which frankly SW AZ doesn't seem to be able to do.

Yes, I'm oversimplifying. Yes, there are wonderful people here, blah, blah. But more often, as I go through my day and fail to revel in the experience of being a tattooed Mexican in the eyes of citizens (white and brown?), notice every stupid story in the paper and every single wrong spelling/ word/ phrase etc in the local trash rag, see every silly poster by some halfassed anti immigrant/ antibrown moron, I find that the thrill of being an Arizonan fades fast. Yes, I would like to leave, and yes, there is much work to be done here-- what's an activist to do?

Why, oh why is it that some of us DO care about the world in which we live? Why is it some of us really aren't all that into making money, but more finding a way to make life better for people? And why is it that other people, more the Ayn Rand types, feel it's fine to bash us for exposing greed, corruption, and hypocrisy, or speaking out on issues that touch us? Is it really, fellow poliblogs (like polywogs-- political bloggers, TM me), just that we're oh so much wiser? Why, oh why IS IT SO?

Sigh. Maybe I need to not only think about gettin' out of AZ, but gettin' out of this country for a while. And yes, I have found a better place, if only I could speak the lingo-- I'd move to Iceland!

Land of Fire and Ice, Reykjavik

Monday, July 09, 2007

Globalization, Lou (*&(@$# Dobbs, and unions

Blogger extraordinaire hermano at xicanopwr wrote a nice missive on the effect of the immigration bill losing, and I wanted to riff on this part:

If Dobbs and his ilk were concern, why not go after the price gouging by the oil cartels or mount an attack on the pharmaceutical cartels to lower drug prices to help the average American. They won’t and can’t, because the most dangerous and corrupt elements of these cartels keep them on the air. America has been co-opted by the agendas of large and powerful corporations and nothing will be done to stop them unless we start waking up.

Amen, my brother. Having gone from excellent health care as a unionized grad student to iffy health care as a weak-unionized prof to crappy healthcare as a nonunion prof in AZ, I can attest to the power inherent in combating big bidness. I find it appalling that people who shout most about illgal immigration, the hordes of dem Messkins, and liberalism are also the loudest protesters against unionized work. Fair wage for fair work should be simple to comprehend. Yes, unions can grow so big as to become corrupt, but that doesn't mean we get rid of them all. I was a proud member of UE Local 896, proud to support them and work for justice for workers.

Why isn't it more clear that to fight the rise of cheap Chinese goods, raise wages, etc, that we should heed the reasoning of unions? No, that doesn't mean we'd care only about us-- fair labor practices should be worldwide, and we should be at the forefront.

GAWD! Why is it people are content to hear fallacies, lies, damn lies, and statistics and not have a reasoned conversation about how we're destroying our country with unfettered greed, destruction, and international idiocy? I'ts not the immigrants, stupid....

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Another view of colonialism...

While quite admittedly a Chicana (no fuckin' "@", please, dont' be so damn lazy) academic, activist, blah blah, I was also born on Guam and have always taken a great deal of interest in the island, the one place on the US occupied by foreign forces in WWII (forgot that? I thought so.. lucky if anyone knew it!). So, I've been keeping a watch on some blogs and news out of Guam, and in honor (belatedly) of the Fourth, here's a Chamorro look at what overweening colonial impulses have wrought in one "amurrcan" outpost: (yes, it's long, but worth it. Italics are mine, my comments follow the post)

Wednesday, July 04, 2007
Act of Decolonization #8: I Long to Live Under the Ass of No One!

I received an email the other day from one of the world's finest historians. From the power of this email, I can only assume that this man is one of the greatest and most resepected and revered historians in the world. You might be surprised or shocked once you read his words, but let me give some background first, so you'll understand my point better.

Power is often associated with simplicity, with idea that something arrives with the force of law, or the force of the natural. For Hegel the only ethical and fully developed political community, is not a democracy, but rather is a hereditary monarchy. [...] In democracies, the figure of the sovereign is supposedly filled through a regularly occuring election...

