Guest post from Jack Altschuler:

Here are some comments made by political pundits following the election.

“The Republicans will have to change their messaging if they are going to appeal to Latinos.”
“Mitt Romney had to pivot to the center in order to attract independents.”
“Republican candidates have to stop saying things like, ’A woman’s body has a way of shutting that down [in cases of rape],’ and ‘[Pregnancy from rape] is God’s plan.’”
All that “how to win elections” talk is completely misguided, wrong-headed and even dishonest. It seems to say that all that matters is winning an election and, therefore, that manipulation of the message and of voters is what is important.
To which I say, “Nuh-uh.” What is important is not the pivot to the center, the crafted messaging and avoiding making stupid, physiologically erroneous statements. All that pivoting and messaging is about attempting to fool people. It is the beliefs and the values of the candidates as indicators of what they would do that is important and however you dress up those rape related statements, it’s clear what these goofballs would do. Fixing their words to be more palatable would leave them just as radical.
Mitt Romney has shown his true value to America, that of being a finely honed example of disingenuousness. John Huntsman called him, “a perfectly lubricated weather vane,” and that makes him useful and instructive about this messaging business.
Romney was “severely conservative” during the primaries, telling far righties what they wanted to hear. If the principles he espoused at that time are his core principles, then what are we to make of the opposite views he declared during the general election campaign? He pointed his messaging weather vane in whatever direction he figured might be to the liking of his then-current audience, even lying about his previous statements, leaving us to wonder what his actual principles (other than getting elected) might be on issues like abortion, healthcare, the auto industry bailout, Libya, a date certain for our troops to leave Afghanistan and so many others. That left us clueless about what he might do if elected.
The abandoning of his prior, polarized positions and then claiming a moderate middle left President Obama apparently perplexed and nearly speechless during the first debate. If you weren’t perplexed by Romney’s pivots to moderate positions, perhaps instead you felt insulted by his apparent lack of respect for your intelligence, as though he assumed you lacked memory function.
Now that the Republicans have lost big, the hand-wringing over Latino voters has begun in earnest and the talk is all about the messaging that will be needed to attract them for the next election. All of that misses the point. What is important isn’t the messaging; it’s the meaning.
MESSAGE TO FUTURE POLITICAL CANDIDATES: You need to understand that Latinos don’t care much about what you say about immigration reform; they care about what you would do about immigration reform. They don’t care any more than any other Americans how you flap your lips about Medicare and Social Security; they care about what you would do about them. What can they count on from you? If you’re all about the hot air of your messaging, then all you are is a manipulator and Latinos are as good as any of us in sniffing you out.
This election was about many things, including voter disenfranchisement backlash, big money influence and the price to be paid for lying to Americans. All that pivoting and crafted messaging and biological stupid stuff gets seen for what it is, sooner or later.

So, it turns out that Lincoln was right: You can fool some of the people all of the time and all of the people some of the time, but you can’t fool all of the people all of the time. Eventually, they will figure out who and what you are. You may have had your way with them for a while, but if you have been dishonest with the American people they will figure you out, swat you like they would an annoying housefly and flick you away

Copyright 2012 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing is encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

photo: Texas Tribune
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The Associated Press has been asked to ban the term homo to refer to the community of gay, lesbian, transgender, and bisexual people in the United States.

While we understand that this is a term that is extremely offensive to many people in those communities, it is our job to use plain, clear language that the general public can understand.  The term gay doesn’t reflect reality because many lesbians and transgendered persons do not identify with that term.  The term (acronym) LGBT doesn’t clearly describe the reality of the situation, i.e., that all of these are in fact homosexuals.

While we could use the term homosexual, it is a bit too scientific for the general public; hence, we prefer the term most easily encapsulates the reality of these groups.  Homo both refers to the more scientific description while also being easily grasped by non-smart people.

Of course we wouldn’t encourage journalists to use terms such as butt-pirate or carpet-muncher, as this would be crossing a professional line.  The sensitivity of the topic requires careful deliberation.

