Politics

Leaked White House Comprehensive Immigration Reform Bill

Posted on by Prerna in Immigration, Politics | Leave a comment

Here’s the 45 page text of the White House immigration reform bill. What do you think? Send us your comments or questions to info@theniya.org, or post them on our Facebook page. We want to hear your thoughts, so share with us!

The Death of Bin Laden: The End of An Era?

Posted on by Prerna in Nationalism, Politics | Leave a comment

It’s official — for the first time in history, hordes of mostly white people rioted for May Day outside the White House.

And most of them were The George Washington University students who heard the news about the gathering on Twitter, Facebook and through word of mouth. For me, this was a great moment in social media and I had to be there to capture this moment since I live a few blocks from the White House. Many of my law school friends joined to see the spectacle.

People ran through the streets of D.C. waving their American flags. Capital Bikeshare was instrumental in making sure that those who lived further away had some way of getting to and from the White House especially since the gathering took place close to midnight with the Metro not in operation. Drivers honked as they drove by Lafayette Park. Gathered directly outside the White House, people chanted U-S-A U-S-A and sang the national anthem more than a dozen times into the wee hours of the morning.

But unlike the projections by mainstream media, I don’t believe that all the young smiling faces were really out there celebrating the death of an insidious figure.

Some were definitely frat boys from my university. Many others joined their friends in celebration as a study break. Many were Obama supporters proud that he had just trumped Donald and secured his re-election. And for most of us gathered out there, it was less about nationalism and more about an end to an era. It’s a symbol of closure and hope for better times ahead.

But can the country finally recover from it’s rampant fear and suspicion of the Other?

While Bin Laden is finally dead, so are thousands of civilians and soldiers. Our rights and liberties are at an all-time low and our fear of everyone that is different from us at an all-time high. Thousands have been ripped from their families and deported in the past 10 years in the name of national security. It’s time to put an end to this.

I would like the President to bring our troops home, rescind the PATRIOT Act and end racial profiling at airports. He won’t do that. I would like to carry my shampoo and lotion on an airplane and keep my shoes on at airports. That’s unlikely to happen.

We’ve given up a lot in these past ten years: our respect around the world, our civil rights and liberties and our beacon as a country that welcomes the huddled masses. And we’ve gained little in return. Last night was a celebration with the hope that the coming years will be different.

But it is up to us to make it happen.

Setting The Record Straight On Libya

Posted on by Prerna in Anti-Capitalism, Politics | 2 Comments

“There are more people being gunned down — innocent protesters — in Yemen but no one would propose imposing a no fly zone on Yemen because Yemen does not have oil. It [war on Libya] is so transparently an attempt to protect British companies’ and other Western companies’ massive investments in Libya that it is discredited in the Arab world.”
-George Galloway, Former UK MP

When is the Last Time Bombing A Country Freed People?

Posted on by Prerna in Human Rights, Politics | Leave a comment

(en) Libya Location (he) ????? ???

Image via Wikipedia

I have a question. When is the last time bombing a country with Tomahawk missiles freed a people? Was it in Vietnam, Korea, the Balkans, Afghanistan, Iraq?

Frankly, I have no idea what is going on in Libya. Qaddhafi claims the uprising is Al-Qaeda forces. The “rebels” — who are religious but claim not to be extremists — say they want “freedom” for Libya from the despot. The UN Security Council passed a resolution to intervene and now the United States, along with France and the UK, are bombing the country.

I can’t help but see a pattern here and coincidences with prior bombing campaigns.

Coincidence #1. Many say that Libyans asked for help and military intervention and that this is not an invasion like Iraq. Rather, that this is an “internationally sanctioned” intervention. The focus is on the tyranny of the Qaddafi regime, much like the 2003 war against Iraq focused on the actions of Saddam Hussein and his mythical weapons of mass destruction.

Coincidence #2: Supporters of the war against Libya also decry the irony that the bombing campaign on the country began on March 19, 2011 — the 8th anniversary of the war against Iraq. Obama could not have picked a better date to commemorate the anniversary.

Coincidence #3. There is an oil factor here as well. The United States was chummy with Saddam till he decided to nationalize his oil industry in the early 90s. That’s when the country started having problems with Hussein gassing the Kurds, with weapons supplied by the United States. Similarly, Libya used to be categorized as a “rogue” country for quite a while. That was until it moved to dismantle its weapons of mass destructed program and liberalize its economy and signed the near-billion dollar oil contract with BP oil, following Tony Blair’s visit in May 2007. Due to the uprising, BP had to suspend operations scheduled to start this year. The company has a lot to lose if it does not resume operations and there is some evidence that it has a lot of power with the British government. (Read up on the Lockerbie bomber).

