Tuesday, July 26, 2005

So far to the right, almost left...

I am currently interning with the ACLU's Immigrant Rights' Project in Oakland and my main work has been to produce some primary information on the vigilantes/minuteman projects and other anti-immigrant groups. So far, this has consisted of producing a timeline of events hosted and incidents of abuse perpetrated by these groups. I am also producing a family tree of sorts that maps out the membership of these groups to demonstrate the overlapping membership between groups.

Throughout my internet travels in conducting this research, I was sort of shocked by how much anti-Bush and anti-Corporate sentiments were posted. I half expected them to be ardent Bush/Cheney supports. Very few of the sites actually supported the administration; most called Bush an immigrant lovin' puppet of the Mexican dictator (I don't know how they get these ideas) or other names of the sort. If you thought Bush's guest worker programs were sucky, well these anti-immigrant groups believe guest worker programs to be synonymous with handouts to the poor. On the surface one might suspect that lefty progressives and these anti-immigrant groups actually share some common enemy, big corporations. Many anti-immigrant groups have begun to target corporations like Home Depot who hire undocumented immigrants. The difference between lefty progressives and the anti-immigrant groups is that one is based upon racism, xenophobia, and paranoia; while the other is motivated by the corporate impunity from damages done to society and the environment.

It is very troubling that the Bush regime is not the ultra-right. One thing that was served more than anything else to shift politics in this country seems to be 9-11. I'm not one for the, "this will change everything" line but for somethings it has. It seems that liberalism has been supplanted by security as a driving political philosophy. A political lighthouse of this sort is destined to retreat into groupisms and other sub-national factions. In this way, homeland security has been as much about Race as it has been about terrorism. It seems that the security narrative of the Dept. of Homeland Security has done more to help construct the idea of 'Racial Threat' and 'Dangerous Classes' than the 'War on Drugs' did in several decades (needless to say the War on Terror has been good for the Prison-Industrial-Complex).

The new security narrative espouses an enemy-within philosphy of social policy. This basically means that good Americans will support the weeding out of the 'bad' from the 'decent and true' elements in society. The racialization of security then justifies racial profiling, internment, while criminalizing the behavior of those 'indecent and false' elements, and last but not least making certain classes ineligibile for public benefits. All the while funneling more money into the other Corporate conglomerate, the Military-Industrial-Complex.

The danger for immigration policy is that (mega)-ultra-rightwing legislative proposals like Rep. Tancredo (R-CO) will make (regular)-rightwing legislative proposals like the McCain (R-AZ)/Kennedy (D-MA) bill seem like a good deal. There are so many hostile ideas floating around congress right now like stronger deportation measures, increasing immigration enforcement agents by the thousands, and stronger sentencing requirements that it might be safer to simply try to block any immigration laws from being past for fear of getting a worse deal from a bad law by way of amendments. Hopefully, Sheila Jackson-Lee's (D-TX) bill will enter the spot-light to show that immigration policy does not have to be led by security and that security does not have to be led by prejudice.

Monday, July 18, 2005

for C.S. Carrier

bake me a face, California.
it says don't let the grass overgrow and nourish the native dance.
crash your ingredients with bricks and cactus flesh skins.
why bruise a heel when Sacramento cuts branches?
your ambient touch sound is viscous air.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Property Accumulation

The sage worlds of my man Meth, "Ain't nothin move but da money," applies to the consolidation of property rights and rent collecting capability of corporations. The Wall Street Journal noted that the globalization of real-estate markets has remained a strong market for corporate investments. According to Ryan Chittum, "investors are diversifying the geographic concentration of their real estate portfolios." In fact this doesn't sound all that different from a colonial logic of expansion. As more countries pass legislation that opens real estate markets to foreign owners to welcome precious corporate investment, the ownership of land and the distribution of property rights becomes more concentrated in the hands and interests of the few.

As the gap between rich and poor accelerates, fewer people can afford to own land. This means that the wealth created by the ownership of the property rights does not stay where the property is but where the owner's bank account is. This will ensure that future wealth produced on that land will not belong to the region but to the owners of said property. The national accounts for economic activity will register the productivity but the actual profit of the property will reside elsewhere. This will create greater mystery about how economic projects will benefit localities; that is to say a false picture of wealth creation for regions with high foreign property owners will likely deceive its residents with high performance.