  • We recommend that before using the preferred term, homo, one also be sure that the person or group in question has actually practiced homosexual sex.
  • This can be done by checking to see they have gay-married in a state where it is legal.
  • One can also check police records to see if the person has been convicted of a public decency violation (e.g. gay sex in a public restroom as was allegedly the case with homo, George Michael).

Our goal is to report fully and carefully on homosexual matters without obscuring the fundamental facts of the situation.

P.S.: One Special Case

We’ve been asked that if a person had homosexual sex once in college or at band camp but never did again and can be shown to be now living in a completely heterosexual relationship, should that person be called a homo?  In this case we believe that said activity was a phase and we would not be responsible journalists if we labeled such a large segment of society as homos.  They are clearly heteros.

 

This was inspired by the ridiculous defense of the term “illegal immigrant” by the Associated Press, I couldn’t help but follow their logic all the way through. Read a point-by-point legal rebuttal to their argument here.

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“Tactics mean doing what you can with what you have.”
Saul Alinsky

Let me very clear, Barack has absolutely, incontrovertibly been horrible on immigration with the exception of a few executive orders that theoretically make ICE deprioritize certain non-dangerous or young immigrants. The immigrant activist community should certainly hold his feet to the fire.

But I’m NOT certain it’s the BEST strategy for community activists, lawyers, and other leaders to do it now, just before the election. All that is going to happen is that immigrants, especially Latinos, will be disillusioned even more than they are now and will just stay home on November 6th. That means you make it more likely that you will get the other guy. I’m not going to endorse anyone, but my question is: If you do get the other guy, what exactly does the immigrant community gain by that?

Dan Savage made a very good point the other day when he said that the immigrant rights community has not been able to unify their message–unlike the gay community which has solidly unified on an agenda that includes the repeal of DADT (victory) and getting the President to re-volve on Gay Marriage publicly (victory). I personally have never worked on Barack’s campaign despite having several friends who are extremely close to the Obamas–why? because of his immigration stance in the Senate. I did, however, vote for him. But that was my personal decision.

The question I am asking now is: does it make strategic sense for the immigrant activist community to vilify him and his record RIGHT NOW versus waiting until after the election in order to unify and focus their power to push him like LGBT community has done. Again, if you get the other guy what exactly do you win?

 

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Showing, yet again, his complete ignorance when it comes to diplomacy and foreign policy, Mitt Romney recently implied that the Palestinian economy was weak and the Jewish economy was strong thanks, at least partially, to “cultural differences.”  This, of course, has sparked outrage among the Palestinian and Muslim communities.  Many have gone so far as to call Romney a racist.

What you might not have noticed is that Romney’s full quote also explains away the differences between the economies of the U.S vs. Mexico and Chile vs. Ecuador:

“As you come here and you see the GDP per capita, for instance, in israel which is about $21,000 dollars, and compare that with the GDP per capita just across the areas managed by the Palestinian authority, which is more like $10,000 per capita, you notice such a dramatically stark difference in economic vitality,” he said.
“And that exists also between other countries that are near or next to each other. Chile and Ecuador; Mexico and the United States. And I noted that part of my interest when I used to be int the world of business as I would travel to different countries was to understand why there was such enormous disparities between the economic success of various countries…I recognize the power of culture.”

I am assuming that Romney has never heard of the Mexican-American War, NAFTA, or any of the major policies that the U.S. has undertaken in Latin America that may have had an effect on Latin American economies.  Culture must be the culprit.  Those lazy Latinos sure look a lot like those lazy Palestinians.  Of course, he does praise Chile–thank God for Pinochet who clearly had the right culture when he invited the Chicago Boys in.  Chile’s white elite certainly had the superior culture compared to those lazy Indians in Ecuador. (Not that Chile’s non-elites are doing that great either).

Well, I guess the world is full of idiots running for President these days.  I’m thinking that if Romney does win, he will be in good company with Mexico’s Enrique Peña Nieto–clearly Romney has never read a book either.