Coincidence #4. The interests of our allied powers are not so pure so saying that the war is internationally sanctioned is not any excuse. As the country with the largest oil reserves in Africa, Libya supplies 10% of Italy’s gas needs and in return Italy is the second biggest arms seller to the Qadaffi regime. It supplies 10% of France’s oil and petrochemicals and in return France is the biggest seller of arms to the Qadaffi regime. Finally, the BP (a UK-based oil company) investment in Libyan oil $2 billion and in return the UK was the third largest seller of weapons to the Qadaffi regime. Knowing that, I’m supposed to believe that when the UK and French used Italian airbases to implement a no-fly zone over Libya, they did so with the purest and most humanitarian of motives, much like the no-fly zones imposed over Iraq.

I’m not saying that this is a war for oil. Professor Ismael Hossein-Zadeh forewarns that there is strong evidence that the powerful interests vested in war and militarism actually use oil as a pretext to justify military adventures in order to derive higher dividends from the business of war such as defense contracting.

I’m saying that our interests are not as clear and convincing. The United States, France and the UK may have several different interests in attacking Libya, some taking precedence over others. The French interest may be the coming presidential election in France where Sarkozy is not a clear favorite to win re-election. There is a looming European economic crisis and an oil/gas crisis in the short term propagated by the internal turmoil in Libya does not sound appealing for any of the European countries involved in the war. The press says the UN Security Council vote was 10-0, but really there were major abstentions from Germany, India, Brazil and China. I guess they don’t have any interest in going to war with Libya.

If this is only for humanitarian purposes, it is unclear to me why intervention in Libyan affairs takes precedence over intervening in other countries with tyrants and despots as leaders. Why is the United States supporting anti-Qaddafi forces in Libya but not popular uprisings in equally undemocratic countries like Yemen, China, Iran, Bahrain and Sudan? Right now, Japan figures as more of a threat to the world and needs our help more than Libya but I do not see the same priority for the country. Maybe there is a simple answer to all this: it is easier to get rid of Qaddafi and almost everyone will be in a better place without any real objection from anyone.

I want to make it clear that there is no way I support Qaddafi but bombing Libya does not take place in a vacuum. There are economic and human costs involved, and as of now, it is unclear precisely what a successful bombing mission is supposed to achieve. No one is asking the people of Libya what they want to achieve from this. After all, their interests are the only thing that should matter in this new shock and awe campaign.

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American Taliban 1, USA 0

Posted on by Prerna in Politics, Racism | Leave a comment

Having dark skin makes one a Muslim in tea-bagger land.

A new poll shows that 1 in 5 Americans think that President Barack Obama is a Muslim. A Puerto Rican man cannot walk through a crowd of anti-mosque protesters without people questioning his religion and place in society. Much like the President of the United States, he is also automatically castigated as a foreigner due to the color of his skin.

The “mosque” on “Ground Zero” controversy is another round of theatrics from the tea-baggers, and like all their theatrics, this one is also full of exaggerations. Simply put, they are protesting a proposal that aims to build a cultural center designed to promote interfaith relations a few minutes away from the site of the 9-11 tragedy. But from the loud bellowing of protesters, one would think that a gigantic mosque the size of the Empire State building is being built on the graves of 9-11 victims from taxpayer money. No, the issue is rather dull and blown out of proportion.

Critics say that the debate over the building of a mosque is a distraction from the more important 9-11 First Responders health care bill that was killed by the GOP. But the issue is not a distraction. The hatred displayed by the anti-Muslim protesters stems from the same conditions that allow a majority of Americans to support racial profiling in Arizona and compels the GOP to use the issue of birthright citizenship as an electoral device: a fear of the Other.

America is undergoing a period of great recession and present unstable conditions allow demagogues to exploit socially divisive issues for political means. African-Americans, Latinos and Muslims are some of the chosen bogeymen “Others” during this era of hate. In the “Ground Zero mosque” narrative, the mosque represents a provocation much like the hijab: it stands for “global Islamic terrorism” and it need not make any sense. On one hand, bigotry on full display in broad daylight is both painful and scary for many people. On the other hand, it tells us that a post-racial America is a fictional entity and we have a long way to go when it comes to matters of race.