...What the creation of this ruling class does, is it closes off society, leaves the ruling of it to a group which has become developed in such a way that they inherently embody the will of those who they rule but are no longer truly accountable to.


That which is powerful is therefore that which arrives with shock, force, incites awe and stuns those who view it or are ruled by it, into dumbfounded, quiet and complacent silence without comment. My reference to Rumsfeld's infamous statement about "shock and awe" is intentional. The military hardware and conventional war power gap (non-nuclear) between the United States and the rest of the world is huge! [...] When the United States military rolled like thunder and death into Iraq and Baghdad they expected to be felt with the incredible power of that military gap. They intended and expected that the roar of their tanks would be felt as truth and their bombs from heaven be read as the Word of God himself. That is of course why, the planning for the invasion and occupation was so poor. It was not that the Iraqis would actually feel in their hearts that they were being liberated or that the US was bringing freedom to them. It was rather that the force of the invasion would be so massive and imposing that whatever the Iraqis were would melt away beneath the power of this simple strike, leaving behind fawning beings....

I have gone through this long explaination because I received an email the other day, which was delivered with the same "shock and awe" simplistic force. Because of the almost pure and obvious way in which this man made his arguments, it could only be assumed that he was either 1. the world's most incredible historian, so well advanced in the ins and outs of history that what to him was the rich intricate complexity of Guam's history appeared to me just like a lightning quick punch to the face. 2. someone, who expected that because of his position everything he did would be interpreted as such. So that whatever he said, because he was possibly American or possibly in the military, due to the distance from which he hovers above me in history, in technology, in politics, in culture, in wealth and in development, all should feel like a strike from heaven upon poor old me, and therefore he expected his simplistic, stupid statement to be treated as if a high speed transmission from God.
Finally, let me introduce this person who with such force and deftness seemed to feel that history was his to wrap around his finger and shove into my face so that my identity and my resistance, my disgust may fade away and I be re-made in his understanding of the world.

This world-class historian was an anonymous, I'm assuming apa'ka person, named Jeff Kruger, who sent me a one line email, on the history of Guam. This line was:

Who saved your ass from the Japanese?

For the next large conference that Famoksaiyan has, which should be either sometime this November or next Spring, I would really like to either organize or develop a workshop to prepare people for this sort of historically, supposedly indefensible bumrush. Over the past few years I have met many Chamorros and people from Guam out here, who desperately want to speak out on issues such as justice, decolonization, Chamorro activism, or other necessary but risky critiques of the United States. I tend to get worried however, when seeing the energy and drive in the eyes of these young Chamorros, ... nonetheless seem to be little prepared for the hegemonic smackdown that awaits them. Where a digustingly stupid sentence such as "who saved your ass from the Japanese" is not just made with the twisted hope of shutting you up, but also might actually have that effect on you. For many Chamorros, the liberation of the Chamorro by the United States, i magoggue-na, and therefore its eternal dependency on its colonizer is a sort of foundational common sense. When someone says, hayi gumoggue hamyo ginnen i Chapones? its intent is to smack you in the face with that which you as a Chamorro whose legacy is supposed to be loyal subordinate patriotism to the United States, is already supposed to understand as the ways things simply are...

For those of us who have dared tread (hoben yan amko') into the frightening world of questioning the "liberation" of Guam as a political project, ... we know very well, the response meant to snap us back to reality and shove a flag full of patriotic pills into every orifice imaginable. It is this simple, but supposedly terrifying phrase, "Would You Rather Be Under the Japanese?"
The invoking of the brutal occupation of Guam by the Japanese during World War II is supposed to be some sort of magical gesture whereby the sins of anyone else, ko'lo'lo'na the United States must be forgotten or washed away as if nothing. As the spectre of Japanese colonialism in Guam haunts the present, propping up the necessity and liberating aspects of the United States, its role in keeping us happy, healthy, alive and American, then we reach the point that in Puerto Rico can be defined as the "none of the above" complex, where colonialism in whatever banal, racist or comfortable forms it exists in locally, seems to be a much more attractive option than anything else. To bring this to Guam, as one Chamorro, very much a reckless American apologist put it, “If America colonized Guam, then maybe colonialism isn’t so bad."

