Search This Blog


Blog Archive




Since the Dilly, Dally, Delay & Stall Law Firms are adding their billable hours, the Toyota U.S.A. and Route 44 Toyota posts have been separated here:

Route 44 Toyota Sold Me A Lemon

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Another Heartless Republican Platform

Republicans have campaigned hard to slash food stamps, slash food programs, deny children school food programs in a heartless attempt that will exacerbate food insecurity.

Why is no one asking how you can deny children food?

Is anyone questioning how skewed Republican priorities are?

The federal budget is a moral doctrine that defines us as a nation. When Americans support policies such as this, how can we call ourselves Christians?

As Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton discovered, it isn't easy living on $29 a day.

Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton at his local Safeway store in Phoenix on September 18th for a shopping trip on a food stamp budget. (photo: Arizona SNAP)
Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton at his local Safeway store in Phoenix on September 18th for a shopping trip on a food stamp budget. (photo: Arizona SNAP)

Mayor Attempts to Live on Food Stamps

By Travis Waldron, ThinkProgress
28 September 12

hen local activist groups challenged Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton to live on a food stamp budget for a week to mark Hunger Awareness Month, he took them up on the offer and found out just how hard it was. Stanton kept a diary on the challenge, which allotted him roughly $29 a week, the same amount 1.1 million Arizonans receive from the Supplemental Assistance Nutrition Program (SNAP) each week.

By day four, Stanton noted that he was “tired” and “it's hard to focus” after leaving the house for work without time to scramble eggs or eat a decent breakfast:
OK- ran out the door today with no time to scramble eggs or even make a sandwich. So I’m surviving on an apple and handful of peanuts, and the coffee I took to the office until dinner. I'm tired, and it’s hard to focus. I can’t go buy a sandwich because that would be cheating- even the dollar menu at Taco Bell is cheating. You can’t use SNAP benefits at any restaurants, fast food or otherwise. I’m facing a long, hungry day and an even longer night getting dinner on the table, which requires making EVERYTHING from scratch on this budget. It’s only for a week, so I’ve got a decent attitude. If I were doing this with no end in sight, I probably wouldn’t be so pleasant.
Watch a local news report about Stanton’s challenge, via Huffington Post’s Bonnie Kavoussi:
According to Stanton’s Facebook page, the city he governs ranks 34th-worst among America’s 100 largest metro areas in terms of hunger, and one-in-four Arizona children are food insecure. Across the nation, there are more than 46 million people receiving SNAP benefits.
Despite the challenges presented by poverty and hunger, Republicans have proposed cuts to the programs that help struggling families afford food. The House GOP budget could kick millions out of SNAP and hundreds of thousands of children out of school lunch programs, exacerbating the high rates of food insecurity America’s families are already facing.

Surrendering Democracy

Portrait, Bill Moyers. (photo: PBS)
Portrait, Bill Moyers. (photo: PBS)

