Grand Terrace News: With Slight Correction

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Grand Terrace News…With Slight Correction

I don't write much about local issues, but that's going to change. It's easy to focus so much on national and international issues that we lose sight of very important issues in our own backyards. The hot issue locally is potential abuse of Eminent Domain. A brief synopsis of what's happening in my neck of the woods:

Jo Stringfield, Grand Terrace, CA —Using an outdated 1979 designation that declared the entire city of Grand Terrace blighted, city officials are attempting to build a shopping center and Lowe's Home Improvement Warehouse on 16 acres of privately owned, residential land. All but one property owner have sold. The remaining owner, Jo Stringfield, worries that the recent Supreme Court decision will allow the city to seize her home.

Tomorrow, April 13, there will be a demonstration by Grand Terrace citizens prior to the City Council Meeting at around 5:00 pm Pacific Time. The citizens demonstrating hope that their demonstration will illustrate their opinions which until now have been disregarded by Council Members, and the City Management.Not all of the Citizens at the Demonstrations agree with each other on all topics. However, they do all agree the City Council is not listening to the Citizens. And everybody agrees that Eminent Domain should not be used to force Jo Stringfield off her property. Some of them Agree that the City Should not Force Jo Stringfield to develop her Property until she is ready to do so.


Published in: on April 19, 2006 at 11:59 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Real Problem

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

The Real Problem

I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one. Immigration is a heated issue. But as the national debate unfolds, and as hundreds of thousands—dare I say millions—of my immigrant, latino, and peace-loving friends take to the streets, I think it's important to understand the actual problem we are dealing with: It's the economy stupid. Well, actually, it's the economic system.

I hate borders. You have to understand this so that you can fairly evaluate what I'm about to say. I truly believe that nationalism is on its way out. No, probably not in my lifetime, but in the near future to be sure. And people will some day wonder at the way we made imaginary lines on this little planet to keep us apart. Nevertheless, I understand that human progress has not reached this point just yet. Most of you need borders to give you a feeling of superiority. You're proud to be an American, eventhough all you did was crawl out of a vagina that happened to be located in this country. But hey, you're proud and that's what counts. And hell you didn't have to do anything at all. It's kinda like winning the lotto when you think about it. You're proud you won the lotto. Congratulations. Borders also provide the illusion of security that so many in this country desperately crave. And it makes sense. You won the lotto and now everybody wants a piece of your loot.

This is a very real problem and it was discussed by US planners at the end of the second world war. We were in control of 50% of all wealth in the world and yet only comprised about 5% of the earth's population. In other words, we'd won the lotto. Now what do we do? Well their suggestions were to forget about fluffy ideas like democracy and human rights and deal in straight power terms. So you won the lotto, you're proud, and you'll kill or maim anybody who tries to get their grubby little hands on your loot!

If I could boil this down to its essentials, the problem is we have way more loot than we deserve and we're scared as hell the rest of the world might find out so we've come up with this idea to build a SUPER FENCE! The idea would be to turn the United States into a gated community. All of the real work will continue in China, Indonesia, and the lovely sweatshops of Central America. The dirty brown people will put all our loot on a boat and send it to us. We'll make a special gate to let in the ships with our loot on them.

Oh, I know you don't have too much loot. The disparity in wealth distribution in this country is at levels not seen since the Great Depression, but hey Starbucks and Wal-Mart are hiring! And if we build that Super Fence you could come cut my grass.

But there is a tiny little segment of the population that does have too much wealth. These figures change, but one interesting one was that the 300 richest people in the world have more wealth than the 3,000,000,000 poorest people. Despite all the promises of NAFTA, the WTO, GATS, and the rest, wealth is being concentrated into fewer and fewer hands, while the rest of humanity suffers very dire consequences.

Couple the brutal and exploitative economic system of capitalism with a half century of oppressing any move toward democracy in Latin America, and what choice do people have? What do you tell a Nicaraguan immigrant who committed his life to successfully overthowing the U.S. backed Somoza dictatorship, only to have the US wage a proxy terrorist war against the people there? What do you tell the brave people of Chile who watched as the CIA savagely waged a coup, murdered their democratically elected president and installed Pinochet the butcher?