[snip]This colonizing logic stems from the assumption that the coordinates of Chamorro existence can never leave the realm of colonized. That the Chamorro and its limits of possibility or life are defined by its being passed from one colonizer to another like a "spoil of war." There is here no sovereignty for Chamorros, in any formal or obscene sense. If we critique the current prevailing framework, if we call into question the legitimacy of American rule over us, or the veracity of its claims to benevolence, greatness and exceptionalism, the tangled logic here will never lead us out of the colonial world, but instead lead us to the dubious rule of a former colonizer, or dangerous rule of a new potential colonizer.

To patriotic Chamorros or even to liberal and conservative Americans, if we critique the United States, it is never something which is attached or understood to be related to our own sovereignty. In the most common instance, for those possessing some knowledge about Guam and its history, we are rudely thrown against a wall, and confronted with an angry fist before us demands to know if we would prefer to be under the Japanese again? For without the United States in 1944, that is precisely where we would be, suffering under the yoke of their rule and not basking in the greatness of the United States. The Chamorro, as we all are supposed to know is impossible, and so from the perspective of both a patriotic Guam Chamorro and your average American citizen, the United States has and continues to give you everything you need to exist and prosper, without it you are nothing. The terrible fantasy here is that life without the United States, life without the ability to share in its wishful glories and technologies whether it be democracy, electricity, food or happiness, is akin to the suffering our elders endured during World War II at the hands of the Japanese.

[snip]If critiques are made of the United States from Guam, its very common that someone with a base knowledge of the geopolitics of the Asia-Pacific region, who is in some way invested in represented, defending or protecting the "greatness" of the United States, will respond that such ideas are bad and dangerous since, if you are not with the United States, then the Chinese will take over you!

[snip]When people use these two phrases to reproach critical speech or to incite fear and dread in those who are attempting to be critical, they are using the heavy emotional and material damage and weight of the war experiences of Chamorros, to continue the colonization of Guam. [...] They use those very real and concrete, raw, angry and fearful scenes and emotions, to create the feeling that to speak ill against the United States,... will bring about the destitution, violence and destruction of World War II. The colonization of Guam through this everyday statement is perpetuated because the fantasy that drives almost any process of colonization and control, is the eventually development and concretization of a relationship between colonizer and colonized, whereby the colonized understands itself as existing solely because of the colonizers kindness, largese, wealth and power.
[snip]As I've put it in other works and posts, we must break the links between negativity and Chamorroness, and positivity and Americaness, which creates the impression that for the most part, as we move closer towards the United States and further away from what is perceived to be Chamorro (laziness, corruption, oppressive family structures, loinclothes, backwardness, violence, etc.) we get better, we exist better, our lives are just all around better. If, even in the smallest and most mundane ways we assume this dynamic to be true, whether excitingly or grudingly, then we condemn ourselves to continued colonization, because we will only be able to perceive decolonization as an acceptance of all the negative, suicidal and corrupting things in the universe. If this is the case, then colonization is necessarily to "fix" or "civilize" the native, and therefore must always be governed, administered and controlled.

[...]when any of us interested in decolonizing Guam are asked the question of "under who ass would you prefer?" it is crucial that we do not respond within the framework of the question, which is narrow and crudely assumes the impossibility of the Chamorro. Instead we must reject the limits of these question, and reject forcefully and in everyway we can that colonizing notion that the Chamorro must be under someone's ass in order to survive.
To loop this in with my own feelings about AZ, I refer to the italics I put in, which deal with the remarkably topheavy US colonial/ "protector" policies which assume everythin non-US is backward, evil, poor, dirty, etc. I would insist that promarily it is used in a lopsidedly colorist sense, in that while we might giggle at Canada, we don't think of it as poor and backwards as we conceive of the entirety of Latin America (maybe excepting Brazil).

