Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Immigrant Rights Struggle Continues!

David Bacon, the author of The Children of NAFTA: Labor Wars on the 
U.S./Mexico Border, wrote Friday that "a groundswell of community groups now
argue that Congress would do better to
pass no bill than a bill that reconciles the
proposal just passed by the
Senate and that passed last December in the House of
Representatives." -- Such a bill "would create deep divisions within the immigrant
community and leave millions of undocumented immigrants in the shadows," according
to a national group of immigrant rights advocates convened by the National Network

for Immigrant and Refugee Rights. Read David Bacon's article here, and
check out his amazing website of photography as well.

For a good background article on the recent rise of the migrant labor movement, check
out an article that James Petras
recently wrote, outlining what should be obvious to most
US citizens: immigrants come here, because we are there. The "we" meaning of course the
US government. A combination of US backed
death squads (the Contras being one of
the more well known examples)
throughout the 20th century, specifically in Central America,
led to the mass
migration of hundreds of thousands. This was followed by the Neoliberal
offensive, formally ushered in by the Reagan administration
in the 1980s but which was fully
supported and accelerated during
the Bill Clinton years in the 90s (remember NAFTA?).
On top of this
of course we are living in a time where the US military has nearly 900 bases
throughout the world, including all over the Americas. In this light it is hard to swallow the
myth of the "illegal alien" trying to undermine the US working class by taking their jobs
and living off of government hand-outs. Either way, the struggle over immigration "reform"
is far from over.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

By Grace Lee Boggs

We're tired of school safety screaming in our face,
Tired of overcrowded rooms and not having a seat
Tired of guidance counselors busy so no time to meet,
Tired of the same books and never getting others
Tired of books being older than my mother's mother.
And if I was to tell the press that, they be shook
'Cause there ain't no such thing as half-way books!

This little poem by 17 year old Joman Nunez recalls the oft-quoted
"sick and tired of being
sick and tired" statement by Fannie Lou Hamer,
the Mississippi sharecropper, civil rights activist and co-founder
of the Mississippi
Freedom Democratic Party which almost unseated
the regular segregationist delegation at the 1964 Democratic Party

I came across it in "A Rising Movement, " an article in the spring 2006
National Civic Review
by Kivatha Mediratta, senior project director of
the New York University Institute for Education and Social Policy.
Additional information on this
rising movement can be found on Pipeline,
newsletter of Funders Collaborative on Youth Organizing (FCYO) which
supports "authentic
youth leadership in public life."

These struggles have been triggered by the refusal of most educators
and adults to
recognize that youth violence and dropouts are a
sign that today's schools, structured a hundred years ago at the beginning
of the industrial age,
are now obsolete. Instead, like most administrators
of outmoded institutions, they
have resorted to security and punitive

Thus, in the late 1980s, following a rise in juvenile crime, school districts
across the
country began developing zero tolerance policies such as
suspensions and expulsions for tardiness,
skipping classes etc. Then they
replacing elected school boards with Mayoral control or
state-appointed boards. When the
situation didn't improve, they brought
in armed
police, metal detectors and surveillance cameras. Currently,
in accordance with Bush's "No Child
Left Behind" act, they are
replacing any
semblance of education with "teaching to the test."

Students are responding by protest marches and proposals
for systemic changes.

Last September 1500 New York City students walked out of Dewitt
Clinton High School and marched two
miles to their school district
headquarters to
protest the use of metal detectors in their schools.

In Chicago Generation X launched a "Breaking the Chains" campaign
to address punitive policies
that have resulted in thousands of
many accompanied by police arrests for offenses as
minor as snowball fights.

Milwaukee's Urban Underground succeeded in stopping MPS from
placing armed police officers
in every major high school.

In Portland, Oregon, Sisters in Action for Power proposes that
high stakes testing be
replaced by alternative methods to assess
progress, e.g. portfolios and work samples,.

At the Leadership Institute, a small high school in the Bronx,
Sistas and Brothas United
(SBU) suggests that community
research and action
programs be part of the curriculum.

In New York City a youth organization, calling itself Make the
Road by Walking (MRBW), ,has
joined with SBU, Northwest
Bronx Community and
Clergy Coalition, Mothers on the Move
and the
Institute for Education and Social Policy to form the
Urban Youth Collaborative (UYC) to create a
city-wide agenda
for high school reform.