Bill Moyers on the United States of ALEC

By Democracy Now!
28 September 12

MY GOODMAN: We begin our show today with a look at the secretive American Legislative Exchange Council. The organization, often known as just ALEC, brings together major corporations and state legislators to craft and vote on "model" bills behind closed doors. It's come under increasing scrutiny for its role in promoting "stand your ground" gun laws, voter suppression bills, union-busting policies and other controversial legislation. The organization's agenda has sparked so much controversy that 40 major U.S. companies, including Wal-Mart, Coca-Cola, Kraft and General Motors, have recently severed ties with ALEC.
ALEC is the focus of a new documentary by the legendary journalist Bill Moyers titled The United States of ALEC. It will air this weekend on Moyers & Company but is premiering today here on Democracy Now!
STATE REP. STEVE FARLEY: I've often told people that I talk to out on the campaign trail, when they say, "State what?" when I say I'm running for state legislature, I tell them that the decisions that are made here in the legislature are often more important for your everyday life than the decisions the president makes.
JOHN NICHOLS: If you really want to influence the politics of this country, you don't just give money to presidential campaigns, you don't just give money to congressional campaign committees. Smart players put their money in the states.
PRESIDENT RONALD REAGAN: ALEC has forged a unique partnership between state legislators and leaders from the corporate and business community. This partnership offers businessmen the extraordinary opportunity to apply their talents to solve our nation's problems and build on our opportunities.
LISA GRAVES: I was stunned at the notion that politicians and corporate representatives, corporate lobbyists, were actually voting behind closed doors on these changes to the law before they were introduced in statehouses across the country.
HOUSE SPEAKER JOHN BOEHNER: ALEC has been, I think, a wonderful organization. Not only does it bring like-minded legislators together, but the private sector engagement and partnership in ALEC is really what I think makes it the organization that it is.
BILL MOYERS: You might have heard the name ALEC in the news lately.
CHRIS MATTHEWS: The American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC, for short.
REPORTER: The American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC.
BILL MOYERS: ALEC is a nationwide consortium of elected state legislators working side by side with some of America's most powerful corporations. They have an agenda you should know about: a mission to remake America, changing the country by changing its laws one state at a time. ALEC creates what it calls "model legislation," pro-corporate laws like this one that its members push in statehouses across the country. ALEC says close to a thousand bills, based at least in part on its models, are introduced every year, and an average of 200 pass. This has been going on for decades, but somehow ALEC managed to remain the most influential, corporate-funded political organization you had never heard of - until a gunshot sounded in the Florida night.
RACHEL MADDOW: Trayvon Martin, unarmed, but for a bag of candy and an iced tea that he was carrying.
BILL MOYERS: You'll recall that the shooter in Trayvon Martin's death was protected at first by Florida's so-called "stand your ground" law. That law was the work of the National Rifle Association. There is its lobbyist standing right beside Governor Jeb Bush when he signed it into law in 2005. Although ALEC didn't originate the Florida law, it seized on it for the "stand your ground" model it would circulate in other states. Twenty-four of them have passed a version of it.
RASHAD ROBINSON: How did this law not only get in place in Florida but around the country? And all the fingers kept pointing back to ALEC.
BILL MOYERS: When civil rights and grassroots groups learned about ALEC's connection to "stand your ground" laws, they were outraged.
RASHAD ROBINSON: ALEC doesn't do its work alone; they do it with some of the biggest corporate brands in America.
BILL MOYERS: Before long, corporations were pulling out of ALEC, including Coca-Cola, Kraft Foods, McDonald's, Mars, Procter & Gamble, Johnson & Johnson. Caught in the glare of the national spotlight, ALEC tried to change the subject.
KAITLYN BUSS: You know, I think that the entire debate needs to be reframed. And really what ALEC is is a bipartisan association of state legislators. We have, you know, legislators of all political stripes coming together to talk about the most critical issues facing the states and trying to come up with the best solutions to face some of the problems we're having.
MEGYN KELLY: Right. So, your point is it's not a partisan organization.
BILL MOYERS: But ALEC is partisan. And then some.
LISA GRAVES: In the spring, I got a call from a person who said that all of the ALEC bills were available, and was I interested in looking at them. And I said I was.
BILL MOYERS: Lisa Graves, a former Justice Department lawyer, runs the Center for Media Democracy. That's a nonprofit investigative reporting group in Madison, Wisconsin. In 2011, by way of an ALEC insider, Graves got her hands on a virtual library of internal ALEC documents. She was amazed by its contents: a treasure trove of actual ALEC model bills.
LISA GRAVES: These are the bills that were provided by the whistleblower. That's just the index.
BILL MOYERS: There were more than 850 of them, 850 boilerplate laws that ALEC legislators could introduce as their own in any state in the union.
LISA GRAVES: Bills to change the law to make it harder for Americans to vote, those were ALEC bills. Bills to dramatically change the rights of Americans who are killed or injured by corporations, those were ALEC bills. Bills to make it harder for unions to do their work were ALEC bills. Bills to basically block climate change agreements, those were ALEC bills. When I looked at them, I was really shocked. I didn't know how incredibly extensive and deep and far-reaching this effort to rework our laws was.
BILL MOYERS: She and her team begin to plow to ALEC's documents, as well as public sources, to compile a list of the organizations and people who were or have been ALEC members. They found hundreds of corporations, from Coca-Cola and Koch Industries to ExxonMobil, Pfizer and Wal-Mart; dozens of right-wing think tanks and foundations; two dozen corporate law firms and lobbying firms; and some thousand state legislators, a few of them Democrats, the majority of them Republican.
STATE REP. MARK POCAN: ALEC is a corporate dating service for lonely legislators and corporate special interests that eventually the relationship culminates with some special interest legislation, and, hopefully, that lives happily ever after as the ALEC model. Unfortunately, what's excluded from that equation is the public.
BILL MOYERS: In the Wisconsin Statehouse, Democratic Representative Mark Pocan is trying to expose ALEC's fingerprints whenever he can. By one count, over a third of Pocan's fellow Wisconsin lawmakers are ALEC members.
STATE REP. MARK POCAN: When you look around, especially on the Republican side of the aisle, a lot of members of ALEC. Front row, ALEC. When you start going down to, you know, the chair of finance and some of the other members, are all ALEC members - in fact, ALEC co-chair for the state - row by row, you can point out people who have been members of ALEC over the years.
There's two main categories they have. One is how to reduce the size of government. And the other half of it is this model legislation that's in the corporate good - in other words, this profit-driven legislation: how can you open up a new market, how can you privatize something that can open up a market for a company? And between those two divisions, you're kind of getting to the same end goal, which is really kind of ultimate privatization of everything.
BILL MOYERS: Mark Pocan is something of an expert on ALEC. In fact, to learn as much as he could, he became a member.
STATE REP. MARK POCAN: What I had realized is if you join ALEC for a mere $100 as a legislator, you have the full access, like any corporate member.
BILL MOYERS: He also took himself to an ALEC conference for a firsthand look.
STATE REP. MARK POCAN: Hi. I'm State Representative Mark Pocan, and welcome to my video blog. I'm outside the Marriott on Canal Street in New Orleans at the ALEC convention, the American Legislative Exchange Council.
That was where you watched the interaction of a room full of lobbyists. You know, free drinks, free cigars, wining, dining. Many people just came from a dinner that was sponsored by some special interest, coming to a party that's sponsored by a special interest, so they can continue to talk about special interests.
LISA GRAVES: This is from the New Orleans convention. This includes a number of seminars that they held for legislators, including one called "Warming Up to Climate Change: The Many Benefits of Increased Atmospheric CO2."
BILL MOYERS: That 2011 ALEC conference, lo and behold, was sponsored by BP, ExxonMobil, Chevron and Shell, among others. Another of its events featured guns.
LISA GRAVES: This is the NRA-sponsored shooting event, for legislators and for lobbyists. Free.
BILL MOYERS: There was even one offering free cigars.
LISA GRAVES: Sponsored by Reynolds American, which is one of the biggest tobacco companies in the world, and the Cigar Association of America.
BILL MOYERS: It sounds like lobbying. It looks like lobbying. It smells like lobbying. But ALEC says it's not lobbying. In fact, ALEC operates not as a lobby group but as a nonprofit, a charity. In its filing with the IRS, ALEC says its mission is education, which means it pays no taxes and its corporate members get a tax write-off. Its legislators get a lot, too.
STATE REP. MARK POCAN: In Wisconsin, I can't take anything of value from a lobbyist. I can't take a cup of coffee from a lobbyist. At ALEC, it's just the opposite. You know, you get there, and you're being wined and dined by corporate interests. I can go down there and be wined and dined for days in order to hear about their special legislation. I mean, the head of Shell Oil flew in on his private jet to come to this conference. The head of one of the largest utility companies in the country was there on a panel, a utility company in 13 states. And here he is presenting to legislators. I mean, they clearly brought in some of the biggest corporate names in special interestdom and had them meeting with legislators, because a lot of business transpires at these events.
AMY GOODMAN: The United States of ALEC. We will return to Bill Moyers' special report in a moment.
AMY GOODMAN: We turn to part two of The United States of ALEC, a special report by Bill Moyers. It's airing this weekend on Moyers & Company but is premiering today here on Democracy Now!
BILL MOYERS: The most important business happens in what ALEC calls "task forces." There are currently eight of them, with a corporate take on every important issue in American life, from health and safety to the environment, to taxation. In ALEC task forces, elected state officials and corporate representatives close the doors to press and public and together approve the bills that will be sent out to America. But Americans have no idea they come from ALEC, unless someone like a Mark Pocan exposes it.
STATE REP. MARK POCAN: When I went down to New Orleans to the ALEC convention last August, I remember going to a workshop and hearing a little bit about a bill they did in Florida and some other states, and there was a proposal to provide special needs scholarships. And lo and behold, all of a sudden I come back to Wisconsin, and what gets introduced? Get ready; I know you're going to have a shocked look on your face. A bill to do just that.
BILL MOYERS: Twenty-six ALEC members in the Wisconsin legislature sponsored that special needs bill, but the real sponsor was ALEC. Pocan knew, because the bill bore a striking resemblance to ALEC's model. Have a look.
But Pocan isn't only concerned that ALEC sneaks bills into the state legislature. The intent behind the bills troubles him, too.
STATE REP. MARK POCAN: Some of their legislation sounds so innocuous, but when you start to read about why they're doing it, you know there's a far different reason why something's coming forward, and that's important. If the average person knew that a bill like this came from some group like ALEC, you'll look at the bill very differently, and you might look at that legislator a little differently about why they introduced it.
This is not about education. This is not about helping kids with special needs. This is about privatization. This is about corporate profits. And this is about dismantling public education.
BILL MOYERS: The bill passed in the Wisconsin House but failed to make it through the Senate. However, in its education report card, ALEC boasts that similar bills have passed in Oklahoma, Louisiana, North Carolina and Ohio. ALEC's education agenda includes online schooling, as well. Take a careful look, and you'll find the profit motive there, too.
