Monday, February 28, 2005

Arizona fights browning tide

Save Our State

In 1994, California fired the first shots in the comtemporary populist white supremacist war on the browning of the US by passing Prop. 187. This initiative aimed to deny state services to undocumented immigrants; the campaign to pass it consisted of commercials showing desparate people swarming over border fences with a voice over droning "they keep on coming…" Crude but effective.

Of course they did not stop coming; so-called "illegal immigrants" don't come here for benefits, they come here to work, to do the dirty jobs that those of us already here can opt out of. And nobody cracks down on the people who make money by hiring them, by squeezing cheap work out of the poor and vulnerable.

Prop. 187 had consequences quite unexpected by its proponents. It's provisions were thrown out in court, but more importantly, the sleeping brown giant in California began to wake up. California Latinos suddenly thought it worth the trouble to thread their way through the citizenship maze in order to protect themselves and their families. And for a good eight years after Prop. 187, very few of these new Latino voters gave the Republican party the time of day.

Now it is a Arizona's turn. Tyche Hendricks has an excellent article in today's San Francisco Chronicle on the aftermath and implementation of their Prop. 200, another inititative to deny services to the undocumented passed in November 2004.

Arizona's Latino population has nearly doubled in the past decade, from 700,000 to 1.3 million. The state has become a magnet for low- wage immigrant workers as construction booms with new retirement homes -- all filled with retirees who need services.

"There's a lot of Mexican labor in Arizona right now, and people don't like it," says Maria Blanco, executive director of the San Francisco-based Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights. "They feel like it changes their way of life. Many immigrants don't speak English. It's unfamiliar."

Not surprisingly, immigrants, legal and undocumented, are scared and confused by resentment from folks who look like their employers.

Cristofer Rosete, 22, who hails from Mexico but lacks legal status, said it had not even occurred to him to apply for welfare or other benefits for himself, but he knows his 2-year-old son is eligible for medical care because the toddler was born in the United States.

Now, however, Rosete and his wife are nervous about taking the boy to doctor's appointments, for fear someone will report them to immigration authorities.

"When Prop. 200 first passed, South Phoenix was empty," said Rosete in Spanish. "Everyone kept their kids home from school. They were scared. I think everyone's waiting now to see what will happen."

Meanwhile the white supremacists just keep on coming.

"There's a tremendous, growing, grassroots movement throughout the country," said Virginia Abernethy, an adviser to the Proposition 200 campaign.…Abernethy, an emeritus professor of psychiatry and anthropology at Vanderbilt University, is affiliated with the Occidental Quarterly, a publication described by Max Blumenthal in the American Prospect as the "premier voice of the white-nationalist movement." Abernethy rejects the term white supremacist, with which she has been labeled, preferring to call herself a "European American separatist."

Time for these wingnuts to get over themselves. We Californians know, in the end you can't fight Mother Nature. When it rains enough, houses will slide down hills. However much you worry, when the earth gets ready, the earth is going to quake. And as long as we have the money and the jobs on this side of the border, folks from the South are going to come here to get a piece. That's what our ancesters did. Just get over it and you might even learn to like living in a multilingual, multicultural world.

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Democracy at work in Canada?


Democracy may be under threat here (here being the good old USofA) but it does seem to be working rather better this week in Canada. There is lots of blither in the media about the Canadian Liberal party government deciding not to sign on with the US missile defense scam. Really, is there anyone who doesn't work for a war contractor who believes this thing will ever do anything except enrich some corporate stockholders?

The Toronto Globe and Mail explains the decision simply and cogently, albeit in the last paragraph of a long story:

A number of senior government sources have recently told reporters in The Globe and Mail's Ottawa bureau that the federal government felt that the deep unpopularity of missile defence among Canadians made further participation a non-starter.

Yes -- Canadians do spell it "defence."

Naturally the US administration has responded with its standard form of spin: take the language of your opponents and twist it to mean its opposite:

"Although Prime Minister Paul Martin said Canada would 'insist' on maintaining control of its airspace, U.S. Ambassador Paul Cellucci warned that Washington would not be constrained. 'We will deploy. We will defend North America,' he said.

'We simply cannot understand why Canada would in effect give up its sovereignty -- its seat at the table -- to decide what to do about a missile that might be coming towards Canada.'"

BWAAHH! I thought Canada was asserting its sovereignty against the elephant next door, but what do I know? Only how we are supposed to consume the media in George W's USA: brainlessly.

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Who was Frank Zappa?


Since I've taken Frank Zappa's name in vain and riffed on one of his song lyrics for the name of my blog, I should probably do homage by reminding folks who he was.

Zappa was the most complicated, sophisticated and political of the early 60s US rockers. His band, the Mothers of Invention, recorded "FREAK OUT" in February 1966 -- the first of over 50 albums whose musical forms ran the gamut from hard rock to "new music" classical.

The song "It Can't Happen Here" (on Freak Out) evokes the panic in 1960s middle America at the prospect that their children, especially daughters, might morph into free-thinking, free-being freaks! Like most of the rock of the time period, the rocker's sexual innuendo doesn't really do justice to women as self-defined sexual beings -- nonetheless I like catching the echo of a time when the feared "happening" was liberation, not repression.

Zappa was considered a genius who was a little bit much by just about everyone, from people who worked with him to the Parents Music Resource Center which wanted rating warning labels on record albums. But he was very much appreciated in eastern Europe. The Czech anti-Soviet underground adopted the Zappa song "Plastic People" as a kind of anthem; after 1989, Vaclav Havel, the Czech playwright-turned-president, was so moved that he made Zappa a special ambassador to the West for culture.

Zappa died in 1993. Go here for more complete bio.

Friday, February 25, 2005

Welcome to happening-here?

Don't know whether what I've created here is homage to Sinclair Lewis, Frank Zappa or my own confusion, but in the days to come let's find out.