Ken Burns, PBS and the Latino Body at War

Professor Maggie Rivas-Rodríguez “is credited with igniting a grass-roots effort to pressure famed documentary filmmaker Ken Burns to include Latinos” in his upcoming documentary The War. See Guillermo Contreras’ article, “UT Professor Has a Way of Getting Nation’s Ear.”

Prof. Rivas-Rodríguez
has also been involved in the “US Latinos and Latinas and World War II” project at UT, Austin. This important project seeks to document the stories of Latina and Latino participation in the armed services.

Ken Burns, PBS and the Latino Body at War

Black Bodies and Unequal Justice in Jena, La.

“The tree was on the side of the campus that, by long-standing tradition, had always been claimed by white students, who make up more than 80 percent of the 460 students. But a few of the school’s 85 black students had decided to challenge the accepted state of things and asked school administrators whether they, too, could sit in the tree’s shade.”

That “black students” have to ask where they can sit for shade is disturbingly reminiscent of Jim Crow era racist practices and laws meant to deprive Blacks of their civil rights through institutional and quotidian obeisance to whites. Is deep south Louisiana still in the murky waters of uncivilized race-hatred? Yes.

” ‘Sit wherever you want,’ school officials told them. The next day, the nooses were hanging from the branches.”

And then a past of ignorance and racism emerged untouched by reason or state protection…

See Howard Witt’s story “Racial demons rear heads” in Chicago Tribune.

Black Bodies and Unequal Justice in Jena, La.

Chicana Civil Rights Leader Dolores Huerta Endorses Hillary Clinton

From Nuestra Voice:

May 18, 2007
Washington, DC- Hillary Clinton received today the endorsement of human rights leader and community activist Dolores Huerta, the co-founder and President Emeritus of the United Farm Workers of America. Huerta will serve as co-chair of the campaign’s Hispanic outreach efforts.

“Throughout her life Hillary has been a strong leader, working for issues that make a difference in every family’s life, like education, health care and good paying jobs,” said Huerta. “I believe she is the best qualified candidate and the one that’s ready to put our country back on track.”

Chicana Civil Rights Leader Dolores Huerta Endorses Hillary Clinton

LAPD and the May Day Police Riot

While most of the rallies held around the country in defense of immigrant rights were peaceful, the march in Los Angeles ended with police firing rubber bullets and using their batons against marchers.


LAPD Chief Reassigns Two Officials Over May Day Violence
By Duke Helfand and Andrew Blankstein
Los Angeles Times

Tuesday 08 May 2007
The pair directed the violent police response in MacArthur Park. An inquiry suggests tactical errors created problems.

Two high-ranking Los Angeles Police Department commanders were reassigned Monday for their role in overseeing the violent police response to last week’s MacArthur Park immigration rally.

Deputy Chief Cayler “Lee” Carter Jr., commanding officer of Operations Central Bureau, and Cmdr. Louis Gray, the No. 2 official in the bureau, were shifted from their command posts.

At the same time, a preliminary inquiry suggested that police had made a series of tactical errors in the incident, which injured at least 10 protesters and journalists, as well as seven police officers. Carter and Gray were the senior commanders in charge of policing the protest.

“We’re not going to shift responsibility down the chain of command,” Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said at a City Hall news conference that included LAPD Chief William J. Bratton and Police Commission President John Mack. “Accountability begins at the top. What happened on May 1st was wrong. We’re taking immediate action to address it.”

The action comes as officials attempt to quell outrage over videotaped images of LAPD officers swinging batons and firing nearly 150 “less-than-lethal” rounds at reporters and largely peaceful protesters last Tuesday.

The staffing shift was announced as LAPD officials were preparing a preliminary investigation into what went wrong at MacArthur Park. Sources close to the probe, who spoke on the condition that they not be named because it was an ongoing case, said investigators had broken down the incident into three distinct phases that occurred between 5:15 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.

Investigators now believe that LAPD commanders made significant errors at all stages of the MacArthur Park action that served to inflame tensions rather than ease them.

About 5:15 p.m., LAPD officers came under attack from a relatively small group of protesters just outside the park who threw plastic bottles and other objects in their direction.

LAPD policies call on officers to isolate troublemakers and get them away from the larger crowd.

But for reasons investigators still don’t understand, officers actually pushed the 30 to 40 agitators into the park, allowing them to mix with hundreds of marchers who were behaving peacefully, the sources said.

By about 6 p.m., commanders had decided to clear the park and surrounding area. The job was given to about 60 Metro Division officers, many of whom wore riot gear and were armed with shotguns that fired “less-than-lethal” rounds. Commanders directed an LAPD helicopter to issue a command in English – but not Spanish – for people to leave the area.

But investigators found major flaws in how the order was carried out. For one thing, the helicopter appeared to be hovering above the intersection of 7th and Alvarado streets at a relatively high altitude, the sources said. It was two blocks from the park, making it difficult for some in the crowd to hear the order, they said.