LISA GRAVES: What you see is corporations that have a direct benefit, whose bottom line directly benefits from these bills, voting on these bills in the ALEC task force. And so, corporations like Connections Academy, corporations like K12, they have a direct financial interest in advancing this agenda.
BILL MOYERS: Those corporations, Connections Academy and K12, which specialize in online education, can profit handsomely from laws that direct taxpayer money toward businesses like theirs.
In 2011, both sat on ALEC's Education Task Force. But the two companies didn't just approve the model bill, they helped craft it. The proof is in one of ALEC's own documents. And there's more to the story.
STATE SEN. DOLORES GRESHAM: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. House Bill 1030 has to do with the establishment of virtual public schools.
BILL MOYERS: Last year, an online schooling bill based on the ALEC model turned up in another state where ALEC has a powerful influence: Tennessee. It was introduced in both the state Senate and House by ALEC members. The bill passed, making private corporations eligible for public money for online education. Then, within weeks, the K12 corporation got what amounted to a no-bid contract to provide online education to any Tennessee student from kindergarten through the eighth grade.
So, let's review. The ALEC member corporations helped craft the bill. ALEC legislators introduced it and vote on it. And now there's a state law on the books that enables one of those corporations to get state money. Game, set, match. But remember, this story isn't about one company and the education industry and one law in Tennessee; it's about hundreds of corporations in most every industry influencing lawmakers in state after state, using ALEC as a front.
Here's another example. The American Bail Coalition, which represents the bail bond industry, pulls no punches about writing ALEC's model bills itself. In a newsletter a few years back, the coalition boasted that it had written 12 ALEC model bills fortifying the commercial bail industry. Here's Jerry Watson, senior legal counsel for the coalition, speaking at an ALEC meeting in 2007. He has a law to offer.
JERRY WATSON: There is a model bill for you to review, if you might be interested in introducing such a measure.
BILL MOYERS: He'll even help legislators amend it.
JERRY WATSON: Now, if you don't like the precise language of these suggested documents, can they be tweaked by your legislative council? Well, absolutely. And will we work with them on that and work with you and your staff on that? Absolutely.
BILL MOYERS: All the lawmakers have to do is ring him up.
JERRY WATSON: There is a phone number there for our executive offices in Washington, D.C. We're prepared to help you and your staff and support this legislation in any way that we can.
BILL MOYERS: And guess what? There's gold at the end of the rainbow.
JERRY WATSON: But I'm not so crazy as not to know that you've already figured out that if I can talk you into doing this bill, my clients are going to make a - some money on the bond premiums.
BILL MOYERS: And corporate interest conflated with the public interest.
JERRY WATSON: But if we can help you save crime victims in your legislative district and generate positive revenue for your state and help solve your prison overcrowding problem, you don't mind me making a dollar.
BILL MOYERS: ALEC members are seldom as upfront as the American Bail Coalition. In fact, ordinarily, ALEC's hand is very hard to see at all. But if you know where to look, you'll often find ALEC hiding in plain sight.
LISA GRAVES: ALEC has, in addition to its regular vacation resort trips, it also has special, what it calls "boot camps" on particular substantive issues.
BILL MOYERS: In March 2011, ALEC held one of those boot camps for legislators at the North Carolina Capitol in Raleigh. The subject was so-called tort reform, how to keep the average Joe from successfully suing a corporation for damages. The day after the boot camp, two state representatives presented the draft version of a House bill chock-full of ALEC priorities. It would, among other things, limit corporate product liability in North Carolina. One of the representatives, Johnathan Rhyne, was quoted in the Raleigh News [&] Observer saying of ALEC, "I really don't know much about them." That's odd, because Rhyne had been listed as a featured speaker at the ALEC tort reform boot camp. The paper also reported that Rhyne said the bill wasn't copied from ALEC model legislation. That, too, is odd, given how the sections covering product liability could have passed as twins.
The bill was controversial. It passed, but only after the product liability sections were taken out of it. But the tort reformers didn't give up. They were back a year later, this time with a draft bill aimed specifically to limit the liability of drug manufacturers. When the public was allowed to comment before a legislative panel, people who had lost loved ones came to testify against the bill. A son who had lost a father.
SURVIVING SON: You know, my dad's gone. All I can do is sit here and be a voice for him. He can't speak anymore.
BILL MOYERS: A grandfather mourning his granddaughter.
SURVIVING GRANDFATHER: If this bill passes, an innocent victim in North Carolina like Brittany could not hold a manufacturer accountable. Everyone needs to be accountable for their actions.
BILL MOYERS: Unmentioned to those in the room, ALEC was present, too, in the form of a lobbyist with drug manufacturing giant GlaxoSmithKline. His name is John Del Giorno.
JOHN DEL GIORNO: Several of the opposing testifiers today brought up very compelling, sad, empathetic stories.
BILL MOYERS: Not only is Glaxo an ALEC corporate member, Del Giorno himself is also a vice chairman of ALEC's national private enterprise board. The North Carolina bill has been tabled for now.
So now you've seen how it works for corporations. How about for the politicians?
ANDERSON COOPER: Last night was, as the president finally acknowledged today, a shellacking. Republicans gained control of the House, picking up 60 seats so far.
BILL MOYERS: When all of the returns were counted on election night 2010, ALEC was a big winner. Eight of the Republican governors elected or re-elected that night had ties to the group.
GOV.-ELECT JOHN KASICH: Guess what? I'm going to be governor of Ohio!
GOV.-ELECT NIKKI HALEY: There's going to be a lot of news and a lot of observers that say that we made history.
GOV. JAN BREWER: A clean sweep for Republicans!
BILL MOYERS: And a star was born that election night: Wisconsin's new governor, a son of ALEC named Scott Walker.
GOV.-ELECT SCOTT WALKER: Wisconsin is open for business!
JOHN NICHOLS: I've known Scott Walker, the governor of Wisconsin, for the better part of 20 years. And Scott is a classic career politician. And I don't say that in a negative way.
BILL MOYERS: Journalist and Wisconsinite John Nichols has tracked Scott Walker's career since the '90s, when Walker was a state legislator and then-ALEC member.
JOHN NICHOLS: And in 2010, he ran, not presenting himself as an ALEC alumni or as a ally of big corporations or big business people outside the state; he ran a very down-home campaign.
SCOTT WALKER: This is my lunch. I pack a brown bag each day so I can save some money to spend on, you know, the more important things in life, like sending my kids to college.
BILL MOYERS: Nichols says that despite the folksy image, in the years leading up to Walker's 2010 campaign, he had become a master political fundraiser.
JOHN NICHOLS: And he began to really forge incredibly close ties with a lot of corporate interests that he had first been introduced to in ALEC, individuals and groups like the Koch brothers.
BILL MOYERS: David and Charles Koch, the billionaire businessmen behind the vast industrial empire, are also political activists with an agenda. Their companies and foundations have been ALEC members and funders for years.
JOHN NICHOLS: The Koch brothers were among the two or three largest contributors to Scott Walker's campaign for governor of Wisconsin. And the Koch brothers get that if you really want to influence the politics of this country, you don't just give money to presidential campaigns, you don't just give money to congressional campaign committees. The smart ones, the smart players, put their money in the states.
SCOTT WALKER: Hi. I'm Scott Walker.
JOHN NICHOLS: It's state government that funds education, social services. And it taxes.
SCOTT WALKER: If you want lower taxes and less government, I'm Scott Walker, and I know how to get the job done.
JOHN NICHOLS: And so, the smart donors can change the whole country without ever going to Washington, without ever having to go through a congressional hearing, without ever having to lobby on Capitol Hill, without ever having to talk to the president.
JUSTICE SHIRLEY ABRAHAMSON: Please raise your right hand and repeat after me.
BILL MOYERS: The new governor moved quickly with a raft of ALEC-inspired bills. They included one similar to Florida's "stand your ground." Another made it easier to carry concealed weapons. There was a resolution opposing the mandated purchase of health insurance. And, of course, there was one limiting corporate liability. The Wisconsin legislature passed a so-called tort reform measure that included parts of eight different ALEC models. ALEC was elated, praising Walker and the legislature in a press release for their, quote, "immediate attention to reforming the state's legal system." But Scott Walker was also shooting for another big ALEC prize.
GOV. SCOTT WALKER: Now, some have questioned why we have to reform collective bargaining.
BILL MOYERS: Taking away workers' collective bargaining rights, that had long been an ALEC goal. A candid video caught Scott Walker talking about it with one of his financial backers, the billionaire businesswoman Diane Hendricks.
GOV. SCOTT WALKER: Well, we're going to start in a couple weeks with our budget adjustment bill. The first step is, we're going to deal with collective bargaining for all public employee unions.
GOV. SCOTT WALKER: Because you just divide and conquer.
BILL MOYERS: Despite an extraordinary public outcry and after a brief but intense political struggle, Walker's anti-collective-bargaining measures became state law.
JOHN NICHOLS: It was ALEC's ideas, ALEC's values, that permeated the bill and undid almost 50 years - more than 50 years of collective bargaining law in Wisconsin.
BILL MOYERS: But again, remember, this isn't just about one state. It's about every state. Take Arizona. It's practically an ALEC subsidiary. One report this year found that 49 of the state's 90 legislators are members. And two-thirds of the Republican leadership are on ALEC task forces. And, of course, the governor, Jan Brewer, was an ALEC member, too. So, not surprising, Arizona is among the states passing ALEC-inspired laws to privatize education at taxpayer expense. And no surprise again, Arizona is also getting ALEC-like laws to limit corporate liability.
REPORTER: Police will also be able to ask anyone to prove their legal status.
BILL MOYERS: And Arizona, you'll recall, made news in 2010 with a law allowing police to stop someone for looking Hispanic and detaining them if they weren't carrying proper papers. So, it probably won't shock you to learn that Arizona's immigration law also inspired an ALEC model, a version of which was passed in five other states.
STATE REP. STEVE FARLEY: All of us here are very familiar with ALEC and the influence that ALEC has with many of the members here.
BILL MOYERS: ALEC's nomination of Arizona proved too much for State Representative Steve Farley.
STATE REP. STEVE FARLEY: I just want to emphasize, it's fine for corporations to be involved in the process. Corporations have the right to present their arguments. But they don't have the right to do it secretly. They don't have the right to lobby people and not register as lobbyists. They don't have the right to take people away on trips, convince them of it, and send them back here, and then nobody has seen what's really gone on and how that legislator has gotten that idea and where is it coming from.
BILL MOYERS: Farley has introduced a bill to force legislators to disclose their ALEC ties, just as the law already requires them to do with any lobbyist.
STATE REP. STEVE FARLEY: All I'm asking in the ALEC Accountability Act is to make sure that all of those expenses are reported as if they are lobbying expenses, and all those gifts that legislators received are reported as if they are receiving the gifts from lobbyists, so the public can find out and make up their own minds about who is influencing what.
BILL MOYERS: Steve Farley's bill has gone nowhere. ALEC, on the other hand, is still everywhere, still hiding in plain sight. Watch for it coming soon to a statehouse near you.
AMY GOODMAN: The United States of ALEC, a special report by Bill Moyers. It will air this weekend on Moyers & Company. This is Democracy Now!,, The War and Peace Report. Back in a minute.