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I will admit that even though my family is historically form the Southwest–i.e. not immigrants to the U.S–I hate being asked for identification.  I know it’s important, especialy at a bank or at an airport, but when a white person asks, I occasionally imagine that they are just asking asking me because they are wondering if I’m a citizen or a criminal, given my obvious brownness.

But of course, I can be a bit neurotic or strange–so I’m told.  So it’s a little tough for me to distinguish between normal requests and racist interrogation. Idiosyncrasies aside, I would have to get some serious therapy if this had happened to me:

Erandy Pacheco, a Mexican American, calls it one of the great humiliations of her life.

Pacheco, 35, a Spanish-speaking translator, had stopped at the Fifth Third Bank on Coolidge in Berkley June 20 to deposit a U.S. Treasury check for just under $10,000 she received for work on a criminal case for the U.S. District Court in Detroit.

Instead, she was arrested, handcuffed in the bank and taken to the Berkley police station on suspicion of trying to pass off a fraudulent check.

Problem was, the check was real.

Read more here

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If you read my other post, Pesos in Politics, you may be thinking I was totally right about the Mexican elections.  The PRI has retaken Mexico and money had a lot to do with it.  But you would only be half right.  It turns out the the state I was focusing on, Guerrero, ended up being a strong backer of the leftist People’s Revoultionary Democratic Party (PRD) whose presidential candidate is likely to be officially declared to have lost to Enrique Peña Nieto tonight.

Honestly, I’m a bit surprised that the guy I think should have won for Town President of Iguala, Guerrero and who faced an uphill battle against the well-financed, professional campaign of PRI candidate Erik Catalán Rendón; actually, well, won.  Abarca is a business leader whose claim to fame was developing the best, coolest mall in the region.  He is also a smart, balanced guy according to the locals.  So, congratulations to the citizens of Iguala–the birthplace of the Mexican Flag and the Plan de Iguala (kind of like the articles of confederation in the USA, a precursor to the Constitution). You defied the cynics, ignored the propaganda, withstood the inappropriate and unethical favoritism of the mainstream media, and elected the candidates of your choice.

So while everyone is lamenting the fall of Democracy in Mexico with the return to power of the PRI–the party that Mario Vargas Llosa called the “perfect dictatorship”–I actually am feeling quite inspired that a state like Guerrero, one of the most affected by drug trafficking, didn’t buy the argument that much of the rest of the country bought: that a return to the PRI would be a return to peace.  Sure, the PRI will certainly cut the necessary deals with the cartels so that there is in fact a reduction of violence.  Some people will be happy with that outcome–reasonably so.  But for those people that are dedicated to the cause of a clean, free, democratic, and safe Mexico; returning to the days when the PRI could rob everyone blind in exchange for some degree of safety, isn’t going to be enough.

With defiance of states like Guerrero, the unexpected ex-pat vote going to the PAN, and the bizarre coalitions necessary to win an election these days in Mexico (e.g. the PRI had to join the Green Party to push them over the top); I think the switch back to the old party is a good thing.  No party should get too comfortable.  The PRI had to rebuild, rebrand, and re-launch.  They did.  Sure there was fraud, but not likely enough to get them the 7-ish percent margin that they appear to have.  They bought some votes, but they had to win a whole lot more.  Whatever the craziness that happened yesterday–even taking into account the special polls that shockingly ran out of votes–at the end of the day, yesterday’s election was competitive.  And the PRI won’t be able to take everyone for granted.  There are too many pockets of resistance now.

That’s a good thing.

En hora buena.

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thanks to a friend for reminding of this poem:

What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore–
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over–
like a syrupy sweet?

Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?

While I know everyone is gushing right now about the Obama administration’s announcement that up to 800,000 youth could be eligible to stay in the U.S. with work permits, we should be careful not make this out to be more than it really is.

First, it is true that undocumented kids with blemish free records who arrived here before the age of 16 and have completed high school or served in the military, may now be eligible to have the deportations suspended.

Second, it is also true that they may be eligible for work permits that would be valid for two years with the possibility of renewal.