For the sake of argument, if the perpetrators of 9-11 did indeed hate us for our freedoms as has been purported time and again, then we are losing a war supposedly waged to preserve those very freedoms? We are losing the freedoms enshrined in the United States constitution and the winner is not a foreign enemy combatant. The winner is the American Taliban.

New Crack-Cocaine Sentencing Disparity, Slightly Less Racist Than Before

Posted on by Prerna in Politics, Racism | Leave a comment

Between hullabaloo over attempts to repeal birthright citizenship and the latest marriage equality victory over Proposition 8, one important story got left out of the news this week. Obama signed a law enacting the most significant criminal justice reform he’s enacted while in office.

By putting his signature on S. 1789, the Fair Sentencing Act, Obama addressed one of the biggest racial injustices of America’s drug war. The bill dramatically reduces the disparity in sentences for drug possession of powder and crack cocaine and repeals mandatory minimum sentences for simple possession of crack.

For almost three decades, those arrested for crack cocaine offenses — mostly young, African-American men — have faced far harsher penalties than the white and Hispanic users of powder cocaine, despite the fact that the two drugs are essentially the same. Crack offenders faced a 10-year mandatory minimum for carrying only 10 grams of the drug, while a power-cocaine user would have to be caught with 1,000 grams to trigger the same penalty.

What created this disparity? In the 1980s, when the crack epidemic swept through inner-city communities, white voters panicked. As a result, thousands of low-level crack dealers and users — mostly African Americans — were suddenly targeted in a wave of harsh new sentencing laws. Not surprisingly, today, over 80% of those serving time for a crack cocaine offense are African-American, despite the fact that two-thirds of users are white or Hispanic. The crackdown and subsequent incarcerations of thousands of young African-American men has devastated the community in unimaginable ways.

The legislation signed by President Obama reduces the 100-to-1 sentencing disparity to a fairer 18-1, meaning a crack cocaine offender would need to carry 28 grams to trigger a five-year conviction. The remaining disparity is due to the fact that crack cocaine is associated with more violent crimes and allegedly has a higher addictive effect than power cocaine.

While Congress should have gotten rid of the disparity altogether, the new sentencing law is still a step away from the tough-on-crime mentality that has paralyzed this country for decades.

Meanwhile, the fight for fair sentencing is only half-won. President Obama must commute existing unfair sentences, while Congress needs to decide whether the new law’s provisions are applicable retroactively. If so, up to 20,000 people serving unjust crack sentences in prison could get released, pending judicial review of their cases.

One small step for Congress, one giant leap for criminal justice and racial equality in this country.

House Passes BailOut of Insurance Companies Bill

Posted on by Prerna in Anti-Capitalism, Gender, Politics | Leave a comment

The House of Representatives passed H.R. 3962 (Affordable Health Care for America Act) known here as a bailout for private insurance companies, in what is lauded as a victory for Obama and health care in America.

I’ll be damned. The only worthwhile compromise is that the bill requires insurance companies to cover pre-existing conditions and does not include a 5-year bar for legal immigrants.

Here’s my problem with the bill:

  • Mandates that all Americans, including undocumented immigrants, buy health insurance from predatory for-profit insurance companies, given them an additional $70 billion in new annual revenue.
  • Starting 2013, penalizes us if we don’t want to give money to health insurance companies or obtain health care under a public option that might have higher premium rates since it might draw less healthier patients, depending on how strongly the government can battle with private insurers on reimbursement rates.
  • A watered-down public option plan after the loss of a ‘robust public option’ tied to Medicare rates.
  • Provides no coverage for transgender health care
  • Final bill stripped an amendment that would have allowed states to have their own single payer health care (and quite possibly killed private health insurance companies)
  • Prohibits federal funding for women’s reproductive health except in dire circumstances and blocks insurance companies from providing any abortion coverage.

Congratulations, America, the wingnuts would like you to believe that you are ‘socializing medicine’ when you are actually doing ‘defensive healthcare’ and stepping towards more privatized health care on the backs of taxpayers. With a weak public option plan, we will be back here within a decade to argue why the United States needs to catch up with the rest of the industrialised world in providing single payer health care, medicare for all.

Next up is the Senate and then a tough Conference convening to hammer out a compromise that will further weaken the bill.

