Roberto Lovato

Progressive Politics Don't Feel So Inclusive When You're Latino

Locals say angels quietly protect the dead buried beneath the live oak trees of Sacred Heart Burial Park in Falfurrias, Texas. Since the oil bust decimated the fracking economy in recent years, Falfurrias and other towns dotting the coastal plains of southeast Texas have taken on a ghostly quiet, a quiet so encompassing you can hear at a distance the hissing and flapping of big white owls.

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We're Witnessing the Decline and Fall of White America as We Know It

The body of Tamir Rice bears the wounds of U.S. history. Deep wounds. So do the bodies of Central American children like those I visited earlier this year in Karnes County, children whose bodies are scarred and violated because of U.S. history in their homelands, in Mexico, where most of their mother’s bodies are violated, as well as in the Texas immigrant prisons where prison officials hired by the Obama administration accuse mothers staging hunger strikes of “insurrection” while they’re “waiting for helicopters,” according to  government documents.

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COP21: International Rights of Nature Tribunal Finds Corporations, Governments Guilty of Crimes Against Nature

As the COP21 climate conference comes to its conclusion, many here don’t believe that the agreement to cut emissions will suffice to alter the catastrophic course of the planet. In fact, many will leave believing that what is most important is the continued work to pressure governments not only to reduce greenhouse gases, but to address the inequalities that underly the problem.

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Climate Change Activists in Paris Say They’re Being Silenced With Counterterrorism Following Attacks

Standing in Republique square, just two blocks from the Bataclan Theater, site of the massacre of 90 people in Paris two weeks ago, Pierre—who declined to give his last name—told me last Sunday, the opening day of the COP21 climate change talks, “I don’t feel safe here.”

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10 Reasons Marco Rubio Would Lose in a General Election

The GOP elite appears ready to crown a new candidate: Marco Rubio. With the imminent decline and fall of Jeb Bush, the Republican establishment’s previous candidate of choice, signs of Rubio’s coming coronation are clear. There are reports of a "Rubio surge" in the press and in polls, new commitments from influential GOP donors like billionaire investor Paul Singer, and a growing list of key GOP establishment endorsements. Tuesday’s debate only bolstered the perception that Rubio, not Bush, represents the GOP's elite kingmakers. 

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Obama Must Strongly and Unequivocally Condemn the Coup in Honduras

Viewed from a distance, the streets of Honduras look, smell and sound like those of Iran: Expressions of popular anger -- burning vehicles, large marches and calls for justice in a non-English language -- aimed at a constitutional violation of the people’s will (the coup took place on the eve of a poll of voters asking if the President's term should be extended); protests repressed by a small, but powerful elite backed by military force; those holding power trying to cut off communications in and out of the country.

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Obama Pressured by Israel Lobby to Boycott World Conference Against Racism

At a time when racial conflict and discrimination are on the rise around the world, the Administration of the world's first black U.S. president will not be attending the world's most important conference on race and racism.

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Immigration Reformers Must Take the Moral High Ground

The buzz filling Blackberrys, busy halls and spacious deal-making rooms in Washington appears to signal that spring arrived early this year for immigrants. In the last week alone, several prominent figures—outgoing President Bush, incoming President Obama, Mexican President Calderón, Los Angeles Cardinal Mahoney, to name a few—have discussed the possibility of comprehensive immigration reform. And, as in the previous failed attempts at reform in 2006 and 2007, legalization for the more than 12 million undocumented among us occupies the center of forums, speeches and other public statements of Democratic and civic leaders in the beltway.

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Obama May Tap a Strong Progressive to Manage Our Wilderness

Anyone who has visited a national park or traversed the country's diverse wilderness comes home with gorgeous, yet distressing images of it; those returning from a visit to one of the more than 562 tribes the federal government recognizes and is supposed to assist also bring back sad stories about it; and those of us who enjoy camping or fishing or hunting inevitably return home talking about it. "It" is the scenery and life found on the millions of acres of federal land left blemished and vulnerable by the Bush administration's Department of the Interior.

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Obama Retreats from Key Progressive Issues

Obama Votes to Silence Debate and Pass FISA
By John Nichols, TheNation.com

Arizona Sen. John McCain did not bother to show up for Wednesday's Senate votes on whether to amend the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act to absolve George Bush of responsibility for initiating an illegal warrantless wiretapping program and to provide retroactive immunity to the telecommunications corporations that violated the privacy of their customers in order to collaborate with a lawless president.