This is certainly a change from the status quo and it does give youth a leg up in their deportation proceedings.

But let’s be clear, this is not a DREAM Act equivalent.  The 800,000 kids are only theoretically eligible.  In the real world, this will be administered via the prosecutorial discretion process.  This could be a big problem.  Take the Morton Memo, for instance.  A year after its announcement, only 300,000 cases were reviewed at all and of those only 5000 cases were actually closed.  A tweep of mine is betting that they won’t be able to process even a quarter of the applications by the November election.  Permits will not fall from the sky.

Politico quotes Janet Napolitano, herself, saying that ”a grant of deferred action is not immunity, it is not amnesty,” Napolitano told reporters. “It is an exercise of discretion.”

I don’t want to rain on anyone’s parade.  I certainly do think that this makes a huge statement and that some kids will benefit temporarily.  It’s a lot like Barack’s statement on Gay Marriage–it does make an impact on the public discourse.  He should get Kudos for making such statements.

But these kids deserve way more than a dream deferred.

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I recently visited the city of Iguala in the southern state of Guerrero, Mexico, a place that is affectionately referred to as the cradle of the flag. The city is probably the size of Naperville, IL and perhaps smaller than Irvine, CA. Like most medium-sized Mexican towns, it has great food, warm weather, and is fairly quiet. It’s far enough from the national borders that the violence that Americans are accustomed to seeing in the news media is nowhere to be found. But I wouldn’t describe Iguala as quiet.
There are numerous shops, discotheques, and even a popular bar called Barack Kawama (pronounced cah-wah-ma and translated roughly as a 40 oz. bottle of beer). Where the real action is—at least for now—is in the downtown area—a typical colonial downtown centered around a 300 year old church, St. Francis. Just outside the church are throngs of people with green, white, or yellow shirts that represent different political parties. There are trucks parked with sound systems blaring from their truck beds. The songs playing are versions of Spanish chart-toppers representing every kind of artist from Gloria Estefan and Pit Bull to La Sonora Dinamita. If you listen carefully enough, you’ll notice that the lyrics have been changed to political propaganda. The Institutional Revolutionary Party or PRI has clearly spent the most money on everything. They have beautiful, full-color signage and the singers they hired for their propaganda songs sound exactly like the original artists. The folks from the PRD (Democratic Revolutionary Party) and the Green Party, clearly don’t have the kind of cash that the PRI does.
The PRI was the party that ruled Mexico for decades until the PAN (National Action Party) made international headlines when Vicente Fox won the presidency in 2000, just after the previous President Carlos Salinas de Gortari fled Mexico when he and his brother were accused of funneling a fortune into swiss bank accounts. Since then, the PRI declined significantly but in recent years has been restructuring and rebuilding on the local level. Iguala is one of the towns that the PRI was able to recapture. But if you ask the locals here, the PRI has managed to alienate just about everyone. One taxi driver told me that the current town president has been “shamelessly robbing us in broad daylight.” He added’ “ there’s no way the PRI is taking Iguala again—well, that’s if there’s a fair election.”
And that’s the kicker. The faith in government here is even worse than it is in the United States. People know that despite blatant corruption, the PRI still has a fighting chance because the kind of money they spend on elections is incredible. Some of the money may go to actual fraud. The rest will go to flooding the airwaves with ad after ad.
Still, just spending an hour or so in the Zocalo, it’s easy to see why one might vote for these guys. The music is great; the propaganda is eye-catching; the people are fun. Even I, a jaded American political junkie, have a hard time not wanting to hang out with the PRI crew. They behave like winners. Their expensive display is intoxicating. Even if there is a fair election here, some people are going to vote for the image. Worse still, less educated voters might vote for the handsome guy–Erik Catalán–whose face is everywhere (shown above with Peña Nieto, the PRI’s candidate for President of Mexico). Thanks to all the expensive signage, he may be the only guy they remember. At the end of the day, money could still decide this election.
Like the old saying goes: Poor Mexico, so far from God and so close to the United States. Though, after Citizens United, perhaps it’s the other way around.