Friday, September 28, 2012

A Scandal

So These Ten Nuns Walk Into a . . .

Greg Palast has documented Republican efforts to disenfranchise voters across the country using a variety of tactics including mandating voter ids. When the Republican Party is unable to legitimately win elections, they employ numerous tactics as they have this year.

The Middleborough Republicans, in goose-step with the national myth, attempted similar tactics at Town Meeting that voters refused to endorse.

So These Ten Nuns Walk Into a . . .

By Greg Palast, September 20, 2012

So These Ten Nuns Walk Into a . . .

Retired nuns Jeanne Gallagher and Pauline Kelly talk about voter identification for this year's election. (photo: Butch Comegys)

Stop me if you heard this one. See, these ten nuns walk into a polling station in Indiana and the guy in charge says, “Whoa, Sisters! What do think you’re doing?”

“Voting,” says Sister Mary.

“Well, not here, ladies; not without your ID!”

He demanded their driver’s licenses, but the ten quite elderly

Sisters of the Holy Cross, including a ninety-eight-year-old, had long ago given up cruising.

“Scram, Sis!” said the man, and kicked their habits right out of the polling station.

I may not have gotten the dialogue exactly right, but I got the gist of it and the facts: the ten nuns who’d been voting at that station were booted out in 2008, just after the state of Indiana’s Republican legislature imposed new voter ID laws.

The reason for nixing the nuns? To stop voter identity theft.

There wasn’t exactly a voter identity crime wave. In fact, despite no photo ID requirement, there wasn’t a single known case of false identity voting in the state in over one hundred years.

About four hundred thousand voters (9 percent of Indiana’s electorate) are African American. Nearly one in five (18.1 percent) lack the ID needed to vote, according to Matt Barreto of the University of Washington. That’s twice the number of whites lacking ID.

Therefore, as many as seventy-two thousand black voters will get the boot when they show up to vote this November.

Coincidentally, that’s three times Barack Obama’s victory margin in that state in 2008. Coincidentally.

And who are the white folk lacking ID? The elderly, like the sisters, and students like Angela Hiss and Allyson Miller, whose official state IDs don’t list their dorm room addresses and so can’t be used to vote.

Black folk, the elderly, students, poor whites blocked from registering and voting—a federal judge didn’t think it was all that coincidental. Justice Terence Evans could see a pattern: “The Indiana voter photo ID law is a not-too- thinly veiled attempt to discourage election-day turnout
by certain folks believed to skew Democratic.”

But Supreme Court Justice is blind.

The Indiana law does provide a voter the chance to obtain an ID from government offices. The average voter’s distance to the office is seventeen miles. By definition, the folks that need the ID don’t drive. And the ninety-eight-year-old is pretty darn slow in her walker.

A lawyer for Indiana voters told me that the average bus trip back and forth, requiring two changes, takes an entire work day. They tested it. But Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia ruled that the law was fair and provided “equal protection” to all voters because “seventeen miles is seventeen miles for the rich and the poor.”

Our investigative team decided to check that assumption. Justice Scalia drives a black BMW. No kidding. What he meant to say is that whether a poor person or a rich person is driving a BMW, it takes the same time. And whether the BMW is black or white doesn’t matter either.

With Supreme Court blessings, voter ID laws are taking the nation by storm, or storm troops.

Apparently, the idea came to Karl Rove while buying his pampers. He told the Republican National Lawyers Association, “I go the grocery store and I want to cash a check to pay for my groceries, I have to show a little bit of ID. [So, why not when] it comes to the most sacred thing in our democracy?”

(Actually, Karl, you don’t have to show ID to swallow the Eucharist or matzo. But if by “most sacred thing” in our democracy you mean making donations to American Crossroads, you don’t need ID for that anymore either. If you mean voting is sacred, then it shouldn’t be dependent on taking a driving test, should it?)

Santiago Juarez sees some truth in Rove’s remarks. I met with Santiago in Espanola, New Mexico, where he was running a registration drive among low-riders, the young Mexican Americans who cruise the street in hopping, bopping, neon-lit Chevys.

He says, “And who’s going to give these kids a credit card?” Of course, you can always get ID from a state office . . . if you already have ID.”

Voting-rights lawyer John Boyd, who works for both parties, is alarmed by the “thousands and thousands” of poor people in each state that will lose their vote because of new ID laws.

“I don’t have any doubt this could decide the election,” he told me. “People don’t understand the enormity of this.”

People don’t. But Karl does.

And so does the Brennan Center. The Brennan Center for Justice at New York University Law School brings together America’s most prestigious scholars in the field of voting rights who are widely ignored because of their unquestioned expertise. The Brennan Center reports that the ID laws are racist, ageist, classist, and the stupidest way to stop “fraud.”

Here’s the Brennan Center breakdown of those without government photo ID:

_ 6.0 million seniors;

_5.5 million African Americans;

_8.1 million Hispanics;

_ 4.5 million eighteen- to twenty-four-year olds;

_and 15 percent voters with household income under $35,000 a year.

Now, don’t add them up because there’s a lot of double-counting here. “Poor,” “black,” and “young” go together like “stop” and “frisk.”

But let’s cut to the chase: the draconian ID law and other voting and registration restrictions passed in just the year before the 2012 election, according to the Brennan Center, are going to cost five million voters to lose their civil rights.

Overwhelmingly, the changes were made in twelve “battleground” states, with the most radical exclusion laws adopted in Florida and Wisconsin. The cheese-chewer state will require government-issued IDs to vote. But the IDs issued by the state itself to University of Wisconsin students won’t be accepted. That’s okay because, as a New Hampshire legislator, hoping to emulate Wisconsin, points out, “Kids, you know, just vote liberal.”

Using a formula provided by the Brennan Center, we can calculate that 97,850 student voters were barred, turned away, blocked, challenged, or given provisional ballots (left uncounted) on recall Election Day in June. No U.S. paper listed Wisconsin as a “swing” state that month. Well, it swung.

Altogether, the 2012 changes in Wisconsin law were sufficient alone to account for the victory of Republican Governor Scott Walker in staving off a recall vote in June 2012. Walker did have the popular support of $31 million (versus $4 million raised by his Democratic opponent).

I note that Wisconsin voter registrations show a drop of 107,000 in the first six months of 2011 before a mass attack on the list by the GOP-controlled legislature. To get the latest figures is suspiciously difficult. We do know that registrations have been rejected en masse, in part by “matching” requirements used to verify registrations.

Despite the fact that Wisconsin has no known history of fictional or dead people actually voting, the cost to real, live voters is devastating.

This is an excerpt from Greg Palast’s latest book from Seven Stories Press: “Billionaires and Ballot Bandits: How to Steal An Election in 9 Easy Steps.”

The Absurdity of Austerity

Americans are allowing themselves to be misled by Tea Baggers in their misunderstanding of economics.

As with other failed Republican policies, the consequences of austerity are displayed in Europe.

This isn't how to solve our deficit, but rather sensible policies that put Americans back to work.

Europe’s Austerity Madness

Published: September 27, 2012

So much for complacency. Just a few days ago, the conventional wisdom was that Europe finally had things under control. The European Central Bank, by promising to buy the bonds of troubled governments if necessary, had soothed markets. All that debtor nations had to do, the story went, was agree to more and deeper austerity — the condition for central bank loans — and all would be well.

Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times
Paul Krugman
But the purveyors of conventional wisdom forgot that people were involved. Suddenly, Spain and Greece are being racked by strikes and huge demonstrations. The public in these countries is, in effect, saying that it has reached its limit: With unemployment at Great Depression levels and with erstwhile middle-class workers reduced to picking through garbage in search of food, austerity has already gone too far. And this means that there may not be a deal after all.
Much commentary suggests that the citizens of Spain and Greece are just delaying the inevitable, protesting against sacrifices that must, in fact, be made. But the truth is that the protesters are right.
More austerity serves no useful purpose; the truly irrational players here are the allegedly serious politicians and officials demanding ever more pain.
Consider Spain’s woes. What is the real economic problem? Basically, Spain is suffering the hangover from a huge housing bubble, which caused both an economic boom and a period of inflation that left Spanish industry uncompetitive with the rest of Europe. When the bubble burst, Spain was left with the difficult problem of regaining competitiveness, a painful process that will take years. Unless Spain leaves the euro — a step nobody wants to take — it is condemned to years of high unemployment.
But this arguably inevitable suffering is being greatly magnified by harsh spending cuts; and these spending cuts are a case of inflicting pain for the sake of inflicting pain.
First of all, Spain didn’t get into trouble because its government was profligate. On the contrary, on the eve of the crisis, Spain actually had a budget surplus and low debt. Large deficits emerged when the economy tanked, taking revenues with it, but, even so, Spain doesn’t appear to have all that high a debt burden.
It’s true that Spain is now having trouble borrowing to finance its deficits. That trouble is, however, mainly because of fears about the nation’s broader difficulties — not least the fear of political turmoil in the face of very high unemployment. And shaving a few points off the budget deficit won’t resolve those fears. In fact, research by the International Monetary Fund suggests that spending cuts in deeply depressed economies may actually reduce investor confidence because they accelerate the pace of economic decline.
In other words, the straight economics of the situation suggests that Spain doesn’t need more austerity. It shouldn’t throw a party, and, in fact, it probably has no alternative (short of euro exit) to a protracted period of hard times. But savage cuts to essential public services, to aid to the needy, and so on actually hurt the country’s prospects for successful adjustment.
Why, then, are there demands for ever more pain?
Part of the explanation is that in Europe, as in America, far too many Very Serious People have been taken in by the cult of austerity, by the belief that budget deficits, not mass unemployment, are the clear and present danger, and that deficit reduction will somehow solve a problem brought on by private sector excess.
Beyond that, a significant part of public opinion in Europe’s core — above all, in Germany — is deeply committed to a false view of the situation. Talk to German officials and they will portray the euro crisis as a morality play, a tale of countries that lived high and now face the inevitable reckoning. Never mind the fact that this isn’t at all what happened — and the equally inconvenient fact that German banks played a large role in inflating Spain’s housing bubble. Sin and its consequences is their story, and they’re sticking to it.
Worse yet, this is also what many German voters believe, largely because it’s what politicians have told them. And fear of a backlash from voters who believe, wrongly, that they’re being put on the hook for the consequences of southern European irresponsibility leaves German politicians unwilling to approve essential emergency lending to Spain and other troubled nations unless the borrowers are punished first.
Of course, that’s not the way these demands are portrayed. But that’s what it really comes down to. And it’s long past time to put an end to this cruel nonsense.
If Germany really wants to save the euro, it should let the European Central Bank do what’s necessary to rescue the debtor nations — and it should do so without demanding more pointless pain.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Does anyone think......

The Cleveland Fed reveals US workers are receiving the smallest share of national income on record. Further, they project inequality to increase in coming years. When unemployment is high, workers have no bargaining power and corporate managers use their leverage to squeeze productivity gains from their workforce while demanding wage and benefit ...

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

23 Nuclear Plants in Tsunami Risk Zones

Chilling to contemplate!

23 Nuclear Plants in Tsunami Risk Zones, Study Finds

Fukushima Daiichi nuclear reactors
This GeoEye satellite image shows the nuclear reactors (labeled) at the Fukushima Daiichi plant after the earthquake and tsunami hit northeastern Japan.

In March 2011, a devastating earthquake and tsunami set off a partial meltdown at the Fukushima nuclear plant on Japan's coast. A recent study led by European researchers found Fukushima is not alone, as 22 other plants around the world may be similarly susceptible to destructive tsunami waves, with most of them in east and southeast regions of Asia.

The 23 facilities on the list (including Fukushima) house a total of 74 nuclear reactors. Thirteen of the plants are active, while the others are either nearing completion or being expanded to house more reactors. The researchers say East and Southeast Asia are at the greatest risk of a nuclear crisis triggered by a tsunami because of the rise of atomic power stations in the region, especially in China, which houses 27 of the world's 64 nuclear reactors currently under construction.

"The most important fact is that 19 (two of which are in Taiwan) out of the 27 reactors are being built in areas identified as dangerous," state the authors of the study.

Meanwhile, in Japan, seven plants — one of which is currently under construction — are located in zones at risk of a tsunami, and South Korea is now expanding two plants in risk zones, the researchers said.

Harvest of Empire

A must watch!

"Harvest of Empire": New Film Recounts How U.S. Intervention Caused Mass Latin American Migrations

At a time of heated and divisive debate over immigration, the new feature-length documentary, "Harvest of Empire," examines the direct connection between the long history of U.S. intervention in Latin America and the immigration crisis we face today. Based on the groundbreaking book by award-winning journalist and Democracy Now! co-host Juan González, "Harvest of Empire" takes an unflinching look at the role that U.S. economic and military interests played in triggering an unprecedented wave of migration that is transforming our nation’s cultural and economic landscape. González is a columnist at the New York Daily News and author of three other books, including "News for All the People: The Epic Story of Race and the American Media." We’re also joined by the film’s co-director, Eduardo López. [includes rush transcript]

AMY GOODMAN: A new report by the National Hispanic Media Coalition has found media portrayals of Latinos and immigrants are fueling rampant negative stereotypes among the general population. The organization called on the Federal Communications Commission to study the impacts of hate speech in the media.
This comes at a time when immigration has become a key issue in the 2012 presidential race. Both President Obama and his Republican challenger Mitt Romney answered tough questions about immigration and deportation when they appeared on the Spanish-language network Univision last week. Obama made news again Friday when the White House said a new federal policy that grants some young immigrants temporary legal status to stay in the country will not make them eligible for health insurance under the new healthcare law.
Meanwhile, appearing Sunday on ABC’s This Week, conservative pundit Ann Coulter argued immigrant rights should not be considered civil rights. Host George Stephanopoulos asked Coulter about her claim.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Immigrant rights are not civil rights?
ANN COULTER: No, I think civil rights are for blacks.
ROBERT REICH: See, this is essentially the problem. And the Republicans don’t understand—
ANN COULTER: What did we—can I just say, what have we done to the immigrants? We owe black people something; we have a legacy of slavery. Immigrants haven’t even been in this country.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, at this time of this heated and divisive debate over immigration, we turn to a new documentary out this week: Harvest of Empire: The Untold Story of Latinos in America. The film is based on a book by Juan González , Democracy Now! co-host, New York Times sic columnist. The film examines how— New York Daily News columnist. The film examines how U.S. intervention in Latin America and the Caribbean forced millions of people to leave their homes to migrate to the United States. We’ll be joined by Juan and the film’s co-director in a minute, but first a clip from the trailer for Harvest of Empire.
UNIDENTIFIED: We are all proud to be American today! Fly your flag with pride!
JACK CAFFERTY: Once again, the streets of our country were taken over today by people who don’t belong here.
DAVID BROOKS: But when the immigrants come, they come with a culture of criminality. It’s out of control.
GLENN BECK: They put a strain on our Social Security, our education, our healthcare.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: They never teach us in school that the huge Latino presence here is a direct result of our own government’s actions in Mexico, the Caribbean and Central America over many decades. Thousands upon thousands of Puerto Ricans were actually recruited to come work here in the United States.
MELVIN GOODMAN: The feeling was we could very easily overthrow this progressive government and make it a lot easier for the United Fruit Company and other American businesses to operate in Central America.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: From the very beginning, the West depended for its labor on Mexicans.
REPORTER: Are you a communist, Fidel?
FIDEL CASTRO: Wait for the history. The history will say what we are.
FATHER ROY BOURGEOIS: I had never seen anything like El Salvador. I was more frightened there than Vietnam. What was going on there was the slaughter of the innocents.
ROBERT WHITE: When you finance and train a gang of uniformed butchers and they begin wholesale killing, the people don’t emigrate, they flee.
UNIDENTIFIED: The instability that we have contributed to creates the kind of chaos and disarray that leads to more immigration.
PRESIDENT RONALD REAGAN: I believe in the idea of amnesty for those who have put down roots, even though they may have entered illegally.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: The reality is that America is changing. By the end of this century, a majority of the people will trace their origins not to Europe but to Latin America.
DR. ALFREDO QUIÑONES-HINOJOSA: We’re all humans. We all have the same abilities. We all have the same potential.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: America has always been a nation in the process of becoming, in process of change. It is an immigrant nation.

AMY GOODMAN: An excerpt of Harvest of Empire, premiering this week in New York and Los Angeles, based on the book Harvest of Empire: A History of Latinos in America by the award-winning journalist and Democracy Now! co-host Juan González. Juan, again, a co-host, with the New York Daily News, author of three other books, including News for All the People: The Epic Story of Race and the American Media, which is also just out in paperback, and founder and past president of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists. We’re very pleased that Juan is with us here in the New York studio, not in his usual guest chair but as—not in his usual host chair but as a guest today, and along with the film’s co-director, Eduardo López.
We welcome you both to Democracy Now!


EDUARDO LÓPEZ: Thank you very much.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: It’s a different perspective on this side of the table.

