Posts tagged with 'texas observer'

Weekly Mulch: Obama’s Responsibility for the BP Oil Spill

Posted May 28, 2010 @ 10:04 am by
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by Sarah Laskow, Media Consortium blogger

Image courtesy of Flickr user Deepwater Horizon Response, via Creative Commons LicensePresident Barack Obama is in Louisiana today, and BP is saying it will know in 48 hours if its attempt to “top kill” the leaking oil well in the Gulf Coast by pouring mud and cement over it has worked.

If the scramble to stop the leak has ended, the slog to clean up is just beginning. Thousands of fisherman are still out of work, as  ColorLines notes. But there are new jobs in Louisiana. This week Mother Jones’ Mac McClelland visited workers raking oil off a beach in Louisiana. One man, she writes, “can’t count how many times he’s raked this same spot in the 33 hours he’s worked it since Thursday, but one thing he’s sure of, he says, is that he’ll be standing right here tomorrow and the next day, too.” (more…)

Weekly Mulch: Oil Rig Sinks, as Does Senate Climate Bill

Posted Apr 30, 2010 @ 9:58 am by
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by Sarah Laskow, Media Consortium blogger

Image courtesy of Flickr user NASA Goddard Photo and Video, via Creative Commons LicenseTwo disasters flared up this week, one environmental, the other political. Off the coast of Louisiana, oil from a sunken rig is leaking as much as five times faster than scientists originally judged, and the spill reportedly reached land last night. And in Washington, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) jumped from his partnership with Sens. John Kerry (D-MA) and Joe Lieberman (I-CT) just before the scheduled release of the draft of a new Senate climate bill.

The trio had worked for months on bipartisan legislation on climate change. After Graham’s defection, his partners promised to press on, but the bill’s chances of survival are dimmer.

The next Exxon Valdez?

As Grist puts it, the spill off the Louisiana coast is “worse than expected, and getting worser.” The oil rig sank on April 20, and since then, oil has been pouring out of the well and into the Gulf of Mexico. (more…)

Weekly Mulch: Climate Change On Obama’s Back Burner

Posted Jan 29, 2010 @ 12:04 pm by
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By Sarah Laskow, Media Consortium Blogger

In his first State of the Union address, President Barack Obama touched on climate issues only briefly. He called on the Senate to pass a climate bill, but did not give Congress a deadline or promise to veto weak legislation. Nor did he mention the Copenhagen climate conference, where international negotiators struggled to produce an agreement on limiting global carbon emissions.

The Obama administration’s attitude towards climate change still represents a remarkable shift from the Bush years, when global warming was treated as little more than a fairy tale. But in the past year, Congressional squabbling has stalled climate legislation, and international negotiators nearly gridlocked in talks over carbon admissions at the multinational Copenhagen conference. Without strong leadership from the president, work to prevent this looming environmental crisis will stall. (more…)

Weekly Diaspora: CIR ASAP the First Step to Reform

Posted Dec 17, 2009 @ 12:49 pm by
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By Nezua, Media Consortium Blogger

On Tuesday, Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) introduced the Comprehensive Immigration Reform for America’s Security and Prosperity Act of 2009 (CIR-ASAP). Rep. Gutierrez said that the bill represents “the final push for comprehensive immigration reform,” as Khalil Abdullah reports for New America Media. Seth Hoy at AlterNet breaks down some of the bill’s key points, which include a border security provisions, family unification, a legalization component, and improved detention conditions.

The legislation is an encouraging first step forward on the path to immigration reform. But many hurdles must be overcome before an immigration bill from the House or Senate becomes law, especially in today’s tense political environment. Outright antagonism from the nativist lobby or the far Right will be no small part of the challenge, no matter how concessionary the legislation is to Republicans.

In the absence of nationally legislated reform, many border states like Texas are attempting to fill in the gap. One of these cases is a town called Del Rio, as Melissa del Bosque reports for the Texas Observer. Del Rio’s new school superintendent, Kelt Cooper, has “an overarching concern about Mexican nonresidents attending [U.S.] public schools.” U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents, acting under Cooper’s request, recently took a headcount of children crossing the bridge that connects Ciudad Acuña in México to Del Rio, Texas. No other border to the county was inspected similarly.

At Cooper’s order, Del Rio school district employees handed out fliers to drivers with students who crossed the bridge that morning, informing parents that their children were being withdrawn from school unless they could prove U.S. citizenship. If Cooper truly cared about his student body, he’d take a lesson from another school with a large immigrant population and harness the energy available to him, rather than sowing fear and division amongst the student body.