But that's OK, because Illinois Sen. Barack Obama cast the votes that McCain would have.

In addition to joining the majority in a 69-28 Senate vote to pass legislation that the American Civil Liberties Union describes as "a Constitutional nightmare," Obama voted to silence debate on the FISA bill.

While most Senate Democrats -- including New York Sen. Hillary Clinton -- opposed the FISA rewrite and voted to keep the debate open, the presumptive Democratic nominee for president sided with the Republicans in saying that the essential Constitutional questions raised by this legislation did not merit extended or thoughtful debate.

The cloture vote split 72 in favor of shutting down debate to 26 for keeping it open. Two senators -- McCain and ailing Massachusetts Democrat Edward Kennedy -- missed Wednesday's session.

The "no" votes on cloture were cast by Vermont Independent Bernie Sanders and 25 Democrats, including Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., Assistant Majority Leader Dick Durbin, Obama's Democratic colleague from Illinois, and Clinton, Obama's primary competitor for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Leading the fight to keep the debate about the FISA rewrite open were Connecticut Democrat Chris Dodd and Wisconsin Democrat Russ Feingold, the two senators whom Obama promised earlier this year to work with in an effort to block this assault on the Constitution and corporate responsibility.

Said Feingold, "I sit on the Intelligence and Judiciary Committees, and I am one of the few members of this body who has been fully briefed on the warrantless wiretapping program. And, based on what I know, I can promise that if more information is declassified about the program in the future, as is likely to happen either due to the inspector general report, the election of a new president or simply the passage of time, members of this body will regret that we passed this legislation. I am also familiar with the collection activities that have been conducted under the Protect America Act and will continue under this bill. I invite any of my colleagues who wish to know more about those activities to come speak to me in a classified setting. Publicly, all I can say is that I have serious concerns about how those activities may have impacted the civil liberties of Americans. If we grant these new powers to the government and the effects become known to the American people, we will realize what a mistake it was, of that I am sure."

Unfortunately, while Obama once promised to work with Feingold, he wasn't listening on Wednesday when the Wisconsin senator explained to his colleagues that granting retroactive immunity to the telecommunications corporations would effectively block the ability of Congress and the courts to address not just massive corporate wrongdoing but attacks on the privacy rights of Americans.

"If Congress short-circuits these lawsuits, we will have lost a prime opportunity to finally achieve accountability for these years of law-breaking," said Feingold. "That's why the administration has been fighting so hard for this immunity. It knows that the cases that have been brought directly against the government face much more difficult procedural barriers and are unlikely to result in rulings on the merits."

Feingold was speaking the truth about a moment in which the ACLU said the Senate was on the verge of passing "an unconstitutional domestic spying bill that violates the Fourth Amendment and eliminates any meaningful role for judicial oversight of government surveillance."

But Obama did not want to hear it.

*****


In Centrist Speech Aimed at Latinos, Obama Neglects War -- Latinos’ Most Important Issue
By Roberto Lovato, Of America

Candidates Obama and McCain are gearing up to do what the mainstream media is touting as a "mini-Latino voter tour" that includes speeches at the LULAC Convention today and speeches at the National Council of La Raza's (NCLR) convention in San Diego next week.

For discussion's sake, let's do as the mainstream media does and forget that the voice of LULAC, the League of United Latin American Citizens, is but one very well-funded voice in a cacophony of more than 40 million Latino voices and thousands of Latino organizations in the United States. And, in the name of being part of this often inane (as in, anybody seen that political Chupacabra -- the widely-reported Latino unwillingness to vote for a black candidate -- lately?) conversation labeled "Latino politics," let's also ignore that lurking beneath that brown blob of a media construct called "Hispanics" in headlines and sound bites are inconvenient truths, like the fact that organizations like LULAC do not always speak for many, if not most, of us.