AMY GOODMAN: That’s right. So, you wrote this book years ago, Juan. Then it came out again updated, and now it’s in a film. Why have you chosen to go this route?

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, it wasn’t my choice, really. It was the producers who came to me several years ago. They have actually been working on this film for about—I think it’s seven years now?

EDUARDO LÓPEZ: Seven years.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Yeah, and they came to me several years ago that they really were excited about the perspective that my book had—was putting out. My book actually came out in 1999 initially, and it’s now, I think, used in about 200 college courses around the country as sort of an introductory survey text on the Latino community in the United States. And they said they wanted to make it into a film. And I said, "Are you sure?" That’s—my book is kind of more of a history, and it delves—it’s kind of complicated, because it goes into every one of the different Latino groups in the country, how they came here, what drove them here. But they said they thought they had a way to do it.

AMY GOODMAN: Eduardo, the way?

EDUARDO LÓPEZ: Well, the way was quite difficult, because it was a seven-year journey between the time we first met with Juan about the book and today. And I really would not be sitting here with you if it wasn’t for the hard work and sacrifice of the producer of the film, Wendy Thompson-Marquez. And with her, we felt in 2005 that the kind of language that was being used to describe immigrants, and specifically Latino immigrants, in the media was just unacceptable. Every night you would hear very derogatory terms being used to describe us. And we being—both of us being Latino immigrants—Wendy from Peru and me from El Salvador—we knew the real story. And we had read the real story in Juan’s book. And we just felt compelled to take action, because we really felt that the United States, that our fellow citizens needed to know why Latinos had come to the United States, the real reasons, the roots—the root causes of immigration. And in just about all the cases when you look at history, you see very clearly, as Juan explains in the book, that our different waves of migration are connected to actions that the United States took in our countries, in different times for different reasons, but it’s very consistent throughout history, this connection between our foreign policy and immigration.

AMY GOODMAN: And so, Juan, now—I mean, the first day of the Democratic convention in Charlotte, a bus pulled up in front of the gates, the UndocuBus, and scores of people got out chanting "No papers, no fear!" Ten got arrested in the pouring rain as the police poured in. Immigration is one of the key issues of this election year, and yet you don’t have presidential candidates who have a vastly different approach to it.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Yeah, it is, and I think it’s increasingly become an issue, not just in the big cities where—New York, L.A., Miami—but in the heartland of America, and especially in the South, where in North Carolina, for instance, there’s been a huge increase in the Latino population of North Carolina, but most people don’t understand how those Latinos got there. It’s a largely Guatemalan migration, and it’s largely people who were recruited in the ’80s and ’90s to come and work in the textile mills of North Carolina, because—part of what I try to show in the book is the enormous connection between the needs of capital of American expanding industries in the United States and this recruitment of labor.

So, what happened basically is, in the '80s, as more and more Salvadorans and Guatemalans were fleeing into the United States as a result of the civil wars in their countries and the repression in their countries, they came here to the United States, and there were industries that needed cheap labor. And so, you had the meat-packing industry in the Midwest, began recruiting many Mexicans to come to Dodge City and to come to Des Moines and to come to all of these—the meat center of the country. And you had the poultry industry in Arkansas, and you had the textile industry in North Carolina. And they usually went by nationality. So you had a large Guatemalan population that developed in North Carolina. So, I think that's part of what I try to show in the book. And to a large measure, the film captures this process of migration: the push of the repression that occurs in the countries, in the sending countries, and the pull of American businesses seeking cheap labor.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to break and then come back to this discussion. Juan González is here, along with Eduardo López. Their film, Harvest of Empire: The History of Latinos in America, based on Juan’s book. We’ll be back in a minute.

AMY GOODMAN: Our guests are Juan González and Eduardo López. Juan’s book Harvest of Empire, required reading in so many schools in this country, and Eduardo López deciding to make this film, together with the producer, Harvest of Empire, that’s airing this week. I want to play a clip from Harvest of Empire that talks about the history of U.S. involvement in the Dominican Republic, where many of the immigrants here in New York City hail from. The clip prominently features the Dominican-born Pulitzer Prize-winning author Junot Díaz.
PRESIDENT LYNDON JOHNSON: The American nations cannot, must not, and will not permit the establishment of another communist government in the Western Hemisphere.
JUNOT DÍAZ: I’m here because the United States invaded my country in 1965, an illegal invasion, completely trumped-up excuse to invade the Dominican Republic and crush our democratic hopes. We’ve lived the consequences of that illegal invasion politically, economically, and in the bodies of the people who were wounded, in the bodies of the people who were killed. We’ve been living it for over 40 years.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: There have been two major U.S. occupations of the Dominican Republic. The first was in 1916. The U.S. Army trained a new Dominican National Guard. It handpicked a former railway security officer, Rafael Trujillo, to lead that guard. And Trujillo then uses the power of the military to seize control of the government.
JUNOT DÍAZ: He was like the most horrific imagination of this terrifying dictator. He would disappear Dominican and American citizens and kill them with impunity.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: He basically ruled the Dominican Republic for 30 years with absolute, total control. He routinely kidnapped and assaulted the wives, even of his supporters, and throughout his career made it extremely easy for American companies to do business in the Dominican Republic but was a savage, savage dictator. Eventually, even the United States government could not stomach his methods of operation, so the CIA joined with disgruntled military officers to back his assassination.
NEWSREEL: For the first time in 30 years, the people of the Dominican Republic are breathing the sweet air of liberty, and the streets are jammed in celebration.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: In 1963, you have the election of Juan Bosch. He was a liberal, a social democrat, who attempted to institute new social reforms. But the Bosch government didn’t last for very long. Only a few months into his term in office, there was a military coup. That military coup in turn spurred a popular insurrection that led to the U.S. invasion of the Dominican Republic in 1965. When the rebels finally agreed to lay down their arms, the United States government scheduled new elections, but it also allowed the right-hand man of Trujillo, Joaquín Balaguer, to run in those elections for president. Balaguer won that election. The problem was that there was enormous repression against the Bosch forces, killings on an almost daily basis. So the United States then began allowing large numbers of Dominican former rebels to come to the United States as a way, again, of using migration as a safety valve. Thousands of Dominicans started coming to New York City.
AMY GOODMAN: An excerpt of Harvest of Empire. The Pulitzer Prize-winning Dominican-American writer Junot Díaz talks about coming to this country shortly after the United States then began allowing large numbers of Dominican former rebels to migrate here.
JUNOT DÍAZ: Well, they said, "We’re coming to the United States." Whatever that meant. I thought we were just going up the road to some mystical place. When I finally saw a map in kindergarten of how far we had traveled, I remember being not only astonished but literally terrified. My father was the standard kind of crazy Latino military guy who would check his children’s hands and their shoes and their clothes and their hair before we left the house. I mean, we had to tie our shoes a certain way. I lived in what I call "the little dictatorship," the little dictatorship of our house.
When I immigrated to New Jersey, it was a very crazy time. I immigrated in 1974, a few months before the fall of Saigon. This was not a place that was very welcoming. I found myself facing a tremendous amount of racism and bigotry, but not just from like white Americans, from black Americans and from Latinos. I think if every immigrant child in this country was allowed to tell the real emotional truth of their experience here, people in the United States would discover that we actually make immigration a more horrific experience than it needs to be. And I feel that, as a country, we’re in a dream where there are no mistakes, there is no evil, we are always good, we hurt no one. You know, you can’t grow if you admit no mistakes.

AMY GOODMAN: Pulitzer Prize-winning Dominican-American writer Junot Díaz in Harvest of Empire. Juan, the Dominican Republic?

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Yeah, and interestingly, Junot appears on the front page of the New York Times Book Review this week with—this past Sunday with his new book.
Yes, it’s—the Dominican Republic really is one of the many examples, but there are others, of Salvador, Guatemala and Cuba, as well, in terms of the effect of American foreign policy on the migration. And I think that’s a key issue that I have in my book and that the film tries to provide with new examples, because my examples are older. They’ve actually been able to get quite a few prominent Latinos, as well as ordinary people, who went through enormous changes that people don’t know much about. But I think the Dominican Republic really, in terms of this idea not just of U.S. intervention in the '60s, but going back earlier in the 20th century, that the United States has always really dictated a lot of what goes on in the Dominican Republic. And I think that the—once again, whether it was the sugar companies earlier on and, more recently, the maquilas and the sweatshops of the Caribbean Basin, they've always had enormous impact on the standard of living in these countries, as well as the push that forces people to look somehow or other to survive by coming to the United States.

