Sunday, July 26, 2015

A Miami Herald Latino hack pushes anti-immigrant nativist propaganda

"Visa overstays are common among foreign nationals visiting the U.S.," says the headline on the (usually paywalled) Miami Herald web site article by Alfonso Chardy, but which --at least for the  time being-- you can see cached at this link.

It's an example of the normal output of a journalistic hack, seizing on one individual's story to illustrate a (supposedly) broader situation. God knows I've been part of perpetrating hundreds if not thousands of these stories over the decades. But at least I never did it to lie to people and promote a racist agenda, which is what Chardy, one of the Herald's house Latinos, has done.

Mister Chardy's headline says "visa overstays are common." Let's look at the claim.

There were more than 170 million non-immigrant visitors to the United States in 2013, according to the official "Annual Flow Report" issued a year ago by Homeland Security.

So out of the 170 million, how many result in visa overstays?

The Chardy article cites the widely accepted Pew Hispanic Center estimate of "up to" 4.9 million of the unauthorized immigrants in the country having entered with a temporary tourist or business visa but failed to leave the country once the visa expired.

But according to another Pew analysis published last September, as of 2013, the median number of years an undocumented immigrant had been in the United States was almost 13 years. This means that, as a very rough estimate, there had been nearly two and a half million visa overstayers in the United States who arrived in this century and were still here as of 2013; the other half had come earlier.

However, until 2008 the unauthorized immigrant population was growing; since then it has declined. For our back-of-the-envelope guesstimates, let's just say before 2008 the yearly rate of visa overstays was well over 200,000, and since then less than 200,000. 

Out of nearly 200 million non-immigrant admissions a year, less than 200K would be roughly around one tenth of one percent.

For Alfonso Chardy and the Miami Herald headline writers, this makes visa overstays "common."

But would the Miami Herald write that crime is "common" in the United States, with about 10 million a year, according to government statistics? That works out to one crime for every 25 adults, not one out of 1000 visitors, as in the case of Visa overstayers.

Would the Herald say crimes of violence are "common," since there are more than a million each year, but only a couple of hundred thousand (give or take) visa overstayers?

Or what about rape? There were 173,000 victims of rape in 2013 according to a Department of Justice survey cited by Wikipedia, a victimization rate of 0.1% of the population that is 12 years of age or older. This is roughly the same as our back-of-the-envelope number for visa overstays that year. And if you focus on only the number of rapes committed by males between the ages of 15 and 50, the rate would quadruple or more.

Can the Miami Herald point to an item it has published where a case of an individual sexual assault was used to publish a headline about how rapists are "common" among men living in the United States, just as it says that "Visa overstays are common among foreign nationals visiting the U.S."?

I think the Miami Herald has just shown us once more that it is a despicable racist rag suitable for wrapping fish or --in the case of an extreme shortage of toilet paper-- perhaps one other use. But toilet paper shortage or not, it's still full of shit.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

The Perfect Dictatorship

In his speech accepting the Nobel prize for literature, Gabriel García Márquez noted that while most of the world imagined that he had invented so-called "magical realism," in fact, he had only copied what had been the way Latin America had lived been presented in literature for centuries.

A week ago I saw a movie that was much less ambitious. It only copies from Mexico's history in the last fifteen --not five hundred-- years to spin the yarn of how an incompetent, murderous and ultra-corrupt state governor gets sold as the country's savior and winds up as the next president.

The movie, The Perfect Dictatorship, shook Mexico's political and media elite last fall to become the country's top box office draw for the year. Inspired by (but perhaps it would be closer to the truth to say "plagiarizing") various more-than-surreal episodes in Mexico's recent history, it describes exactly what has happened in that country.

As someone who is at least superficially familiar with Mexico's recent political and media history, my reaction to the the film can only be described as ROTFLMAO.

Of course, for people who don't speak Spanish much of this will be lost, since the American English-language press refuses to cover México. The Mexican press is terrible, yes, but Mexico has an intense social media culture (which is reflected in the film) and also a unique tradition of popular topical songs, called "corridos." Right now on YouTube you can find literally dozens if not hundreds of these songs about Chapo Guzman's escape from prison, with the most popular having 2.8 million views.