LAPD officials say commanders are told that crowd clearance orders should be given from the ground whenever possible – because helicopters can drown out the sounds and can confuse people on the ground. The LAPD had at least one sound truck that could have been used for such an order next to the park, the sources said. But for some reason, they said, the truck was not used.

The Metro officers then moved in a “V” formation from the southeast corner of the park. There too, errors reportedly occurred. LAPD sources said the preliminary investigation found that supervisors were too far away from the officers’ “skirmish line” and lost control of the operation, with some officers wandering off on their own.

Bratton downgraded Carter to the rank of commander and placed him on home assignment. The chief said he would announce Carter’s replacement at today’s Police Commission meeting.

Bratton also targeted Gray, who was the second in command at MacArthur Park and, according to a source, responsible for tactical decisions made at the scene. The 39-year department veteran was reassigned to the Office of Operations, but his new job had not been determined.

Bratton described the changes as “personnel actions” rather than disciplinary in nature. His actions drew praise from Mack and at least one march organizer.

Carter did not return phone calls seeking comment. Gray declined to comment when reached at his office.

Angelica Salas of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles called the swift reassignment of the two ranking command officers a good start but added that further reforms were needed to change the department’s culture.

“These quick, concrete steps are appreciated,” Salas said. “But the department also needs to look at its internal structure, its training, and how officers view and treat immigrants.”

But reassigning Carter and Gray rankled some of the LAPD’s 9,500 rank-and-file officers and the unions that represent them. Union officials have said that they believe that there has been a rush to judge officers before the facts are in. L.A. Police Protective League President Bob Baker questioned whether the officers involved had adequate training in the last year.

Both Villaraigosa and Mack sought to soften the blow by underscoring their support for officers on the street.

“This is not an indictment of the entire Police Department,” Mack said. “The overwhelming majority of the men and women within the department are dedicated, decent public servants who are out there every day. However, sometimes some of them don’t get it.”

The sources said that many questions remain unanswered as the preliminary investigation moves forward. For example, investigators are still trying to determine exactly how the decision to authorize officers to fire the “less-than-lethal” rounds was made. Moreover, they are trying to figure out why the LAPD seemed to ignore many of the rules for crowd control established after the 2000 Democratic National Convention, particularly regarding creating a “safe area” where the media could operate.

As LAPD investigators work to answer those questions, civil rights groups and political leaders are stepping up pressure to rein in the LAPD.

City Council President Eric Garcetti announced Monday that he was forming a special task force to monitor the progress of the investigation and provide an extra layer of oversight.

The task force will hear reports on the investigations pursued concurrently by the Police Department and the Office of the Inspector General.

It also will provide a forum at which members of the public can express their views and concerns on the confrontation and the investigations, and it will provide policy recommendations for future encounters involving the police, protesters and news media.

LAPD and the May Day Police Riot

Lou Dobbs on the "Infirm" Latino Body

Lou Dobbs’ source on Mexican immigration issues and the politics of scientific rigor (mortis).

From Southern Poverty Law Center:

Dobbs said he stands “100 percent behind” his show’s claim that there had been 7,000 new cases of leprosy in the United States over a recent three-year period, and he further suggested that an increase in leprosy was due in part to “unscreened illegal immigrants coming into this country.”

Dobbs’ endorsement of the claim came after CBS correspondent Lesley Stahl challenged the leprosy figure during a profile of Dobbs on “60 Minutes” this past Sunday. Stahl cited a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services document that reported 7,029 cases over the past 30 years — not three.

The dispute highlights the SPLC’s concern that Dobbs and some others in the media are regularly using discredited and inaccurate information about immigrants — material that often originates with far-right ideologues and organizations dominated by white supremacists and nativists.

Dobbs and CNN reporter Christine Romans said they had gotten the information from the late Madeleine Cosman, who was described by Romans as “a respected medical lawyer” – but who, in fact, was a woman who repeatedly ranted about Latino men raping boys, girls and nuns.

Lou Dobbs on the "Infirm" Latino Body

MacKinnon: ‘Women are not human’

The classic crump avatar of feminist overstatement Catharine MacKinnon, “tall, regal, and with a gift for precise talk,” is still missing the point after all these years… There was once a reason for holding “balance positions” to counter perceived and real political extremes within “the movement” but MacKinnon, like Andrea Dworkin and Pat Califa, championed an orthodoxy as vicious as the attacks against women they protested. So what has “the movement” taught them about the institutionalization of orthodoxies?

MacKinnon: ‘Women are not human’
Scholar/activist decries legal status of women

By Corydon Ireland
Harvard News Office

Women are not in charge. Worldwide, it is men — not their gender counterparts — who have power over families, clans, villages, cities, and nations.