In AlterNet, David Bacon writes about the impact of President Barack Obama’s brand of immigration enforcement, which has been sold as hard on employers, but not on workers. A key part of this approach has hinged on phasing out the aggressive and visibly disruptive SWAT-style raids that were common in the Bush era and instead warning companies that their employment rolls would be inspected. But these employee audits are just another proxy move in the absence of sound legislative that guides how this country treats immigrants.

The “softer” raids are not, in fact, harder on employers. The audits that result in the loss of hundreds of jobs at a time often take place during or close to attempts to organize a union. The workers are let go and the companies—recent examples include American Apparel and ADM Janitorial—are given immunity. These selective raids and probes cannot drive every undocumented worker away. Furthermore, if the flow of cheap labor were to dry up, the U.S. economy would collapse. These audits are but “a means for managing the flow of migrants, and making their labor available to employers at a price they want to pay.”

Daphne Eviatar reports on Thursday morning’s House Homeland Security Committee hearing for The New Mexico Independent. The hearing, “ostensibly about how [Immigrations and Customs Enforcement] should improve its immigrant detention system” revealed deeply divided convictions among attendees. Immigrants today are either “dangerous criminals” who need to be locked up and deported, or “hapless men and women” who only broke the law in their pursuit of life, liberty, and happiness. These divisions need to be settled, as the incarcerated population has doubled in the last ten years.

Even if prisons were built in every state and were designed only to hold undocumented people, the problem is not solved. The flow of migrants from South of the border must not be viewed as a vacuum. It is a symptom of the economic imbalances between the U.S. and Mexico.

So is the case with climate change, as Michelle Chen reports for RaceWire. Today, immigrants flee toward healthier economies and are demonized as the cause of the economic storm that howls behind them. It is no different for those displaced by “environmental destruction,” which is “reshaping the flow of labor and people as they move from one endangered livelihood to another.”

Chen advises us to accept the “fluidity of human movement,” as the consequences of remaining stuck in today’s limited immigration dialogue are dire. “Migration stems from the convergence of environmental destruction and social inequality,” writes Chen. There’s not a fence in the world that can address those forces.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about immigration by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Diaspora for a complete list of articles on immigration issues, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, environment, and health care issues, check out The Audit, The Mulch, and The Pulse . This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.

Weekly Diaspora: Unemployment Feeding Anti-Immigrant Sentiment

Posted Dec 10, 2009 @ 12:25 pm by
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By Nezua, Media Consortium Blogger

The nation’s 10% unemployment rate is feeding anti-immigrant sentiment, as Marcelo Ballvé reports for New America Media. Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) critiqued President Barack Obama’s recent jobs summit as “fatally flawed” because President Obama did not discuss wresting millions of jobs away from undocumented families. Smith’s argument is flawed.

A “known Capitol Hill immigration hardliner,” Smith asks us to assume that for every job the U.S. could theoretically “take back” from an undocumented worker, an eager U.S. citizen would flock to fill it. But, as Ballvé reports, “several studies suggest that among Americans and legal residents, it’s mainly those lacking a high school diploma who are competing directly with undocumented immigrants for jobs (and by most estimates, that’s less than one out of every 10 U.S. workers).” (more…)

Weekly Diaspora: Fort Hood, Pundits and Immigration Reform

Posted Nov 19, 2009 @ 12:19 pm by
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By Nezua, Media Consortium Blogger

First it was immigrants from Mexico, now Muslims in the armed services. After the tragic shootings at Fort Hood, conservative pundits are verbally attacking Muslims and Arab-Americans, much like they have vilified the immigrant community. The complexities of Islamic faith are being glossed over and “Muslim Terrorist” is stamped upon any act of violence involving their community. As a result, nuanced voices are buried in favor of suspicion and violence. (more…)

Weekly Diaspora: Deporting Dobbs

Posted Nov 12, 2009 @ 11:36 am by
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By Nezua, Media Consortium Blogger

After 30 years, commentator Lou Dobbs—infamous for his tirades against undocumented immigrants—has left CNN, as TPM reports. Dobbs employed disturbing, dangerous, and dated language to slur immigrants, often equating them with disease and infection. There is a connection between this type of demagoguery and violence.

Clearly, the organizing efforts of groups like Basta Dobbs have borne fruit, as even Dobbs admits. GRITtv recently covered the “way the mainstream media equates ‘Latino’ with ‘immigrant'” and Latino organizing efforts to correct this perspective.