The list of US backed attrocities and underhanded oppression of popular movements in Latin America is long. What could have became of Mexico had we not stolen nearly half of its land and some of the most valuable natural resources in the world?

A recent poll in Mexico revealed that 70% of Mexicans would like to come to the United States. That figure scares some people. It doesn't scare me. I'll let you in on a little secret: they don't really want to come here. If they had decent economic opportunities they'd love to stay in their home towns. They'd love to raise their families in a culture that reveres and respects the family. Nobody dreams of traveling thousands of miles to be exploited by wealthy people and treated like scum. That's not a dream; that's a nightmare.

Build your stupid Super Fence. Send the National Guard to the border. Hell, hire the Minutemen. Develop a forcefield around the country. But until we address the economic disparity that is the real cause of this problem, nothing will be solved.


Published in: on April 19, 2006 at 11:58 pm  Leave a Comment  

I Love Hugo Chavez!

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

I love Hugo Chavez!

I think I'll tag every post about Hugo Chavez like that. I exaggerate my affection for the man, but I must say I'm impressed by what he's doing in Venezuela. It says a lot about where Latin America is headed as a whole, but it also says a great deal about where we are headed as a nation. First, let me share with you the extraordinary good news that Hugo–gotta love him–Chavez is bringing to the poor mothers of Venezuela: Mothers of the Barrios is a new social program that, among other things, will pay mothers living in extreme poverty 80% of the minimum wage.

Now before we go on I'd like all American mothers to realize that they are contemptably worthless in the eyes of our meritocracy which assigns value to those trades, professions, and livelihoods that are beneficial. On this scale of importance stock brokers and hedge fund investors rank extremely high; mothers, on the other hand, rank at the bottom of the barrel. Your work as mothers in this country is held in contempt and is given no value what-so-ever.

Think about that for a moment as you ponder the incredibly wonderful idea to pay women for being mothers! It's really valuable work, isn't it? It's incredibly valuable work, and certainly the measely 80% of the minimum wage isn't sufficient, but damn it's a step in the right direction. It's recognition that being a mother is damn important.

Meanwhile, the richest nation on earth single mothers are usually forced into some type of indentured servitude in order to receive the paltry sum the government doles out to them; meanwhile their children are raised by strangers. Nice, isn't it?

I know the liberal media wants you to believe that Chavez is a madman bent on taking over the United States. That crazy guy is busy building housing for the poor and providing them with access to health care. He's recognized the value of being a mom and he's taking steps to help poor mom's take care of their kids. Spread the good news: moms are important!

Published in: on April 19, 2006 at 11:57 pm  Leave a Comment  

English Only

Saturday, April 08, 2006

English Only?

This post has been adopted from a comment left in an earlier post by Marigold dealing with the idea that immigrants must learn English. Marigold wrote an amazing piece that I wish everybody would read, but I'd also like to weigh in on this.

It has to do with this idea that immigrants have to learn English. Sometimes this manifests in attempts to pass English only laws or some other nonsense in which the English language is hailed as the "official language" of this country. Immigrants are characterized as lazy people who don't want to learn our groovy language. Afterall, they're only here to steal our jobs, right?

This should not be seen as some effort to have the United States adopt other languages as its official language. Instead I simply recognize that their are plenty of communities within the borders of this nation that do not speak English as their primary language. Believe it or not but you can drive into communities where all the signs are in Russian or Vietnamese or even Spanish. And quite frankly I think that's great.

If we had a society that actually valued education rather than indoctrination every child would be fluent in at least 8 languages by the time he or she was eight-years-old. Such a ludicrous idea as to limit ourselves to one "official" language should be viewed as myopic. It's akin to only playing one note on all musical instruments. And somehow we're to believe that this one note is special and worthy of our reverance. All the while a rainbow of beautiful sounds are lost on our ears.

Fellow Blue Voicer Neil defended such a stance on English by saying "I would not expect the people of Mexico to adapt to my linguistic limitations" The problem, of course, is he has no linguistic limitations. Americans have no defect that would prevent us from learning another language; more importantly many of us have the resources that many immigrant families lack to pursue the study of another language at a local university. The simple fact is we have no linguistic limitation other than the one we impose on ourselves.