Most educators,and administrators, Mediratta writes, find
it difficult to comprehend this new
"phenomenon" of youth
struggle because they
expect young people to focus on individual
rather than collective and systemic solutions.

On the other hand, everyone concerned with saving our schools
and our young people needs to
encourage these struggles because
they have the
potential for creating the kind of Freedom Schooling
which, instead of seeking to train
young people to become cogs in
the economic
machine, recognizes and nurtures them as change
agents who can respirit and make our neighborhoods safer and
livelier almost overnight.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Barry Bonds hits # 715

Anyone who knows me, knows im a big baseball fan. Not only a big baseball fan, but a big San Francisco Giants fan. My cousin took my to my first Giants game at Candlestick Park (their old stadium) when I was seven years old. We sat in the cheap seats far away from home plate, but i remember it being a magical day, even if i couldnt really tell what was happening on the field. From that day on i followed the team as best i could, often staying up way past bedtime to listen to the late scores on the radio (since i lived in New York and the night games would not end until one in the morning.)

The Giants are one of these teams that never quite make it to the top. They have yet to win a World Series Championship since they moved from New York to San Francisco in 1958, although they came close a few years ago in 2002. They were playing the Angels in the World Series and were a few outs away from winning the whole thing when they let it all slip away once again. They lost game 6 in the late innings after building a comfortable lead, and then proceeded to lose game 7. I listened to that game six on the radio coming back from a big anti-war demo in DC, packed in a van with about 10 other students who could care less about baseball. At the time i was happier that the demo has turned out so well and so the loss was less hard on me.

Fast forward to 2006. The Giants are not winning much of anything for a long time. Their best player for the past 13 years, Barry Bonds, is hobbling around and is a few mis-steps away from retirement. The team has been surrounded by controversy after Bonds has been implicated in the steriod scandal that has rocked baseball over the past two years.

Kind of like that best friend who uses you to get in with the popular kids and then dumps you when he or she has gotten in good, Major League Baseball has turned on Barry Bonds this past year in an effort to cover up its own shortcomings. Barry Bonds was one of those players who rescued baseball in the mid 1990s. After a labor strike ended the 1994 season, baseball started losing serious ground to the other major sports like basketball and football (even hockey if you can imagine that). It was not until the "big home run sluggers" like Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, and Barry Bonds started chasing baseballs home run records that the fans started filling the seats again. Right around that time, baseball designed a series of crazy cartoon commercials featuring players like the ones mentioned above looking like muscle-packed super heroes. Now of course they say they "want to come down hard" on illegal substance users. They can barely hide their contempt and racist rhetoric on the nightly news when discussing Barry Bonds. How quickly friends forget.

Well Barry hit historic home run #715 yesterday afternoon against the Colorado Rockies passing the legendary Babe Ruth, a player who never had to face African American pitchers due to segration in professional baseball. It was nice to see it happen at San Francisco's home ballpark in front of all of his hometown fans. Barry deserved that after all he has been through.

This will probably be the last Giants highlight for me for several years to come. Barry is going to retire, probably after this season, and the Giants are not going to keep trying to compete in the "richest owner takes all" sweepstakes that has become major league baseball. I will be rooting for him the rest of the way... perhaps this fall on my way back from another anti-war demo in DC I will be able to turn on the radio and listen to Barry hittin' one out of the ballpark , just for old times sake.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Washington's Wars and Occupations: Month in Review #13

By Max Elbaum, War Times/Tiempo de Guerras


Karl Rove started talking about "game changers" during a speech at the
conservative American Enterprise Institute May 15. George Bush's top political hatchet
man is looking for something that can "push the political debate in new and
more congenial directions."

And no wonder.

Bush's approval rating is at an all-time low, with one poll even putting it below
30%. Public confidence in Bush's handling of Iraq, the economy - even the "war
on terror" which was once his unbeatable trump card - has all but collapsed.
Harsh criticism of the President is now coming from conservative pundits, retired
generals, elite opinion-makers and even Bush's increasingly restive and divided
grassroots base.