AMY GOODMAN: Eduardo López , you have remarkable footage that has never been seen before in this country throughout. And in a moment, we’re going to go to El Salvador to talk about what drove a lot of the migration here. Where did you get it?

EDUARDO LÓPEZ: Many, many sources, and there’s a lot of footage that’s never been seen, that hasn’t been seen in decades. And this, again, is a testament to the team that created this. Our editor, Catherine Shields, is amazing, and so is our co-director, Peter Getzels.

But I have to say about the Dominican Republic, I’d really like to make a point, that one of the main reasons we made this film is really personified by Junot Díaz, who is now contributing as one of our great American writers. But his whole life was changed dramatically by our invasion of the Dominican Republic in 1965 with 23,000 marines, something that most Americans know nothing about because all of this history is never taught in our schools and our colleges. And so, for Latinos whose life is turned upside down by our own government’s actions in Latin America that many times we’re unaware of, what happens is, there is this tremendous disconnect. And this is, I believe, one of the reasons why so much of the ignorant rhetoric about immigrants takes hold in our country, because we don’t know. And so, here’s Junot Díaz, whose life is completely changed because of our actions, yet all of us, as American citizens, know nothing of what we did in the Dominican Republic. And I think that’s one of the key parts of this film.

AMY GOODMAN: The significance of the invasion of 1965, Juan?

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, I think that the—that sent a message throughout Latin America in that period of time that the United States, coming out of the Kennedy era, the Alliance for Progress era, that the United States now was the enemy of change, because obviously—Juan Bosch was not a revolutionary by any stretch of the imagination; he was a liberal democrat who wanted to have land reform and wanted to have some basic changes in the lives of the Dominican people. So when the United States government basically backed the coup against Juan Bosch, it sent a message throughout Latin America that the government was going to be—our government was going to be the enemy of real social change in the region. And that lasted really until the ’90s, until this whole new era that has developed in Latin America of socially progressive governments being elected to power, getting rid of old dictatorships, old rule by the military, and giving the popular will a chance to be expressed and to bring more progressive leaders to power. But that really was from the ’60s into the ’90s, you had throughout Latin America the rule of these dictators and military leaders that were largely backed by the United States.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to go to a part of Harvest of Empire that deals with the assassination of Archbishop Óscar Romero on March 24th, 1980, in El Salvador. This clip features the voices of Sister Pat Murray, former U.S. Ambassador to El Salvador Robert White, and Sister Terry Alexander, Maryknoll missionary.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: His assassination—in church—stunned the entire nation.
SISTER PAT MURRAY: As the crowd started to grow, they realized that this was going to be a very difficult time. And we could see all the Guardia that were on all the roofs. All of a sudden, there was a shot fired. And then the bomb went off. Everybody just scattered. Then, the Guardia opened fire. Oh, Lord. It’s important that the world know that we stood behind him.
ROBERT WHITE: For the first time, someone had faced down the Salvadoran military and said, "You people are killing the people you are sworn to protect."
SISTER TERRY ALEXANDER: Father Paul Schindler had received a telephone call saying this farmer had seen the bodies of four women, very definitely American. He began reading a description of the four women. And as he read each one, I could say, "That was Jean. That’s Jean. That’s Dorothy. That’s Ita." Three of us knelt down there to pray. And I guess my prayer was, like Moore had said once before, "How long, O God, how long must this continue to happen?"
AMY GOODMAN: That was Sister Terry Alexander, Maryknoll missionary. Juan González?

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Yeah, the footage that they’ve been able to capture there is really amazing, the actual footage not only of the military shooting down the people at Bishop Romero’s funeral, but then actually of the nuns of the church, women being dragged up, their dead bodies. This is what I’ve really been amazed at, in each of these countries, whether it’s Guatemala, the footage of the actual coup against Árbenz in 1954, and this incredible footage that’s never been seen in the United States. Rigoberta Menchú was interviewed in the film, and she talks about the killing of her father in the Spanish embassy, when the Guatemalan government burned down the embassy that was full of dissidents who had taken refuge there, including her father. And they’ve actually been able to find images in the archives of Guatemala of that day and the people being burned and the crowds outside of the Spanish embassy that day.

AMY GOODMAN: Eduardo López, Rigoberta Menchú, of course, the Nobel Peace Prize winner.

EDUARDO LÓPEZ: Yes. We were very happy that she participated, because I think that she really communicates something that, again, as Americans, we were never told. In the story of Guatemala, it’s amazing that we had a time when in the United States we had one brother who was the head of the CIA and another brother who was a secretary of state, and because they had received complaint from one company, the United Fruit Company, they decided that in order to help this company, they were going to take out a democratically elected government.

AMY GOODMAN: Allen Dulles and John Foster Dulles.

EDUARDO LÓPEZ: Exactly. And our actions in 1954 in Guatemala taking down the Árbenz government unleashed decades of civil war in that country that ended up killing more than 200,000 people. And Rigoberta Menchú is the person who most personifies that struggle of the Mayan people throughout that time. And so, these, again, are all kinds of situations that our own country is not aware of. And this is another reason why we just felt really compelled to make this film and to work through the seven years in order to bring this to fruition.

AMY GOODMAN: Juan, Ann Coulter’s comments on This Week when she said, "I think civil rights are for blacks. ... What have we done to the immigrants? We owe black people something; we have a legacy of slavery. Immigrants haven’t even been in this country."

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, Ann Coulter neglects to deal with the reality of U.S.-Mexican history.

The entire Southwest of the United States was taken from Mexico in the Mexican-American War of 1846. California, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado—this was all part of Mexico. And there were actually Mexicans living on the land when the United States took it over in the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. You know, so Mexicans often say, the original—the descendants of those original settlers, "We didn’t cross the border. The border crossed us."

And, of course, she neglects to deal with the reality of the Puerto Rican existence in the United States. There are nearly five million, 4.6 million, Puerto Ricans—U.S. citizens of Puerto Rican descent in the United States and another 4 million, roughly, on the island of Puerto Rico. And the Puerto Ricans never went anywhere. They were just captured as a prize of war in the Spanish-American War, 1898, by the United States and declared citizens by Congress against the objections—the unanimous objection of the House of Delegates of Puerto Rico, which in 1917 rejected citizenship, voted unanimously against U.S. citizenship. And yet it was imposed on the Puerto Ricans by the United States Congress. So that when Ann Coulter says, you know, "What have we done to the immigrants?" Mexicans and Puerto Ricans are the two largest groups of Latinos in the United States. And that’s no accident. It’s a direct result of the history of the United States with these two countries.

AMY GOODMAN: And so, explain your title, Harvest of Empire.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, the harvest of the empire, as I explain in both the book and in the movie, is that the—starting at the end of World War II, really, the people of the third world started coming to the West, and they came precisely to those countries that had once been their colonial masters, so that, in France, they don’t know what to do about all the Algerians and the Tunisians and the Moroccans; in England, they don’t know what to do about all the Indians and the Pakistanis and the Jamaicans; in the United States, they don’t know what to do about all the Latin Americans. Those were precisely the former colonies of those empires. And once the—with the ending of World War II and with the independence movements that developed throughout Asia and Africa and Latin America, the peoples of those former colonial countries are coming to the metropolis, and they’re changing, transforming the very composition of those nations, and so that, for us, the United States, it’s not even an—we’re not dealing with this immigration, quote, "problem" alone. England has an immigration problem. France has an immigration problem. Germany has an immigration problem. And it is the harvest of the empires that made those countries so wealthy. Well, the capital came, but now the people are coming, as well.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to break and then come back to this discussion and what it means in 2012 with the elections here, immigration policy. The film is premiering in Los Angeles at the Laemmle Theater in Pasadena and at the Quad theater here in New York beginning on the 28th, on Friday, right through the 4th, here at the Quad theater. It’s on 13th Street. Eduardo López is our guest, co-director and producer along with Wendy Thompson-Marquez, and Juan González, well, co-host on Democracy Now!, a columnist with the New York Daily News, and author of Harvest of Empire, on which this film is based. And he appears in the film throughout. We’ll continue this discussion in a moment.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re spending the hour talking about a new film, given the significance of the issue of immigration in this country today. The film is called Harvest of Empire. It is opening at the Laemmle Theater in Pasadena in California and at the Quad theater here in New York on 13th Street on Friday through October 4th. Eduardo López is with us. He is co-director and producer, along with Wendy Thompson-Marquez, of this remarkable film that’s based on co-host Juan González’s book Harvest of Empire: A History of Latinos in America.