Learning another language only opens up our world. The languages we speak are lenses we use to interpret the world. Why would we want just one lens? Various languages allow us to express ourselves in unique ways. When I tell a friend lo siento en Espanol it carries a very different meaning than the English translation of "I'm sorry." In Spanish you're not only showing regret for what you've done but expressing the idea that you literally "feel it", i.e., you feel the pain you have caused. How could one every adequately express the Sanskrit term Dharma which conotes so many things?

The North American continent has been host to a great many languages in the past and will be host to a great many languages in the future. Instead of seeking to control this ebb and flow of language, we should simply enjoy the symphony we are orchestrating through our myriad of languages. Sabes a decir la paz en un idioma differente que ingles?

Published in: on April 19, 2006 at 11:51 pm  Leave a Comment  

Propaganda Puppets

Monday, April 17, 2006

Propaganda Puppets

The press corps is largely ignorant of the fact that they are puppets of propaganda. If they do not become internally indoctrinated with the dogma of propaganda they soon see their careers coming to a crashing halt. Every once in a while you can catch journalists making remarks that unconsciously reveal their true biases. An exchange between Anderson Cooper of CNN and Bill Maher is a great example of this. This exchange between Bill Maher and CNN journalist Anderson Cooper took place in September of 2005 Real Time With Bill Maher.

Bill Maher: Back to what you said about a minute ago, if this is not the time to ask, when should we ask these questions. I think a lot of people are thinking, "Yeah, but that's what we said about 9/11. That's what we were saying about the war in Iraq. Where was the press then? Where was the press then to ask those kinds of questions? Where was the anger in the press corp? And maybe what we're seeing now is a little payback. On the part of our press corp with politicians who are feeling a little guilty that they didn't ask the tough questions on those other events.

Anderson Cooper:
You know, I hear the argument on the war in Iraq. Frankly I don't agree with that too much. I think people were asking about WMD in Iraq, but a certain point, though, when the entire government and the entire intelligence angencies and every president previous to this president says yes there are weapons here for sure. We know this for sure. W have the intelligence. At a certain point, there's only so much you can do. We couldn't travel in Iraq too freely under Saddam Hussein but there's only so many questions you can ask and if everyone is saying, "Yes there are these weapons there." There's only so much you can do. I'm not making excuses although it may sound like I am. I get though why it's different now. (my emphasis)

Mr. Cooper unwittingly shows his hand in this exchange in two ways. First he admits that they are simply a mouth piece for those in power. If they agree to lie to us, then it is his job to convey that lie to us. In his mind, and in most journalists minds, the idea to seek sources outside of power, sources that are not officials, is not even a thought. Secondly, he makes the most often argument "there are only so many questions you can ask." This from a press corp that goes 24 hours for weeks on something as insignificant as a runaway bride. How many hours did they cover legal "experts" speculating on the Michael Jackson trial as if it had any bearing on anybody but Mr. Jackson and his accusers.

Sadly, even Bill Maher was lost on why the change in the press. He surmises that perhaps it was a form of payback by a press that realized the error of its ways and sought to do right by the people. Nothing could be further from the truth. What did happen is testimoney for just how quickly even the indoctrinated can break from the ranks to do real news.

What ultimately happened in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast area in general was we had a press corp that was cut off from its echo chamber. These reporters had little or no access to what other reporters were airing. Instead of playing follow the leader the way they usually do, they were each left on an island to cover the news according to journalistic principles, and it led to some really great coverage that was highly critical of government response.

When tipped off by Greg Palast's expose of voting fraud in Florida, the people at NBC called Jeb Bush's office and took his assurance that nothing illegal had happened and dumped the story. It's the equivelant of calling and asking O.J. if he murdered his wife and then determining whether or not to press charges on his response. "Nope, I didn't do it." Charges dropped.