And most recently the administration has been challenged by millions-strong actions
for immigrant rights. Huge marches, rallies and boycotts have not only transformed
the terms of the country's immigration debate: they have reminded everyone of the
power of mass action and the exploding importance of the country's Latino

This changed political terrain provides greater opportunities for denting the
right-wing's hold on power and policy than at any time since 9/11.

But there are grave dangers as well. Bush and Rove have already shown that their
"game-changer" on immigration is sending the National Guard to the U.S.-Mexico
border and building a fence. And they keep sending ominous warnings that their
gamble-everything game-changer is an attack - possibly with nuclear weapons - on Iran.


Inside the Washington Beltway, the upsurge for immigrant rights has translated into
some unexpected Senate votes against the most repressive anti-immigrant measures.
It is also causing tremendous anxiety among Republican leaders fearful of alienating
the entire Latino population for decades to come.

But the nativist/racist right is still pressing its agenda of demonization, deportation
and militarization. Bush's May 15 speech, as even the New York Times pointed out,
"swiveled in the direction of those who see immigration, with delusional clarity,
as entirely a problem of barricades and bad guys." The Senate meanwhile is
adding repressive amendments (such as authorizing a border fence) to its already
bad Hagel-Martinez "compromise" bill. Any further compromise with the
terrible measure the House passed earlier will only make things worse. The Center
for Human Rights and Constitutional Law rightly points out that Congress is actually
considering immigration policy regression, not reform.

In response, grassroots immigrant rights groups - especially in Latino communities
- and allies are building on the momentum of the huge April and May 1 protests to
carry on the fight for fairness and legalization for all. To follow the battle in
Congress and find information about mass actions, go the websites of the National
Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights - - and the Rights
Working Group:


The administration's attitude toward civil liberties is equally backward. Tapping
international calls without obtaining a warrant is now old news. The latest revelation
is that the National Security Agency is assembling the largest database in history
- a record of every call made from every phone in the U.S. General Michael Hayden
- who ran the NSA secret domestic eavesdropping program until last year - is now
nominated to head the CIA. Most Democrats as well as Republicans are expected to
vote for his confirmation.

The administration's brazen defiance of the law and the Constitution provision against
"unlawful search and seizures" (the Fourth Amendment) is no isolated incident.
As the Boston Globe reported April 30, "President Bush has quietly claimed
the authority to disobey more than 750 laws enacted since he took office, asserting
that he has the power to set aside any statute passed by Congress when it conflicts
with his interpretation of the Constitution."

Things have gotten so far out of hand that it is almost impossible to even investigate
- much less stop and punish - Bush administration illegalities. After the NSA's
warrantless spying program was first exposed, the Justice Department launched a
probe to see if it was legal or not. That investigation has now been closed - because
the lawyers assigned to conduct it were denied security clearances necessary to
get any information about the program!


While Bush keeps talking about Iraq "turning points" and media coverage
focuses on the newly formed "permanent government," life for ordinary
Iraqis gets more difficult every day. A May 18 story from Baghdad in the San Francisco
Chronicle opens with the line: "Dread and hopelessness have taken hold in this

The story goes on from there:

"Since the bombing Feb. 22 of the Shiite Askariya Shrine in Samarra, Baghdad
has descended into a maelstrom of killing that shows little sign of abating. Most
of the victims have been taken from their homes and executed, their bodies dumped
in residential streets and alleys. At least 3,500 Iraqis have been killed this year,
according to official statistics. In April alone, according to the Health Ministry,
762 people - primarily civilians - were killed in Baghdad. The previous month, the
Baghdad morgue received 1,294 bodies, more than double the 596 received in March
2005... As many as 100,000 people have fled their homes in Baghdad..."

The presence of U.S. troops, rather than staunching the bloodshed, only fans the
flames. The latest proof is a Pentagon probe into the death of Iraqi civilians last
November in the Iraqi city of Haditha. According to Rep. John Murtha, the report
will show that U.S. Marines "killed innocent civilians in cold blood."
NBC news reports that military officials have confirmed that the Marine Corps' own
evidence appears to show Murtha is right. This kind of news disappears from the
U.S. media and public consciousness in a flash. In Iraq, incidents like this - which
happen frequently, if not usually on this scale - are not forgotten, and fuel the
ever-rising anger at U.S. occupation.