“Over the past six months, it’s become increasingly clear that strong winds of change have begun buffeting this country, and affecting all of us,” Dobbs said in his last live broadcast for CNN. Other commentators belonging to the old school of racist separatism ought take note. It’s a new day in the USA. (more…)

Weekly Audit: Congress Caves to Bank Lobby on Foreclosures

Posted May 5, 2009 @ 8:41 am by
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by Zach Carter, TMC MediaWire Blogger

On Thursday, lawmakers bowed to pressure from the bank lobby and killed a crucial piece of anti-foreclosure legislation, poisoning the economy in an effort to keep money flowing to Wall Street. Meanwhile, jobs continue to disappear, retirement accounts are evaporating and families are struggling to cope with economic hardship.

Last week’s turn of events proved that the U.S. Senate remains utterly beholden to the financial predators that created the current mess. You might think that after destroying the economy, bankrupting itself and then going on corporate welfare, the banking industry’s clout on Capitol Hill would have diminished. But you’d be wrong.

The American News Project’s Lagan Sebert recorded a lobbying strategy session at the Mortgage Bankers Association annual meeting in Washington, D.C. This is the lobbying team that  torpedoed the anti-foreclosure legislation, which would have given judges the power to revise the terms of unaffordable mortgages in court—a process the bankers refer to as a “cram-down”—and level the playing field for homeowners. As it stands, when borrowers fall behind, banks can use the threat of foreclosure to deny a sustainable long-term loan modification and continue to squeeze them for high monthly payments.

Snippets from the bank lobby meeting seem like some absurd surrealist parody of the U.S. political system, with lobbyists urging other bankers to give money to politicians and claiming credit for holding the economy hostage. “The cram-down vote may come tomorrow, and wouldn’t it be beautiful for it to go down to defeat while we’re up on the Hill,” says an animated David Kittle, Chairman of the Mortgage Bankers Association.

Such bad behavior on Wall Street, of course, has lead to the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. The unemployment rate currently stands at 8.5% and is likely to go much higher when the Department of Labor makes its monthly report on the job market this Friday. As Emily Steinmetz explains for High Country News, high unemployment levels are much more than a statistic: They mean real hardships for ordinary people. In Arizona, food banks and churches have been overwhelmed by those seeking basic necessities like food and diapers. Steinmetz profiles St. Mary’s Food Bank, which distributed upwards of 19,000 emergency food boxes across the state in September alone. The boxes contain bare-bones items like canned vegetables, jars of peanut butter and bags of rice for families that cannot afford to eat.

In the below video, GRITtv’a Laura Flanders interviews Heather Boushey, senior economist at the Center for American Progress, about how the unemployment crisis is impacting families based on gender. Typically women are much more likely than men to dropout of the labor force when they lose their jobs, but in the current recession, record numbers of men are being laid off.

That’s creating not just a loss of income, since women still face a significant pay gap, but serious schisms when men find themselves unable to perform the role in the family they’re accustomed to playing. It’s also sowing seeds for political unrest: when people find themselves out of a job thanks to structural economic forces beyond their control and facing problems at home as a result of being laid off, it generates a lot of anger.

As University of Texas Economist James Galbraith writes for the Texas Observer, evaluating the economy means examining the links between the lives of ordinary workers and the operation of major institutions like the banking industry and government. When we pretend that there is no public interest in overseeing economically critical firms, when bank regulators hold press conferences in which they literally attack stacks of regulations with a chainsaw, Galbraith says, a resulting calamity for workers and families is predictable.

If this crisis has taught us anything, it is that what Galbraith refers to as “the ritual confidence of public officials and the dry numerical optimism of business economists” simply cannot be trusted without a deeper analysis of the plight of everyday citizens. Powerful people on both Capitol Hill and Wall Street spent the last decade insisting that everything was just fine, when in fact the entire financial system was falling off a cliff.

Writing for Mother Jones, James Ridgeway sketches a brief history of the retirement industry, revealing the steady migration from employer-provided pensions to 401(k) plans outsourced to Wall Street professionals. Ridgeway makes it hard to view the 401(k) industry as anything but a decades-long scam that has been shielded from serious scrutiny by the stock market growth from the early 1980s to 2007. Even the name “401(k)” comes from a covert loophole that was originally designed to help big banks avoid paying taxes.