OK. So, the "tour" of all two organizations began with a "festive" gathering at the LULAC convention in the Latino heartland of Washington, D.C., where LULAC President Oscar Moran designated McCain "nuestro amigo." Joining Moran, Wal-Mart, Shell Oil, Miller Beer and the usual host of corporations sponsoring these kinds of festivities were other, richer organizations whose very life depends increasingly on their ability to bring in Latino bodies: the U.S. Army, the U.S. Navy and the Department of Defense (see the full list of LULAC Convention sponsors below). And, for the record, while some individual staff and board members and some local chapters of LULAC strongly oppose the war, the leadership of neither LULAC nor that of most other major Latino organizations has taken a position on the war.

As if not wanting to offend some of the sponsors in the audience, Obama made no mention in his LULAC speech of what numerous polls tell us is the numero uno issue for Latinos by large margins: the Iraq War. Again, war, not immigration, is the No. 1 issue for the fastest-growing group in the U.S. military.

For his part, McCain made mention not of the war, but of the Latino troops, and he did so in a manner that sounded like another in the tsunami of multimillion-dollar media ads brought to you by the Pentagon sponsors in the audience:

"When you visit Iraq and Afghanistan, you will meet some of the thousands of Hispanic Americans who serve there, and many of those who risk their lives to protect the rest of us do not yet possess the rights and privileges of full citizenship in the country they love so well. To love your country, as I discovered in Vietnam, is to love your countrymen. Those men and women are my brothers and sisters ..."

Yeah. OK, hermano. Moving on, in his LULAC speech McCain fumbled around the ticklish issue of immigration, according to this piece in the Dallas morning news.

Missing in the brown sea of "si se puede"s and "amigo"s at the "spirited" event was nary a word describing other, more "no se puede" concerns of Spanish (and English) speakers -- issues like:

"prision" -- the exponential growth of the Latino prison population.

"Pentagono" -- the multibillion-dollar effort to trick Latino youth into joining the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and other armed forces.

"Muerte, detencion y migrantes" -- immigration issues such as the thousands of dead in the desert; death and sexual and physical abuse in ICE detention centers; and thousands of raids and other terror inflicted on immigrant children and adults.

"pobreza" -- the unprecedented challenge of a country in which the wealthiest 1 percent has over $2 trillion more than the bottom 90 percent, according to the Nation magazine. In other words, the candidates won't be asked in Español or en Ingles, "How come the wealthiest 1 percent have $19 trillion while the rest of us 300,000,000 only have a combined wealth totaling less than $17 trillion?"

So, let's "hope" that the larger, better-funded NCLR event brings us fewer "si se puede"s and more of things like "substancia," "realidad" and "transparencia."

    List of Sponsors of LULAC's 2008 Convention

  • Diamond Sponsors

  • Comcast Corporation

  • General Motors Corporation

  • Wal-Mart Stores Inc.


  • Presidential Sponsors

  • American Airlines

  • Bridgestone/Firestone

  • Ford Motor Company

  • LULAC Council #1

  • Miller Brewing Company

  • Shell Oil Company

  • Sprint Nextel Corporation

  • U.S. Department of Health & Human Services

  • Judicial Sponsors

  • AARP

  • AT&T

  • Dell

  • El Zol

  • U.S. Army


  • Senatorial Sponsors

  • The Coca-Cola Company

  • ExxonMobil Corporation

  • Google Inc.

  • Harrah's Entertainment

  • McDonald's Corporation

  • Nissan North America Inc.

  • PepsiCo, Inc.

  • Procter & Gamble Company

  • Southwest Airlines

  • Tyson Foods Inc.

  • U.S. Department of Defense


  • Congressional Sponsors

  • Countrywide Financial Corp.

  • U.S. Department of Education

  • U.S. Navy

  • Univision Communications

  • Western Union


  • Patriot Sponsors

  • Bank of America

  • Freddie Mac

  • Geico

  • NBC/Telemundo

  • The Nielsen Company

  • U.S. Department of Agriculture


  • Patron Sponsors

  • 7-Eleven Inc.

  • Americans for Secure Retirement

  • ARAMARK

  • Billetel

  • Burger King Brands Inc.

  • Continental Airlines Inc.

  • Denny's Restaurants

  • DISH Latino

  • Enterprise Rent-A-Car Company

  • Hyatt Hotels Corporation

  • International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers

  • Merisant Worldwide Inc.

  • PhRMA

  • Sed de Saber

  • TracFone Wireless Inc.

  • U.S. Agency for International Development

  • U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

  • Walt Disney Company

  • Wyndham International

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