U.S. threats to attack Iran are rapidly becoming a top-priority international concern.
Respected analyst Aijaz Ahmed, writing in India's Frontline magazine (May 6-19),
says: "The possibility of a nuclear strike against Iran has now entered mainstream
political discourse in the U.S. This needs to be seen in the perspective of U.S.
determination to attack Iran but the virtual impossibility of achieving all its
objectives through non-nuclear means, and the predominance, at the highest levels
of the Bush administration, of men who believe that problems of a global war and
the consequent overstretch can and should be resolved by deploying "mini-nukes"
- not retreat, but escalation to a higher level."

While threatening Iran, Washington stands by quietly as nuclear-armed Israel announces
plans to unilaterally "settle" the Israel-Palestine conflict. "Prime
Minister Ehud Olmert won formal approval for his coalition government today, and
he told Parliament he was prepared to set Israel's boundaries during its four-year
term," reported the New York Times May 4. "'The borders of Israel that
will be formed in the coming years will be significantly different from the territories
under Israel's control today', Olmert said. He has not specified the exact borders,
but he has said that Israel's West Bank separation barrier will form the basis."

Israel's plans - like its current occupation - are in much clearer violation of
U.N. resolutions and international law than anything Iran is doing. But Washington
backs Israel instead of uttering even a word of protest.


Likewise, Washington - which is supposedly "promoting democracy" - is
quiet when the Egyptian government violently cracks down on citizens demanding judicial
independence. Reuters reported that thousands of riot police deployed in central
Cairo May 18 and that plainclothes security men beat and arrested hundreds.

In Afghanistan, one of the deadliest U.S. air strikes since the 2001 invasion killed
at least 16 civilians it the village of Azizi in Kandahar province May 21. Outcry
from the populace pressed President Hamid Karzai to order an investigation into
the bombing and to express ''concern at the coalition forces' decision to bomb civilian
areas.'' The head of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission in Kandahar,
Abdul Qadar Noorzai, said villagers coming in to see him reported 20 to 25 civilians
killed and 30 to 35 wounded. U.S. authorities defended the decision to bomb the
village on the grounds that Taliban fighters were allegedly hiding there.


The United Nations panel that monitors compliance with the world's anti-torture
treaty became the latest prestigious body to call for the U.S. to close its prison
at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and avoid using secret detention facilities May 19. The
call came on the heels of the same demand from Britain's Attorney General, Lord
Goldsmith, who declared that Guantanamo had "become a symbol of injustice"
and that its existence was "unacceptable". A few days earlier, on May
3, Amnesty International declared that torture and inhumane treatment ere "widespread"
in U.S.-run detention centers in Afghanistan, Iraq, Cuba and elsewhere. The Amnesty
official report noted that Washington has sought to blame abuses on "aberrant
soldiers and lack of oversight," much ill-treatment actually stemmed from officially
sanctioned interrogation procedures and techniques.

With voices like these condemning Bush administration actions, Washington is more
globally isolated than ever. Roger Cohen writing in the International Herald Tribune
May 17 described the dilemma facing Karen Hughes - Bush's "Undersecretary of
State for Public Diplomacy" - whose job is to promote a positive image for
the U.S.:

"She gives the impression of a woman racing against the tide. The tide in question
is anti-Americanism, perhaps the fastest-growing force in the world today.... The
image of the U.S. is in something close to a free fall....somewhere along the way,
most acutely in the past few years, people in the world got tired. They got tired
of America's insatiable need for an enemy.... alarmed at the American fear that
appeared to fire American aggression; and disdainful of the distance between
declarations and deeds. In short they stopped buying the American narrative.

"It's hard to seduce people at charming airports when they're getting fingerprinted.
It's hard to sell 'a message of life and opportunity' when kids are being killed
every day in Iraq. It's hard to convey a message of openness when American embassies
are being transformed into fortresses. It's hard to attract the world's best students
when visas get held up."

Friday, May 26, 2006

South Central Farm Blockades!