The tragedy in Lousiana did open us up to what a functioning press corp might look like. Unfortunately it doesn't appear many of them learned the lesson. Or is it more of a case that they simply don't have the power to change things? According to Amy Goodman, less than 5% of the coverage of Vietnam was negative in this country, and yet by all accounts it was the "negative" press that drove that war effort to a halt. The importance of controlling the media has only grown more important since the days of Vietnam.

If you've ever wondered what a state-controlled media might look like, turn on your local news. The irony is, of course, is that we have a free press, even a liberal press. The media is by no means a monolithic propaganda machine, but the modes of indoctrination are so deep that coupled with the conforming trends of the echo chamber, it can be very difficult to ask the tough questions. As Mr. Cooper unwittingly reveals the possibility of even asking someone outside of officialdom to comment is not even a thought.

Published in: on April 19, 2006 at 11:50 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Propaganda Machine

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

The Propaganda Machine

In my post on Propaganda Puppets I ripped on CNN's Anderson Cooper for admitting that if those in power say it's true, what's he to do? Afterall, he's merely a puppet of the propaganda machine. What more do you want from him? A frequent guest here at the TBV felt I was a bit aggressive, and he's right to an extent. But the mainstream media happens to be one of those subjects that fascinates me. On that note let's begin with a quote from Dan Rather on BBC Newsnight on May 16, 2002. In this segment Rather talked candidly about how he and other journalists censor themselves.

"There was a time in South Africa that people would put flaming tires around people's necks if they dissented," he said. "And in some ways the fear is that you will be necklaced here, you will have a flaming tired of lack of patriotism put around your neck. Now it is that fear that keeps journalists from asking the toughest questions so often. And again, I am humbled to say, I do not except myself from this criticism."

Journalists do admit to self-censorship. Journalists routinely avoided quoting Ronald Reagan or the first Bush because they were such incoherant public speakers that nobody would be able to understand what the hell they were saying; the irony, of course, is that Reagan is remembered by some kool aid drinkers as the Great Communicator. Ha. That's a funny one. So what I'd like to do now is take a moment to mention some of the works that have influenced my understanding of the media.If you want to understand how the media manipulates public opinion these are the books to check out. The media didn't fail to do its job in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq. The mainstream media fulfilled its function as the purveyor of state truth, i.e, propaganda.

Starting at the beginning would be Michael Parenti's "Inventing Reality". The first edition was, I believe, one of the first studies of its kind. I don't have the newer one, but here's a blurb about it:

In this thoroughly revised and updated edition, Parenti dissects news coverage of the most recent world events–including the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Gulf War, the U.S. invasion of Panama, and the contra war in Nicaragua–and demonstrates how the media shape public awareness and attitudes through distortion or suppression of specific information. His argument will reeducate and enrage a public that has come to believe in an impartial, free press.

Perhaps more widely known is Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky's book Manufacturing Consent , which was also made into a documentary about Noam Chomsky. Herman and Chomsky develop the Propaganda Model and then put it to the test. In their words,

The mass media serve as a system for communicating messages and symbols to the general populace. It is their function to amuse, entertain, and inform, and to inculcate individuals with the values, beliefs, and codes of behavior that will integrate them into the institutional structures of the larger society. In a world of concentrated wealth and major conflicts of class interest, to fulfill
this role requires systematic propaganda.

Another great companion to these books is "Trust Us–We're the Experts" by John Stauber and Sheldon Rampton. It gives you a rather frightening look into the world of the public relations industry. You'll find examples of public relations firms filming what is essentially a commercial for a large pharmecutical company and then passing it off to the networks as news. Or another example where scientific evidence is supressed because of the potential economic fall-out. Other examples:

You think that you're witnessing a spontaneous public debate over a national issue? When the Justice Department began antitrust investigations of the Microsoft Corporation in 1998, Microsoft's public relations firm countered with a plan to plant pro-Microsoft articles, letters to the editor, and opinion pieces all across the nation, crafted by professional media handlers but meant to be perceived as off-the-cuff, heart-felt testimonials by "people out there."