The film revolves around the tv network, Televisión Mexicana, an onion-skin-thin disguise for Televisa. How thin? Well, Televisa's nightly newscast for decades was called "24 hours." The fictional network's is called "24 hours in 30 minutes."

Each and every absurdity in the film's twisted plot is drawn from actual events -- including the climactic live coverage of the "rescue" of kidnapped 5-year-old twins, who in fact had been returned to their family a day or two before, and is staged solely for the benefit of the cameras.

This obviously satirized Televisa's #2 anchor Carlos Loret de Mola who, giving himself the benefit of the doubt, says he was hoodwinked into broadcasting live the supposed rescue of three kidnapped hostages, and the capture of French Citizen Florence Cassez and others in what was, in fact, scripted cop theater.

Cassez revealed the fraud during a live TV show, and soon the government was forced to confess. This clip shows anchor Carlos Loret de Mola claiming he didn't know, and then a long interview by Carmen Aristegui with the journalist who at the time was the news director of Loret de Mola's show. He says that it was obvious from the control room that this was all staged. After all, the cops had a false start, were quickly pulled back to their starting positions, and only moved when the cue from the broadcast's director was relayed to them.

The Cassez case caused a major diplomatic blow-up with France, and although initially found guilty of being part of a kidnapping ring, the Mexican Supreme Court eventually ordered she be freed due to multiple violations of her due process rights.

Even the linchpin of the film's final act -- the (old) President saying "I am not the lady of the house" in response to questions about how a new economic adjustment package raising the prices of basic necessities would impact an average family, is literally a word-for-word quote from the current president, Enrique Peña Nieto, who said it during a radio interview where he couldn't even remember what the minimum wage was at the time nor the price of tortillas or meat.

Indeed, the picture starts with the disclaimer, "In this story, all the names are fictional. The events are suspiciously real. Any likeness or similarity to reality is not merely a coincidence."

But even if you know nothing about Mexico's memes, trending topics and viral videos of the last few years, it is an entirely enjoyable and rollicking albeit very dark comedy. Just remember every last detail --including the new President having been essentially created and imposed by a hegemonic TV empire and his marrying the network's top soap opera star-- is true.

If you ask, how can that be, just remember that Salvador Dalí once said, "There is no way I will ever return to Mexico. I can't stand a country that is more surrealist than my paintings."

I do not believe the film has been commercially distributed in theaters outside Mexico, as the distributor was to have been an affiliate of the Televisa TV empire that took on the project after reading the shooting script but dumped it after seeing the rough cut. Inside the country it was the production company itself that became the distributor with the help of an indie distributor.

Of course only cynics (and those who have seen the movie) would say Televisa's commitment to distribute the film was made precisely to pull the rug from underneath the project once it was ready.

In the U.S., the debut finally came via Netflix streaming on June 1, and you can pick the dubbed-to-English or English subtitled version if you don't speak Spanish. In keeping with the film's surrealist character, I guess, the two translations --verbal and written-- aren't coordinated, so while on the screen a good is threatening to "really scare you" (in one place) or "Kill you" (in another) but in the subtitles it's "fuck you."

As far as I can tell, the Blu Ray and DVD versions are all imported from Mexico, and I don't believe they have the English dub or subtitles due to the movie monopoly mafia's anti-consumer "copyright" rules that usually won't allow both English and Spanish versions of a film on the same disks.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Did Donald Trump just blow up his campaign by sliming John McCain?

"He's not a war hero. He's a war hero because he was captured," the bigwig multi-millionaire said. "I like people who weren't captured." He also branded the Arizona Senator a "loser" for his 2008 presidential campaign.

While I don't view raining down death and destruction on civilians as being particularly heroic, the aviators who were shot down over North Vietnam yet survived and were captured were the main people sold to the public as "heroes" following the humiliating American defeat in the Vietnam War.

By attacking McCain, I think Trump just stepped on a land mine. With a handful of exceptions, Republican Party apparatchiks, politicians, columnists, commentators and TV talking heads have been pulling their hair out over Trump's hijacking of the campaign.