Identifying MacroStructual Trends in Asian Economies

Posted on by Prerna in Desi, Nationalism, Politics | Leave a comment

This post recognizes the error in assuming that all Asian countries are undergoing similar socio-cultural-economic processes and placing diverse Asian countries on the same trajectory of development.

That said, when identifying and ranking important macro-structural trends in Asia, one must keep in mind the larger context of modernity within which these trends exist. The Asian nation-states are facing the structural, economic and socio-cultural trends so particular to modernity, namely globalization, contradictions of nationalism, and security problems that originate from the wrestling with conceptions of identity.

Asian nation-states are wrestling with neo-liberal globalization in this era of deterritorialized production and virtual capital, and trying to gain more economic security through inter-economic cooperation and alliances such as ASEAN and APEC. One example of inter-economic cooperation is the call for a Euro-style common currency. Yet, a trend particular to capitalist modernity is the creation of hierarchies of race, class and gender, and uneven development that tends to alienate and marginalize internal populations. Coupled with this is the fact that the core powers of the U.S., Western Europe and Russia have a vested interest in keeping Asia as semi-peripheral and prevent it from initiating a common currency, which would pose a definite threat to the current economic order of things. Therefore, they encourage foreign direct investment and neo-liberal development, and the U.S. specifically depends on China and Japan to finance its trade deficit. However, with Asian states slowly coming out of their financial crisis and looking for security in this era of increasing globalization, the trend is definitely towards more economic cooperation and integration.

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On/Off – Imperialism by Leon Kuhn

Posted on by Prerna in Politics | Leave a comment

The best new media political work I have seen this week:

Courtesy: Leon Kuhn

North Korea Is Not a Threat – Unveiling Hegemonic Discourses

Posted on by Prerna in Discourse Studies, Political Theory, Politics | Leave a comment

That security is socially constructed does not mean that there are not to be found real, material conditions that help to create particular interpretations of threats, or that such conditions are irrelevant to either the creation or undermining of the assumptions underlying security policy. Enemies, in part, “create” each other, via the projections of their worst fears onto the other; in this respect, their relationship is intersubjective. To the extent that they act on these projections, threats to each other acquire a material character.
-Ronnie Lipschutz, UCSC

Kim Jong-Il wants attention. And now he has it. He won’t go in our ‘Morons of the Week’ column and certainly scores points for knowing how to misuse national resources to get international attention.

Our problem with MSM coverage of the North Korea ‘missile threat’ is with the purported hegemonic discourse. Hegemonic discourse does not pertain to just speech; it refers to whole narratives, with a hero and a villain, and us and them that we must defeat and overcome. The point of hegemonic discourse–in this case the discourse of the United States on demonizing North Korea and drawing attention to its nuclear activities—is to subjugate and oppress the counter-discourses of a race-war, nuclearism and anti-capitalism.

(1) Race war discourse

While this is not a clash of civilizations, it is certainly a race war in that the entire discourse revolves around preventing certain kinds of people from acquiring and using nuclear weapons.  Would the United States use the same tactics in France? Or even India? No, in fact it looked the other way on outrageous French nuclear testing in the Pacific and supports India’s nuclear program despite the fact that it is not a signatory of the NPT!

Ronnie Lipschutz has some fine lines for us in On Security:

To be sure, the United States and Russia do not launch missiles against each other because both know the result would be annihilation. But the same is true for France and Britain, or China and Israel. It was the existence of the Other that gave deterrence its power; it is the disappearance of the Other that has vanquished that power. Where Russia is now concerned, we are, paradoxically, not secure, because we see no need to be secured. In other words, as Ole Waever might put it, where there is no constructed threat, there is no security problem. France is fully capable of doing great damage to the United States, but that capability has no meaning in terms of U.S. security.

On the other hand, see the Iran nuclear ‘crisis’ as an example. The United States has demonized Ahmadinejad at every opportunity and conjured him up as an Islamic fundamentalist and nationalist who will defy non-proliferation at all costs. On the other hand, Ahmadinejad cheekily asked the United States to join the rest of civilization in worshipping God. That is the discourse of race war but it is concealed by juridical discourse—the hegemonic discourse.

To borrow from Michael Foucault, the United States is using the juridical schema of nuclear non-proliferation to conceal the war-repression schema. North Korea is the historical Other, the terrorist, the threat against whom the world must be protected in the juridical schema. Yet, under the war-repression schema, North Korea is a sovereign nation with the right to develop nuclear and communications technology. And this latest action is really nothing more than a plea for economic help.

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