That may not seem like a new message. But lawyer, feminist author, and international equal rights advocate Catharine A. MacKinnon gives it a new subtlety, adds legal context — and even includes a ray of hope.

MacKinnon, who once taught at Harvard Law School, is a professor of law at the University of Michigan and one of the most widely cited legal scholars in the English language. She visited the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study last week (April 19) to deliver the annual Maurine and Robert Rothschild Lecture: “Women’s Status, Men’s States.”

MacKinnon — tall, regal, and with a gift for precise talk — has star power, and drew 250 people to a jammed Radcliffe Gymnasium. Her specialty is “a scrutiny of power, and its unequal distribution,” said Nancy F. Cott, Carl and Lily Pforzheimer Foundation Director of the Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America and Harvard’s Jonathan Trumbull Professor of American History.

In the 1970s, MacKinnon, who has both a law degree and a doctorate in political science from Yale, successfully used federal Title VII law to argue that sexual harassment is sex discrimination, an interpretation that made her famous, and turned employment law on its ear.

In the 1980s, MacKinnon — who represented “Deep Throat” star Linda Lovelace (Linda Susan Boreman) — used civil rights law as an argument against pornography, inspiring strict new obscenity laws in Canada and a U.S. debate still alive today. (MacKinnon’s unyielding stand that pornography is a form of sex discrimination earned her the enmity of many censorship critics as well as a coterie of self-described “sex-positive feminists.”)

In the 1990s, she started legal work on behalf of international clients, including Bosnian and Croatian women who had been systematically raped during wartime by Serb forces. The resulting U.S. court case in 2000 won a $745 million settlement for the women, and was the first to recognize rape as an act of genocide.

At Radcliffe, MacKinnon could just as well have called her lecture “Are Women Human?” That’s the provocative title of her latest book, a collection of essays published last year by The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.

In case you wondered, the answer to that question is no — perhaps to be expected in a book that includes an essay titled “Rape as Nationbuilding.”

In legal terms, women are not human, according to MacKinnon, who discovered that fact while parsing the language of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The 1948 United Nations document defines what a human is, and what people are universally entitled to — but fails to explicitly recognize women, and their “full human status in social reality,” said MacKinnon.

Being human first requires being “real to power,” she said, and women are not. While most states explicitly guarantee women sexual equality, the reality — filtered through cultural norms — is often quite different. Women have status, but not a real place in statehood.

Why? “The state is of and by men and usually for them,” said MacKinnon. “Gender inequality is a global system.”

In turn, male-centered states dominate civil society, including life at home. “The deepest, darkest recesses of the private is where women are injured the most,” said MacKinnon. Home is on the other side of a “public-private line” beyond which nations are unwilling to impose the force of law.

This public-private line also divides one state from another, making it unlikely that one entity will sue or challenge another over violations against women.

Even the formal international protocol to protect women — the 2000 Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women — is flawed, said MacKinnon. Unlike international protocols that ban torture and racial discrimination, it includes no provision for one state to sue another over violations.

To counter all this, women are increasingly working “from the bottom up” to challenge gender dominance, she said — including the establishment of their own international nongovernmental organizations. (MacKinnon works for one, Equality Now.)

She called international groups and related gatherings in the past three decades the “authentic locale” in the fight for international rights for women.

But at the same time, MacKinnon said her conception of maleness “is not an epithet, nor is it about some form of political correctness and name-calling.”

“Not everything men do is male,” she said, that is, “marked by their dominance of the other sex.”

Despite the reality of male-dominated political structures — and here’s the ray of hope — there are signs that international law is addressing women’s issues in serious ways, said MacKinnon. “I see a new model of human rights in the making.”

One sign was her 2000 lawsuit Kadic v. Karadzic, where a New York City jury awarded damages to women for crimes committed in another country — “a signal victory on the jurisdictional front,” said MacKinnon.

Meanwhile, a few nations seem to be making headway in protections of women’s rights, including Canada, Sweden, and South Africa, she said.

And regions, too. MacKinnon cited two recent protocols: The Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment and Eradication of Violence Against Women (2001), and the African Protocol on the Rights of Women (2003).

“Sex equality is moving towards a pre-emptory norm,” said MacKinnon, and perhaps even toward the idea that violence against women is “a violation of international law.”

But along with what she calls these “moments of motion and signal flares of hope,” MacKinnon sees signs that women continue to have secondary status in nearly every culture. In the United States, abuse is one sign, she said: Three thousand women a year are murdered by male intimates — as many as those killed in the Sept. 11 attacks.

MacKinnon said a comparison to the terror attacks is apt, since abusers, like terrorists, are “nonstate actors” outside the control of conventional states.

Widespread abuse of women, in fact, “is a war already,” she said.

“I’m not in love with what they’re doing in Iraq,” said MacKinnon, spinning her war analogy further. “But it’s what men being serious looks like. When are they going to get serious about us?”

MacKinnon: ‘Women are not human’