And now "the Donald" has just invited the entire world to go nuclear against him. Already most of the other Republican candidates have attacked him. The only one to have publicly demurred was Ted Cruz, who is angling to inherit the crazy vote.

Adding to Trump's vulnerability is that, like other sons of multi-millionaires born in the first years of the post WWII baby boom, he dodged the draft during the Vietnam War first with a student deferment and then by buying himself a medically unfit draft status due to a supposed bone spur in one of his feet. This doctor-certified condition was so debilitating that Trump doesn't even remember which foot it was supposed to have affected.

McCain, on the other hand, volunteered for combat postings as a naval aviator, even though as the son and grandson of full (four star) admirals, the Navy's highest rank, we can assume if he had put in for some other assignment, the request would have been taken very seriously.

So here we have a New York loud-mouthed draft-dodging rich kid saying that the guy who volunteered to go and fight, who spent five and a half years as prisoner of war, who suffered especially harsh treatment because of his father's high rank in the military, and came out of the POW prison with permanent disabilities is a "loser" and "not a war hero."

I think the Republicans will have him so thoroughly roasted by tomorrow night that you can stick a fork in him and see that he is done. If they can't, it will be an unequivocal sign that the GOP is DOA for the 2016 presidential race. It will show that Trump is the albatross around the Republican's neck that seals their doom.

The Democrats will, of course, applaud (as faintly as possible) those Republicans who denounce Trump's insult against the national honor in  general and McCain in particular. And some, I assume, will even be sincere about it.

But none of them are about to do the slightest bit of the heavy lifting, as they will be too busy preparing for the right moment to pounce on the Republicans as a whole for having tolerated and encouraged the outrage of Trump's campaign for all this time.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

My sexist upbringing and the brutalization of a teenage girl

My very Cuban mother taught me that men who treat women like in this video --especially a much older, taller, bigger and stronger armed man dealing with a much smaller, weaker, unarmed, handcuffed and more vulnerable young woman-- should have their balls cut off and stuffed in their mouths before they are dumped into the Gulf Stream from Havana's Malecón to feed the sharks.

No, my Mom didn't put it quite that way. But she did teach her children, especially her boys, and very emphatically, that the worst kind of low-life scum in the entire universe was the male who would take advantage of his size, strength or social position to "abusar de una mujer." Which means, literally, to abuse a woman, to threaten or do violence onto her.

In the moral code I learned, it did not matter that the woman "provoked" the aggressor, that she "hit him first," nor anything else like that. The man who hit a woman was much less than a man, and therefore he should not be allowed to continue to live.

That may be why I seethe with rage when I see something like what is on this video.

"She was drunk" is no excuse for the brutalization -- on the contrary, what my mother would have said is that this girl being drunk was all the more reason for the male cop to have been more tolerant, more forgiving, more willing to allow her excesses and even drunken rage. Because she's just a kid and because especially because in that state, and already handcuffed, she could do him no harm. And even if by some freak accident she did succeed in striking him, the chivalrous gentleman takes the blow without wincing or complaint, otherwise, what kind of man is it that starts crying like a girl because another girl hit him?

She tried to kick him, yes, but it is obvious from the video he was entirely unharmed. With training in psychoanalysis, my mother might have said the blow was to masculinity, and so insecure and doubtful was he of his own masculinity that he savagely attacked a handcuffed teenage girl who was much smaller and weaker than he was as if that would prove the potency of his masculine virility -- instead of, as my mother inculcated in her kids, his abuse of the girl proving precisely the contrary.

But even if had have been hit, the code I was brought up with was: running the risk of being hit. or actually taking the blow under those circumstances, is the price of admission we men pay for the privilege of being considered "real men," and those who would respond with more than it would take to  simply fend off the blow, those who respond with a reprisal, show thereby that they are not real men.

I realize that there are all kinds of really fucked-up, gendered and misogynist sentiments and attitudes that were part of the way I was brought up. My outraged gut reaction to this video shows they still live inside me now.

But the fucking truth is that when I see a video like this, I can't help myself from seething with rage because someone who did this to a young woman
is still alive.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Lawyers and psychologist-torturers: the heart of darkness of this tale

I've just read the 72-page executive summary of the report from the Sidley Austin law firm on the American Psychological Association's complicity with the CIA and the Pentagon in carrying out torture and other crimes against humanity.