I am also concerned about the implications that this trend has for the future troubles created by global climate change. When climates change and local conditions become more uncertain, the diversification of real estate portfolios will put corporate capital at a better position to adapt to these changes. Meanwhile the majority of landless people on the planet will increasingly have to comply with the conditions set by corporate property owners. This trend demonstrates a slipping grip of the sovereignty of nation-states. Society will increasingly rely upon the capital networks, security, and deals that corporations are willing to make to the public (at decent profit, no doubt). With increased climate change there maybe increased demands for environmental services such as plant relocation, flood and landslide prevention, drought relief, security from hurricanes, and creating fresh water. Corporations will be in a good position to capitalize on these demands. Doing so will allow corporate interest to set the conditions for compensation and do so while holding our health, safety, and security out in front of us like a carrot for a hungery pack animal.
As this graph from the Global Footprint Network demonstrates, we have been above the Earth's carrying capacity for some time. We are essentially living upon borrowed ecological capital from future generations. The consolidation of property rights under the globalization of real estate makes the management of land a less democratic process and puts land management decisions in the hands of people that are most insulated from the negative effects of global climate change. The people most likely to be negatively impacted by global climate change are those with the least resources to cope with the process of adaptation; the poor, undocumented, and dispossesed. That is mostly people of color. The corporate consolidation of property rights around the globe is an environmental justice issue now that can be discouraged by striking down legislation that de-regulates the sale of property rights to foreign corporate bodies. Instead, redistributing property rights to domestic workers and connecting thier economic well-being to the maintanence of the value of the property rights would not only establish localized management of land but also make those workers less susceptable to the negative changes of climate change by lifting them out of poverty.

Saturday, July 16, 2005


Why have people not learned the lessons of NAFTA, its been a decade of the same old economic rhetoric and promise just over the horizon. CAFTA, the Centeral American (CA) version of the 1994 "free" trade agreement, is being advertised as the same panecea for economic and political woes. Here in the Wall Street Journal from Friday (15th) Mary Anastasia O'Grady writes,

"Th[e] hunger for goods from the outside (CA) illustrates the most important role of CAFTA for develeoping CA, and it is not access to US markets for CAFTA exporters. The treaty's main contribution to regional development is that it will help Centrals gain access to imports, thereby raising living standards and increasing the competitiveness of CA economies."

The US is currently in one of the largest trade deficits in decades, meaning that we have consumed more things from abroad than we have sold to other countries. This has been largely due to the behavior of footloose corporations who seek cheaper production conditions in the global south. However, domestic producers here in the States are begining to learn how to tap into the undocumented labor pool and lower thier labor costs. The delays in immigration reform are probably not due to the lack of political movement but the unwillingness to do anything that might jeopardize producer access to this secondary labor class. U.S. manufacturers face enormous economic pressure to become low cost producers. This trade agreement may be an effort to boost exports from this wave of production. CAFTA will not only allow US producers to sell goods to CA consumers made by the migrants, but the de-regulation that CAFTA will bring changes to thier labor markets causing further northern migration.
Bush visited North Carolina (NC) last week to pitch CAFTA to textile workers. A year ago NC exported $1.7 billion in textiles, most of which was exported to CA countries. Bush warned that if CAFTA did not go through this market would be lost to them. This productivity however is made possible by the huge influx of labor to that state. NC has seen more than a %500 increase in the foriegn born latino population there. If CAFTA is not passed then maybe Hondurans can make thier own shirts in Honduras and live normal lives. Don't get me wrong, I think migration is all good as long as it is a choice that is made out of freedom and not by deceptive policies that lead to economic desperation. Right now NC's representatives in congress are split on their support for the bill.
CAFTA is basically, promoted as a sort of "free market bliss" in which Central Americans who do end up staying home will end up being better off becasue they will have greater access to consumer goods. If well-being is defined by consumption then well yes of course they should consumer more, we should all consume more and increase our well-being, duh! What if well-being is not merely defined by material consumption of private goods but also the consumption and access to public goods; education, health care, healthy environments, and political equality. These things contribute much more to individual well-being more than material consumption can. So we all do indeed require a minimum amount of material consumption but basing continental trade policy upon such simplifications forces people to engage in the private markets in order to fulfill thier needs, while they watch thier wages fall in order to attract the corporate investors to thier country. These are contradictions that do not fall into the economic models of WSJ contributors or trade policy negotiators.
Luckily the unions all over the continent are intimately aware of CAFTAs potential impact. Costa Rica's labor unions have threatened violent uprisings if CAFTA is pushed through by thier President Pacheco. Costa Rica's heavy investments in public goods, wary acceptance of World Bank money, strong labor unions and cooperatives (worker owned enterprises) are what keeps Costa Rica slightly better off than its CA neighbors. CAFTA would effectively dismantle these social support structures and make domestic productivity more reliant upon corporate investment from abroad. In addition, Costa Rica's nationl debt is not as high a percentage of its national productivity as it is for other countries. For other countries a major percentage of the money collected as taxes goes to paying just the interet on debt from international financial institutions. Breaks are given to these countries for paying back this money when they participate in the world economy through trade agreements and allow foreign companies to setup shop on thier soil and use thier labor. Trade negotiators from these countries are always under debt pressure to participate in international trade agreements. The map below shows the amount of debt each country has accumulated in the time between 1991-2000. Check out the link to the site for this map by clicking on the title of this entry.
We still have a chance to shoot down CAFTA here before Bush gets his chance to impose it on our friends in CA. The trade agreement passed in the Senate in the closest vote on a trade bill in 40 years, 54 to 45 votes. It still has to pass the House and 190 democrats of 202 are likely to oppose it. Use this link to find your Representative ( http://www.house.gov/ ) and tell them that you do not support this trade agreement.