You think that a study out of a prestigious university is completely unbiased? In 1997, Georgetown University's Credit Research Center issued a study which concluded that many debtors are using bankruptcy as an excuse to wriggle out of their obligations to creditors. Former U.S. Treasury Secretary Lloyd
Bentsen cited the study in a Washington Times column and advocated for changes in federal law to make it harder for consumers to file for bankruptcy relief. What Bentsen failed to mention was that the Credit Research Center is funded in
its entirety by credit card companies, banks, retailers, and others in the credit industry; that the study itself was produced with a $100,000 grant from Visa USA and MasterCard International Inc.; and that Bentsen himself had been
hired to work as a credit-industry lobbyist.

You think that all grassroots organizations are truly grassroots? In 1993, a group called Mothers Opposing Pollution (MOP) appeared, calling itself "the largest women's environmental group in Australia, with thousands of supporters across the country." Their cause: A campaign against plastic milk bottles. It turned out that the group's spokesperson, Alana Maloney, was in truth a woman named Janet Rundle, the business partner of a man who did P.R. for the Association of Liquidpaperboard Carton Manufacturers-the makers of paper milk cartons.

You think that if a scientist says so, it must be true? In the early 1990s, tobacco companies secretly paid thirteen scientists a total of $156,000 to write a few letters to influential medical journals. One biostatistician received $10,000 for writing a single, eight-paragraph letter that was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. A cancer researcher received
$20,137 for writing four letters and an opinion piece to the Lancet, the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, and the Wall Street Journal. Nice work if you can get it, especially since the scientists didn't even have to write the letters themselves. Two tobacco-industry law firms were available to do the
actual drafting and editing.

And finally, I'd be remiss to not mention Amy Goodman's wonderful book, The Exception to the Rulers: Exposing Oily Politicians, War Profiteers, and the Media that Love Them. Amy and her brother, David Goodman, do a wonderful job of showing the biases of the mainstream news media. In one section, Pysops Comes Home, Goodman details what Colonel Sam Gardiner calls

a Psychological warfare–psyops, to those in the business–is the millitary way of winning the hearts and minds of a population. According to the Department of Defense, pysops is intended to "induce or reinforce foreign attitudes and behavior favorable to the U.S….by planning and conducting operations to convey
information to foreign audiences to influence their emotions, motives, objective reasoning, and ultimately the behavior of foreign governments, organizations, groups, and individuals" (Exception to the Rulers p. 52).

Published in: on April 19, 2006 at 11:48 pm  Leave a Comment  

It’s Really Just An Embassy

Monday, April 17, 2006

It's really just an embassy

I was watching Democracy Now with Amy Goodman and was completely blown away by the little blurb on the U.S. Embassy in Iraq.(Hat tip to Briareus). According to Goodman,

Meanwhile construction on the massive new U.S. embassy in Baghdad is a third complete. The fortress-like compound will be the largest U.S. embassy in the world. The complex will contain 21 buildings spread over 100 acres. With a staff of over 5,000 the embassy will resemble a small town on the Tigris River. It will contain its own defense force, water wells, electricity plant and wastewater-treatment facility.

What kind of a world do we live in where words have no meaning? A hundred acres? That's only 8 miles smaller than the Vatican City; that's a small country! Common sense says that if we had done any liberation while we were there, we wouldn't need a self-contained embassy the size of the Vatican City to make sure they don't kick us out for good.

Can any of you imagine a foreign power settling down in our country with such a monstrosity? What sensible sovereign nation is going to allow a foreign occupying force to remain on its territory? Jesus did have some catchy sayings, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." Remember that one? It's an oldie but goody, though I prefer the negative version of it. Would you want Iraq to build a small country in the heart of Washington or New York? Well the Iraqis probably aren't too keen on it either.

Published in: on April 19, 2006 at 11:11 pm  Leave a Comment  


Monday, April 17, 2006


Federal authorities have decided to deport Palestinian activist and professor Sami Al-Arian after failing to convict him on charges he helped lead the Palestinian militant group Islamic Jihad. (Democracy Now).