In 401(k) accounts, workers have their money invested in stocks and bonds picked by a Wall Street fund manager, rather than receive guaranteed benefits from their employer. In return for this precious investment advice, the fund manager takes a bite out of any profits the worker’s 401(k) fund reaps, in some cases as much as 50% of the actual gains. This might not be so egregious if the fund manager made amazing stock picks that garnered huge returns for the worker, but most of these funds underperform index funds. Even high-performing funds are subject to the often arbitrary movement of financial markets. So when, say, stocks take a beating thanks to years of excessive risk-taking on Wall Street, worker accounts are devastated.

This continued influence of the banking establishment in Washington imperils not only our economy but our political legitimacy. When an industry transforms itself into a vehicle for economic destruction, the appropriate response is to crack down on abuse with new rules and regulations. Instead, lawmakers have ignored public cries for accountability and capitulated to the culpable elite, making it increasingly difficult to view Congress as a group of representatives acting for the public good.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about the economy. Visit and for complete lists of articles on the economy, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical health and immigration issues, check out and This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of 50 leading independent media outlets, and was created by NewsLadder.

Weekly Immigration Wire: Building Up to Change

Posted Apr 23, 2009 @ 11:05 am by
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by Nezua, TMC MediaWire Blogger

As the U.S. moves closer and closer to enacting immigration reform, the situation on the ground is evolving as well. Nothing is static for an issue that touches so many people across so many communities. This week’s wire follows up on trends observed last week: holding mainstream media accountable, enforcement tactics, and immigration’s positive effect on the economy.

But if you’d first like to get up to speed on immigration reform fundamentals, stop over at Feministing’s interview with Christine Neumann-Ortiz. (And definitely don’t miss Feministing’s call to action to stop the infamous Sheriff Joe Arpaio.)

Last week, the Wire highlighted the importance of  holding mainstream media accountable—especially when it comes to giving proper context to quoted sources. This week, Texas Observer’s Melissa del Bosque writes that “[t]he truth differs wildly from the perception.” when it comes to the actual political situation in Mexico and the image cultivated by mainstream media. While some outlets continue to develop an image Mexico as lawless and volatile, the actual scenario is not as dramatic.

Following up on enforcement tactics, Marcelo Balivé, writing for New America Media, explores the “backlash against immigrants” that “continues to rage countrywide.” According to Balivé, anti-immigrant sentiment is bleeding over into American perceptions about Mexican culture, “casting a pall on all Hispanic immigrants, whether they entered the country illegally or not.”

On a more positive note, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) head Janet Napolitano’s recent statements that ICE will henceforth target employers rather than workers is a move in the right direction, though she gives no indication of how that might manifest on a practical level. Napolitano also admits that there will be “no halt to arrests of undocumented workers.”

This is unfortunate. The effects of ICE raids, and the ongoing hunt for “illegals in our midst” is hurting most Latinos in the U.S., even citizens. Even the so-called “Sanctuary” cities, which refuse to enlist local law enforcement to federal duties like immigration control, are no longer offer a feeling of safety. San Francisco, much like Postville, Iowa, is now feeling the devastating effects of the ICE raids. I’m not sure how the Democratic party intends to square its support for community-shattering raids with previous promises to a large part of their constituency.

In the American Prospect, Ann Friedman writes that nearly one year after the raid in Postville, “The lingering effects of the raid make depressingly clear how misleading the “immigrants take from our communities” narrative really is.” Friedman asks that we consider what a community loses when we act as if a huge part of that same community is “illegal.”

Following up on last weeks coverage of immigration as an economic issue, Pramila Jayapal and Renee Radcliff Sinclair argue that  Immigrants Keep Washington’s Economy Strong for the American Forum:

The Office of Financial Management estimated that in 2007, Washington households with at least one foreign-born member contributed $1.48 billion in tax revenue, or 13 percent of the state’s total tax revenue. Even low-income immigrant households earning less than $20,000 a year contributed a total of $50 million in tax revenue.

And in other immigration news, Wiretap’s Naima Coster writes of an ethical conflict of interest when “anti-immigrant policy and the capitalist ambitions of pharmaceutical giant Merck” are joined. Is it right to federally mandate all women immigrants to receive the Gardasil vaccine, which has claimed approximately 20 lives and produced “thousands of cases of adverse effects”?