The report was written under the purview of David Hoffman, a hot shot Yale law school grad who clerked for Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist, served as a congressional staffer, was a high-ranking federal prosecutor in Illinois, and spent five years as Chicago's Inspector General.

Of Jewish and Puerto Rican descent, he ran for U.S. Senate as an anti-establishment "independent voice" a few years ago, but not even the bullshit factory formerly headed by Obama's David Axelrod was able to sell that one and Hoffman lost.

Hoffman's report, while thoroughly and systematically documenting the cynical and corrupt conspiracy by the association's leadership in enabling and covering up the participation of psychologists in torture and other crimes against humanity, can't even bring itself to call a criminal conspiracy by its right name, instead parsing the word "collusion" in the style of Bill Clinton explaining the different meanings of the word "is" during his Monica Lewinsky testimony.

And even while noting the clear evidence in the public domain and therefore before the association that the U.S. military and intelligence agencies were violating the Geneva Agreements, carrying out forced disappearances, torture and other war crimes, the report constructs an Eichmann-like defense, saying the group could not have really proved the suspicions it should have had, so it may not really be guilty of hiding its head in the sand.

The report even refuses to call torture by its right name, ridiculing the Bush Administrations' memos but pointedly refusing to accept how torture is defined by international law ... even as the report criticizes the APA's chief ethics officer's underhanded maneuvers to exclude any reference to the Geneva Agreements from the group's ethics policies.

You might say --as the report argues-- such characterizations go beyond the brief given to Hoffman and his accomplices. I disagree. Under these circumstances, a law firm charged with a full and impartial investigation that uncovers such facts and actions is duty bound to call things by their right names.

They are not the defense attorneys for the APA but have been (supposedly) explicitly tasked with only one responsibility: to investigate and report the truth. That means calling things by their right names.

And the truth is that here you have shameless violations of the laws of war, forced disappearances, torture, research on human subjects without their consent including by applying such tactics of terror as to break them utterly.

And these are not just crimes against humanity, but crimes  by a state, carried out with the guarantee of total and complete impunity that these little Eichmanns believe government sponsorship gives them.

Given the facts in the report, to temporize, equivocate, play games like, "on the one hand, on the other," and obfuscate with dictionary defintions is to become an accomplice after the fact.

I believe there is one more way that the Sidley law firm has failed to live up to its duty, in this case, to its direct client, the American Psychological Association. I think given the facts it uncovered, the firm was duty bound to violate the terms of its engagement which said it should not draw conclusions for the APA about what it found and tell the group what it should do.

I think the investigators had an inescapable ethical responsibility to tell the APA that it must disband.

Violating the explicit charge of a client is such a serious breach of a client's trust in a case like this that I can think of only one circumstance where it is called for. And that is when the investigator discovers that the client that hired them, seemingly in good faith to simply find out the facts, cannot be trusted to draw the inescapable conclusions that flow from those facts.

And that is conclusion is that behind the duplicity, committee-stacking, nepotism, manipulation, bad faith and corruption documented by the report, there is a central, inescapable conflict of interest.

The APA tries to represent both those practitioners who seek to use their scientific knowledge to help their clients as well as those practitioners who use their training for other purposes, including hurting the interests, well-being, health and even sanity of the individuals who are the objects of their professional attention.

There should not --must not-- be a common professional association for those two groups of people because there cannot be a common code of ethics between practitioners of a healing art who seek to help their patients, and those who have other purposes, especially helping the tormentors of those the healer would be helping.

What the Sidley law firm found was that the motivation of the APA leadership was to promote "the profession," and especially protect and expand the role of psychologists in Washington's military and intelligence apparatus, i.e., in waging war.

The fundamental corruption is that they did that in an association that projects itself as having the ultimate aim of helping people, rather than killing them.

The horror is not the monstrous criminality of the APA's leaders, but the very pedestrian venality that made it possible -- and that also led to the emasculation of the report we have before us.

That is the heart of darkness of this tale.