This case has been interesting to watch across the various networks. Earlier today I was at a sushi bar with a friend and I watched this story unfold on CNN. Well, I was half-heartedly watching it at least. The first impression was that federal authorities had made their case and convicted Professor Al-Arian. That's the little blurb that ran across the screen, too. "Federal Authorities convict…"

What was left out of the small segment I saw was that federal authorities had failed to convict Professor Al-Arian on any charges! Back in December he had been acquitted of 7 of the charges and the jury deadlocked on the remaining 8. Think about that for a moment. The prosecutors threw 15 charges at this man and not one of them stuck. Not a single one. Instead:

Federal authorities have decided to deport a former Florida professor after failing to convict him on charges he helped lead a Palestinian militant group.

But this isn't just some random Arab Muslim professor. According to John Sugg:

It is not clear where the government would deport Al-Arian who is a Palestinian born in Kuwait and raised mostly in Egypt. He has lived in the United States for 30 years and holds permanent residency status. His five children were born in the US and are all American citizens. His own bid to become a U.S. citizen was denied in 1996.

Until his arrest, Al-Arian was one of the most prominent Palestinian academics and activists in the United States. He was invited to the White House during both the President Clinton and Bush administrations and he campaigned for President Bush during the 2000 election. (my emphasis)

He's about as American as you can get. He has no country to return to; we're just kicking him out after thirty years, even though all his kids were born here. Say goodbye to daddy, kids.

But then just as I was beginning to feel sad for the professor, I read that last line. He campaigned for President Bush in 2000? Deport him! In fact, let's deport everybody that worked on the 2000 and 2004 campaigns. Let's deport anybody with a Bush/Cheyney bumpersticker. It may sound mean, but Professor Al-Arian reaped what he sowed. That's karma, baby!
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Published in: on April 19, 2006 at 11:10 pm  Leave a Comment  

“I’m The Decider”

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

'I'm the Decider'

"I'm the decider and I decide what's best," Bush told reporters in the Rose Garden as he announced several White House staff changes.

Does anyone know what Bush's first language is, because it's sure not English. Some of my friends at workare still learning English and often get embarrassed by the mistakes they make, silly things they accidently say. I just point out that, "Hey, you speak better English than the guy in charge of the whole country!"
Who are you sir?

I'm the Decider! Or did he say Dictator?

And why is anybody surprised by this? Bush isn't asking anybody to be competent or be accountable. The only thing he's looking for is loyalty and obedience. So what if you got a memo about some guy named bin Laden planning attacks in the U.S. That's just history stuff. And what do those stupid generals know? We could take Iraq with half the troops those dummies want. Dictators, I mean Deciders like yes-people (I'm so PC).

Published in: on April 19, 2006 at 11:09 pm  Leave a Comment  

Are You Hip To Shimmy?

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Are you hip to the shimmy?

I see the immigration issue as an economic issue. It's not that I don't see the civil rights and human rights aspect of it, it's just that my mind tends to view things from a class perspective. One thing that I've heard said is that the Left who want open borders and the corporate right who want cheap labor to exploit are in perfect harmony on this issue. But nothing could be further from the truth; let me explain.

First of all, think of who benefits from legislation that would turn law-abiding workers into felons simply based on a lack of proper papers. Who benefits? You don't think these laws are dreamt up with some notion of justice do you? Corporations and employers who exploit immigrant labor benefit.

Think about it. How much bargaining power do you think you have if your employer can simply turn you in at the drop of a hat to the authorities? Do you think you'd have much leverage to ask for more pay? Safer work conditions? Better hours? Anything?

By demanding full amnesty for these people, they would no longer have to hide in the shadows and refrain from demanding that they be treated like people. I understand the popular myth is that undocumented workers just run around using up all our social benefits, but in reality nothing could be further from the truth. The fear of deportation is real, and when so many people in their home country are often depending on them for subsitence, that reality is not taken lightly.

There fear of reprisal and deportation is used against them. It's used to undermine efforts to organize labor. And it's used to intimidate any of them who might try and fight for a better deal.

By offering undocumented workers full amnesty we help put them on solid ground to join with other workers in this country to fight the economic injustices carried out against the working class for the past half century.

It's not the undocumented worker who lowers wages in this country; it's the corporate elite who use their legal status to exploit them for lower and lower wages. Join us on May 1 and demand full amnesty for all undocumented workers.

Published in: on April 19, 2006 at 11:06 pm  Leave a Comment