For those not familiar with the ongoing struggle to save the largest urban farm in the US, you can listen to a radio interview here. Also check out LA Indymedia and the South Central Farmers website for the most up to date info, but the latest news is that:

Hundreds of people gathered at the South Central Farm last Wednesday night to defend the farmers from eviction and their farm from destruction. A vigil surrounding the farm was held and later in the evening there was Hip Hop, Son Jarocho and dancing. Supporters continue to arrive every day and the encampment is growing. With the stay on evictions lifted on Tuesday, evictions could come at any moment. For now it seems that the large numbers of people coming to the farm may be the only thing preventing the evictions. The sheriffs to date have not received notice to proceed and there has been no sign of increased police presence near the farm.

People have been camping outside the farm for months. It is a similar to the Six Nations struggle up in Canada. Both are primarily indigenous spaces of land and sustenance housed within settler states; both are resisting; both have anarchists and socialists helping out with the blockades. For a first-hand account of whats happening on the ground right now, Clamor magazine just posted this on their website.

Iraq Veterans Against the War
An Interview w/ Jose Vasquez

Even if you dont care much for public opinion polls, you get the sense that over the past 6-12 months the general US population has come to terms with the fact that the government has been lying to them for a long time, specifically about the reasons why we are in Iraq. Significantly the anti-war movement has not had as much of a visible presence, though United for Peace & Justice [UFPJ] did pull off a successful mobilization here in New York on April 29th. One thing the anti-war movement has made great headway on, which has gone a little under the "movement radar" due to the lack of street demonstrations, has been the support for the various Veterans groups and Counter-Recruitment organizing efforts which are literally taking place in every part of the country.

One of the most inspiring and important of these anti-war veteran groups is IVAW (Iraq Veterans Against the War) which was founded just over a year ago. The group is small (approx 50 members across the country) but it is growing fast and includes some amazing young organizers who are going to be around for a long time. One of these organizers is the president of the New York chapter, Jose Vasquez, who i had the pleasure of working with on the Sir! No Sir! film over the past few months. Francesca Fiorentini, editor of the War Resisters League magazine (as well as Left Turn magazine), and Steve Theberge who works on youth & counter-recruitment also for the WRL did an extended interview with Jose which gives you a great inside look at what made a life-time soldier turn into an anti-war organizer. Also if you are looking to support IVAW - check out their merchandise page here

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Anti-Racism for Global Justice
An Interview with the Catalyst Project

Just came across this interesting interview with some of our friends who
work with the Catalyst Project out on the (left) coast. The Catalyst Project
is a center for political education based in the SF Bay Area. It was founded
in 2000 as a collaboration between white anti-racists from the Civil Rights
and Black Power movements of the 60’s and 70’s and a younger generation of
white activist from primarily the global justice and anti-war movements.
In the past five years Catalyst has lead over 100 workshops with over 4500
participants. Clare Bayard and Chris Crass are interviewed here after a
workshop they ran back in January. Clare was also part of a forum I edited
last spring, on "anti-racist organizing strategies" for Left Turn #16.

Hot new counter-recruitment flash animation

In collaboration with the Not Your Soldier project, Sir! No Sir! just produced a *hot* new flash animation which you can check out here. The idea was to bridge the film release with whats going on right now in Iraq and come out with something that organizers could use as a counter-recruitment tool, specifically with the younger cats out there who are getting targeted pretty hard at high schools across the country. Speaking of counter-recruitment work, the War Resisters League just released this "counter recruitment 101" guide called the DMZ. If you know anyone either doing this kind of work, anyone interested in this kind of work, or anyone at a high school or college campus getting targeted by recruiters tell them to check that out.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Rebirth... Blog launch 2.0

So after only really posting once every few weeks, im ready to give this thing another shot. There has been so much going on these past few months i dont even really know where to start... well I guess the main project i have been working on as of late has been this film Sir! No Sir! which i got hired to promote when it came here to New York and then stayed on to help with a few more cities including Washington DC where its playing right now.

Working on the film has been a great experience, besides finally gettin' paid for something after finishing up my run on unemployment i got to plug back into anti-war organizing during a pretty crucial time. Since the film documents the resistance inside the US military during the Vietnam war, a lot of our outreach work centered on veteran groups across the country including the recently formed Iraq Veterans Against the War [IVAW], Veterans for Peace [VFP], and Vietnam Veterans Agains the War [VVAW].

Im gonna try and post a bunch of content over the next few days and get back in the groove of doing this blog thing...