Women have good cause to be concerned with the immigration issue “because of the displacement and separation of families—and the inherent link … between women and family life,” writes Elisabeth Garber-Paul for RH Reality Check. It’s a point also implicit in Made in LA, an Emmy-winning documentary that follows the lives of three Latina immigrants fighting for labor protections and the right to pursue freedom, happiness and a fair living.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about immigration. Visit for a complete list of articles on immigration, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy and health issues, check out and This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of 50 leading independent media outlets, and was created by NewsLadder.

Weekly Immigration Wire: ‘Systematic Failures’ in U.S. Detention Healthcare

Posted Mar 19, 2009 @ 11:31 am by
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by Nezua
TMC MediaWire Blogger

This week, two comprehensive reports on the health of immigrant detainees were released by Human Rights Watch and the Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center. As Public News Service reports, “Immigrants are, literally, dying for decent care.”

There have been many cases of inadequate medical treatment or neglect leading to death in U.S. detention centers. The cases are horrific—ranging from an ignored broken spine to deadly metastasized genital cancer—and must stop immediately. But, a thorough accounting of the realities of detention is needed if the United States can engage in an honest dialogue about immigration policy.

RaceWire doesn’t shrink from offering an incisive analysis in Health in Detention. Michelle Chen writes that “Part of the problem is that the mission of ICE’s Division of Immigration Health Services isn’t really to ensure that all detainees receive the care they need, but rather, to keep people essentially well enough to be kicked out of the country before they die.” Chen adds that in some cases, that low bar isn’t met.

There are many causes. After 9/11, the U.S. stopped aiming for a “more perfect union” of its diverse population. The Bush administration responded (starting in Florida) to the immigrant community with suspicion and force. And so it has continued, ultimately leading to the conditions outlined in this week’s reports. The poor treatment of immigrants in U.S. custody reveals a very ugly side of the country, but it’s hardly a new side. AlterNet’s Lynn Tramonte offers a scathing indictment of how dangerous Agreement 287(g), which recruits local police to enforce immigration law, has become to communities.

The stalemate on immigration reform is sometimes portrayed as a disagreement over “safety” and “security” and “jobs.” But, in many cases, it’s a disguised resistance to the always-changing face of America. It’s an old game of Tug-of-War. Wiretap reminds us how long this culture battle has been going on in the below video. It recalls eerily familiar past attitudes:

We don’t know why the human race has such a short memory when it comes to cyclical xenophobia. It’s confounding, especially in the U.S.: How can we be so proud of our own families’ immigrant roots, but not wish that happiness for others? If a mother, daughter, or sister is called “immigrant”—in the U.S. or the Middle East—she’s suddenly worth less.

Going back to the aforementioned Public News Service article: According to Human Rights Watch researcher Meghan Rhoad, “the detention system routinely subjects women to suffering and humiliation. It is a system that needlessly shackles pregnant women with no criminal background, that ignores requests for care, and does all of this with impunity.”

But confront ICE officials, even their spokesperson, with the many documented cases of medical neglect or human rights abuses, and reporters will be given the standard statement that the agency is “committed to humane and safe treatment of detainees.” The inadequacy of the answer mirrors their effectiveness.

Speaking of inadequate approaches, we now turn to the investigation into Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). On March 12, RaceWire reported on the positive reaction to the investigation from local activists and community groups in Arizona. Click through to see photos of Members of Maricopa Citizen for Safety and Accountability (MCSA) delivering the Sheriff numerous “pink slips” or see letters the DOJ delivered to the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office on March 10.

In other immigration news, The Texas Observer reports on non-profit consumer advocate group Public Citizen’s suit against DHS on behalf of Denise Gilman. Their efforts are helping shed some light on the construction of a border fence.

It also appears that Speaker Pelosi was actually forecasting a change in immigration policy last week. Yesterday President Obama met with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and announced his intention to move forward “possibly within the next two months” with the unveiling of a legislative package that will address immigration reform. Hours later, at a town hall meeting in California, he repeated his conviction to do so.

Some have expressed concern that President Obama is taking on too much at once. But all of these things, the economy and immigration and healthcare, are intertwined. For example, the growing detention center industry will continue to take the place of productive workers and damage a healthy economy.

It is in our nation’s best interest to veer sharply away from the path that George W. Bush set us upon. Obama’s announcement yesterday is exciting news, considering how long the nation’s immigration laws have languished and how many humans have suffered because of them. The change that President Obama promised the nation seems to be coming for one and all.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about immigration. Visit for a complete list of articles on immigration, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy and health issues, check out and This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of 50 leading independent media outlets, and was created by NewsLadder.