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I’m sitting at an interesting symposium hosted by the University of Illinois’ Institute of Governmental & Public Affairs. The Symposium is part of a roundtable convening movement called the Illinois Integrity Initiative.

All the big names in good government, i.e. the goo goos, are here: Dick Simpson, Gov. Jim Edgar, Theresa Amato, Paul Green, Kent Redfield and more.

The agenda? First assess the problem of corruption and answer these questions: 1) is there a culture of corruption beyond just illegal acts? 2) if so, can anything be done about it?

While there are certainly some the greatest minds in Illinois who care about democracy reform here, I think there is something missing: people of color, youth, and lower income folks. It’s easy enough to notice that at this moment, I’m only one of two colored folks in the room, but understanding why diversity isn’t here is more complicated.

As someone who has spent nearly two decades organizing people of color and poor folk to participate in society, I understand that until recently good government issues seemed remote from the day to day work on the street, e.g., helping people deal with gun violence or lack of health care. What else keeps us from seeing issues like campaign finance reform, redistricting reform, ethics reform, etc., as our issues? How can we change that?

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First published at CommonBlog.com

Dave Weigel has a point: SuperPac money has certainly made the Republican Primaries interesting. But Weigel’s larger point—that Super PACs are good for Democracy–ultimately falls flat.

Here’s what Wiegel got right:

  • Super PACs have made it more difficult for the Republican Establishment to anoint Mitt Romney as the inevitable candidate.
  • Super PACs have allowed a handful of other rich people to make their voices heard, which is in a twisted way, an expansion of democracy, i.e. the net effect is that more people have a voice in the process.

But here’s what Wiegel got wrong–very wrong.  Democracy isn’t about diversifying the group of rich people that have already captured our once hallowed halls of government.  Our Democracy, our Republic really, is about the majority of citizens having the opportunity to influence and even control the agenda pursued in those halls.

Whether it’s the Republican Establishment’s rich guys or the other maverick rich guys that Wiegel points out; we still have the makings of a true plutarchy (plutocracy + oligarchy = plutarchy). Even if we cede his point about the expansion of voices thanks to SuperPacs, we get a plutocracy at best.

Every lover of freedom—especially libertarians—ought to lament the loss of true Democracy through manipulation of the laws by the richest among us.

The ancients had a word for the kind of state that functions under laws that have been shaped by one person or one class: thrasymachan. Classics buffs will  recognize the reference to Thrasymachus, a devil-like character in opposition to the Justice of which Socrates spoke and the fundamental freedoms necessary for public life.  For Thrasymachus, justice was defined as the interest of the stronger; in other words, might makes right.

The thrasymachan state is evil because in it freedom is sacrificed for the preferences of a person or a class.  The laws are rigged for them and those who do not challenge such unjust laws and obey them blindly are not free people; in fact they could be best described as slaves.

SuperPacs may have angered the Republican Establishment, but their success in the Republican primaries reminds us that it is the super-rich who have the most to gain from them—not the average citizen. SuperPacs, even if they do occasionally get exposed by the Fourth Estate (or at least what’s left of it), are designed to promote the interests of the stronger.  Their very existence is an attack on our ability to be free people.

 

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About this blog

While some people look at cockroaches as disgusting pests, We view them as resilient organisms that predate humans and will likely outlive us as well. People of color, the poor, the downtrodden, and the oppressed, much like cockroaches, are often despised, feared and in some cases have been the objects of extermination.

We started this blog as an attempt to understand the complicated world we live in. Things have changed since the old days of conquest, colonization, and slavery. Anonymous living, consumerism, and mass media have made it difficult to identify the forces that make modern-day oppression possible. Thus, posts here tend to focus on corruption, media, bureaucracy, ethics, economics, law, human rights, etc...in short, We try to take a second-order inquiry into assumptions and systems that some of us take for granted. We also take time to challenge stereotypes that function to place us in a box. Occasionally, We just rant.

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