Having studied colonialism for a while, it astonishes me when politicians rushing headlong into something or another in another country, ie a country of people dark/ non-Xtian/ non English-speaking manage to simplify the complexities of nations inevitably older and more culturally historic than our own. Not that all culturally old areas I find appealing, but we rarely think of England as a backwater because they have socialized medicine, or wear black socks with running shoes, or simply have a funny accent. We simplify the complexities of Ireland because they're "like us".

I challenge us to find a country like us-- I don't think it exists, which is a positive, and a negative. We have so little concept of the world outside us at times, or at least our leaders seem to. I think we have to deal with the difficult truth that we have tended to be colonizers in a very patriarchal way, insisting that the Amurrcan (tm) Way is the only way. We scare and bully and harass people who challenge the hegemony, by warning of the dire effects of the non-presence of the US.

Why and when did we become such a global bully? Heavens...

*sigh, trudge, sip margarita*

Monday, July 02, 2007

Maybe it was staged, but it was nice.. MSNBC growing a brain??

Well, seems like someone just got tired of whiny heiresses... just in time for the apparent tenth anniv. of Diana's death! And if you haven't seen Network, please do so right away!

PS- the opinion on the bottom of the article I can only HOPE is the truth...

Check it out at the Guardian Online:MSNBC anchor pulls Hilton story

I have a new hero and her name is Mika Brzezinski

Richard Adams in Washington
Saturday June 30, 2007


It was Peter Finch, in the 1976 movie Network, who first played a newsreader suffering an on-air breakdown. Driven to madness by poor ratings, Finch's character snaps and tells viewers to shout: "I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it any more."
It's hard not to think of Finch, who won an Oscar for his performance, when watching a similar implosion by the newsreader Mika Brzezinski on the cable news channel MSNBC on Wednesday morning.

Despite goading from her co-hosts, including the former Republican congressman turned rightwing talkshow host Joe Scarborough, Brzezinski stood her ground and refused to read her segment's lead news item on Paris Hilton.

After a media frenzy that saw even arch-publicist Michael Moore elbowed off CNN's Larry King show to make way for Hilton's first post-jail interview, Brzezinski has become a cyberspace star. Clips of her shredding the script were the lead item on the Technorati search, while the blogosphere was alight with praise. "I have a new hero, and her name is Mika Brzezinski," wrote one.

For many people, the Hilton kerfuffle was the first time they had heard of Brzezinski, an experienced newscaster and journalist.

While she does pop up on the mainstream NBC Nightly News, she is mostly confined to acting as Scarborough's sidekick on MSNBC's morning show, which lags in the ratings well behind the major channels as well as its cable rivals, Fox News and CNN.

Hilton and Brzezinski do have something in common, both being blonde, telegenic and the daughters of influential fathers. But any similarity ends there: while Paris is the scion of a wealthy socialite Rick Hilton, the 39-year-old newsreader is the daughter of Zbigniew Brzezinski, a foreign policy heavyweight in Washington and a former national security adviser to Jimmy Carter.

In 2001 Brzezinski was working in New York as a correspondent for CBS News, and on September 11 was assigned as the network's "Ground Zero" correspondent. She was broadcasting live on CBS in front of the World Trade Centre when the south tower collapsed.

But suspicions remain that Brzezinski's moment of madness was staged, although the worried reactions from her co-hosts when she attempted to set fire to the script on air suggests she wasn't acting.

Brzezinski's dismissal of Paris Hilton is shared by the majority of Americans.

Guardian Unlimited © Guardian News and Media Limited 2007

Fun with quizzes? Booting Scooter Libby

How to Win a Fight With a Conservative is the ultimate survival guide for political arguments

My Liberal Identity:

You are an Eco-Avenger, also known as an environmentalist or tree hugger. You believe in saving the planet from the clutches of air-fouling, oil-drilling, earth-raping conservative fossil fools.

Of course, I might have to change all that after hearing Scooter Libby is scootin' free of jail time. Guess the rich man will just have to suffer the pangs of outsourced fortune.

Was Bush right? Was jail time too much? Iguess we have to think about whether or not lying as Libby did was truly as heinous-- oh what am I saying? It WAS. Me, i'd be headed to KY state pen for the poor, brown, and soon to be fucked over.