Eduardo, the last clip we played was of Archbishop Romero. March 24th, 1980, he is assassinated in El Salvador by a U.S.-backed death squad. You, yourself, are from El Salvador, an immigrant here in the United States.

EDUARDO LÓPEZ: This is, again, one of the reasons why we produced this film and why we feel so strongly about it, because, as Juan points out in his book and in the film, El Salvador is really maybe the latest and one of the clearest examples of this direct connection between our foreign policy and immigration. In the census of 1980, there were less than 100,000 Salvadorans listed, and just 32 years later, we are poised to become the third-largest Latino population in the United States. You have to remember El Salvador is the smallest country in all of the Americas. And yet, how is it that in only 32 years we are about to become the third-largest Latino population in the United States?
If all of the rhetoric about immigration was true, and it’s this poverty or our dysfunctional governments, if that were really the cause of immigration, you would have had people coming from El Salvador forever. But that’s not the case. People started coming in 1980 because of the war, and specifically because of our own country’s actions in the war. In the film, we talk about the School of the Americas and how most of the human rights abuses and the massacres, including the killing of the nuns and the murder of Archbishop Romero, was really done by people trained at the School of the Americas by our own country. And so, this is a clear example of how disconnection continues to exist. It’s not something that just happened 150 years ago. It continues to happen.

AMY GOODMAN: And, of course, you have the latest presidential link, this remarkable story surrounding Bain, how Mitt Romney helped found Bain Capital with investments from Central American links—Central American elites linked to the death squads in El Salvador. Now, this is something we reported on and discussed on Democracy Now! After initially struggling to find investors, Romney traveled to Miami in 1983 to win pledges of $9 million, 40 percent of Bain’s start-up money. Some investors had extensive ties to death squads responsible for a vast majority of the deaths in Salvador in the 1980s. The investors include the Salaverria family, whom the former U.S. ambassador to El Salvador, Robert White, previously accused of directly funding the Salvadoran paramilitaries. In his memoir, former Bain executive Harry Strachan writes Romney pushed aside his own misgivings about the investors to accept their backing. Strachan writes, "These Latin American friends have loyally rolled over investments in succeeding funds, actively participated in Bain Capital’s May investor meetings, and are still today one of the largest investor groups in Bain Capital." I want to get your comment, then Juan’s.

EDUARDO LÓPEZ: I think that if Governor Romney had ever bothered to meet one of the torture victims of the death squads or one of the family members of the people who were brutally killed during that time, maybe he would have thought twice about accepting that blood money. To me, it’s really unacceptable, when you look at the—I believe it was around $9 million that he accepted as the investment money. But where this money came from and the people who gave it to him is something that he really should have looked at much more closely, because it is related to the most terrible atrocities. As Ambassador Robert White says in our film, when you arm a group of uniformed butchers, the people don’t emigrate, they flee. And, to me, it’s unbelievable that now Governor Romney talks about immigrants with derogatory terms like "illegals," and yet he profited from the funding that actually caused so much of the immigration to the United States from El Salvador.

AMY GOODMAN: In fact, Mitt Romney talks about people should self-deport. Juan González?

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Yeah, well, I think that throughout Central America—in Salvador, in Nicaragua, in Honduras—there’s always been a very small elite that has benefited from being a comprador group, basically facilitating the exploitation of their own countries by American businesses, largely. And I think that the—that Romney was so closely tied to some of the Salvadoran compradors is really astounding in terms of, as Eduardo says, his stance on immigration.
And in the film, they actually have an incredible—one of the most powerful portions of the film is the testimony of one of the Salvadoran torture victims, who became an immigrant or a refugee here in the United States. And she talks in vivid terms about the kinds of torture that she went through and how somehow managed to survive. And I think that it’s—that Romney got his start in Bain through this investment by some of these Salvadoran elites is really telling in itself.

AMY GOODMAN: Now I want to get your comment on the current presidential candidates talking about immigration. In an appearance on the Spanish-language network Univision last Thursday, President Obama faced tough questions over his immigration policies, including his failure to fulfill a campaign promise to enact comprehensive immigration reform during his first year in office. Obama called the lack of immigration reform the biggest failure of his presidency but attempted to shift blame for the failure to Republicans.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: When we talked about immigration reform in the first year, that’s before the economy was on the verge of collapse. Lehman Brothers had collapsed. The stock market was collapsing. And so, my first priority was making sure that we prevented us from going into a great depression. And I think everybody here remembers where we were four years ago. What I confess I did not expect, and so I’m happy to take responsibility for being naïve here, is that Republicans who had previously supported comprehensive immigration reform—my opponent in 2008 who had been a champion of it and who attended these meetings—suddenly would walk away.

AMY GOODMAN: President Obama’s comments come as his administration faces scrutiny for deporting and detaining a record number of undocumented people. Nearly 400,000 immigrants were deported during the last fiscal year. Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney also fielded questions about immigration during a Wednesday appearance on Univision. Romney attacked Obama’s deferred action policy that allows some young undocumented people to remain in the country temporarily, saying a more permanent solution was needed. Romney was accused during the appearance of avoiding specific details about a possible permanent solution and asked to respond with a yes or no on whether he would deport undocumented youth.
MITT ROMNEY: We’re not going to—we’re not going to round up people around the country and deport them. That’s not—I said during my primary campaign, time and again, we’re not going to round up 12 million people, that includes the kids and the parents, and have everyone deported. Our system isn’t to deport people. We need to provide a long-term solution, and I’ve described the fact that I would be in support of a program that said that people who served in our military could be permanent residents of the United States. Unlike the president, when I’m president, I will actually do what I promised. I will put in place an immigration reform plan that solves this issue.

AMY GOODMAN: That was Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney speaking during an interview on Univision last week. In fact, he got much louder applause than President Obama did. Juan González?

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, yes, he did, because, as some of the reports came out afterwards, he actually trucked in supporters. The original agreement was that Romney would be given tickets to disperse to young Republicans on the University of Miami campus, but they apparently could not find enough students on the University of Miami campus to fill the theater, so they insisted on busing in supporters from outside the university, who were a lot more rowdy, I think, than the students would have been.

But, you know, I think that one of the things that I think it’s important to understand about the current immigration debate in the country, as I mentioned in the film, the last, quote, "amnesty" or attempt at comprehensive immigration reform in this country came under the most conservative president in our lifetime, which was Ronald Reagan. It was Reagan who approved the—who signed into law the Simpson-Rodino bill that provided the opportunity for about three million people who were then in the country, undocumented, to legalize their status. We’re now talking about 11 to 12 million people that are undocumented in the United States. And I think that the extreme—the most extreme right of the Republican Party understands that if 11 to 12 million people are able to legalize their status and become voters, it will change the political landscape of America for decades to come. They understand that it could spell the doom of the Republican Party for a generation to come. And that’s why I think they are struggling so much against it, just as they did back in ’86 with the first comprehensive immigration reform.

So I think that there is a political reason for this vehement opposition to basically adjusting the status for folks that really, for the most part, are not criminals. They’re hard-working people. They were forced to, by a variety of reasons, leave their countries. And they’re contributing to the prosperity of the United States, so that—and especially the DREAMers, the young folks. So I think that that’s what’s at stake here, is that not only a humanitarian gesture to the people that are here, but also the political repercussions that will come about as a result.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, Juan and Eduardo, thank you so much for being with us. Eduardo López is the co-director and producer with Wendy Thompson-[Marquez] of the feature-length documentary, Harvest of Empire, which is based on Juan González’s book by the same title. We thank you so much. At the Laemmle Theater on Friday night in Pasadena, here in New York at the Quad theater on 13th Street in New York through October 4th. This is a film certainly worth seeing. What a remarkable education.

Well, our 100-city Silenced Majority Tour continues on Wednesday in Storrs, Connecticut, University of Connecticut Student Union Theater at 7:30; then on Thursday in Arlington, Virginia, at George Mason University’s Founder’s Hall, Room 125, at 7:30; on Friday night in Charlottesville, Virginia, at 7:00 p.m. at the Nau Auditorium South Lawn Commons, University of Virginia; then on Saturday at 1:00 p.m. at the Green Festival in Washington, D.C.; the Baltimore Book Festival at 7:00; and on Sunday at noon, Richmond, Virginia; at 7:00 p.m., Norfolk, Virginia. Then we wrap up on Monday at Virginia Tech. Go to our website,