Political Flavors

The Washington Post Quotes Me On Elizabeth Warren

Posted in Links, Site News on June 9th, 2012

Just wanted to share this link right now, I have a lot more to say about Netroots Nation and race, even as it pertains to Elizabeth Warren. But I’m glad the reporter got the gist of what I said, even though I wish she would have done some research to confirm what I was referring to about Native Americans.

Elizabeth Warren to ‘Romney-Brown Republicans’: ‘We don’t run this country for corporations’

Nassau Democrats Celebrate Poetic Victory

Posted in Editorials on November 10th, 2011

Tuesday night Carrie Solages was all smiles at the Nassau County Democratic Headquarters Victory Party. As he thanked his supporters and family, he was exuberant and gracious. And he had every right to be. He had done something that Nassau Democrats had been trying to do for years with little luck – he unseated 16 year incumbent Republican Legislator John Ciotti, and as a person familiar with the history of the district, believe me when I say it was a truly Sisyphean victory.

The district is majority Democratic, but John Ciotti is popular in the community and for various reasons Democratic voters do not turn in as high numbers as Republicans do in the odd year elections when the county legislators are elected. However, there is more at play than a simple lack of enthusiasm. The Nassau County Republicans are notorious for their intimidation of Democratic voters, especially people of color, as I have written about previously. The difference is that this year, Solages campaign was able to capture this intimidation and racism on film.

Solages win is symbolic of so many things – a grassroots victory over an entrenched political machine, the power of the internet and ubiquity of digital cameras to influence a large number of people quickly, a community standing up and fighting back against racism, and also proof that sometimes – the good guy does win. Sometimes, justice is served, and the person standing up to the bully doesn’t get trampled, but is the triumphant hero. And this year, it wasn’t merely a dream, or an inspirational story liberals tell themselves to keep their spirits high, it came true right here on Long Island.

The final lesson to learn in this happy chapter of the 2011 elections, is that the Nassau County Republicans are not unaware of how and why they lost this seat. Tuesday night, two candidates who won reelection spoke of their unwavering support for John Ciotti.

Other Republicans stood up for Ciotti even as the numbers looked grim “Ciotti ran a great race,” said fellow North Valley Streamer and Town of Hempstead Councilman Ed Ambrosino. “I don’t care what it says up here, John Ciotti is a winner each and every day.”

“John Ciotti is a man of tremendous integrity, of tremendous character,” said Nassau County Legislator Fran Becker.

What fascinates me about these quotes is that they were uttered at the exact moment they will have maximum impact in both raining on Carrie Solages victory and minimizing the damage to their own reputations. In two years, no one will remember John Ciotti’s racist tactics and so statements supporting him will be meaningless as ammunition for challengers. There will be no consequences for absurdity of these statements. That they were made at a time when they cannot be held accountable for them shows a shrewd calculation, that they are aware of the power of their words. Ambrosino and Becker did not say these things two weeks ago when Ciotti’s campaign was going down in flames, because outright support for racist and intimidating tactics would have hurt their own electoral chances. By waiting until after the polls have closed on election night proves they know it, and this is important to remember. Future dirty tricks may be more subtle or not as cinematic, but still just as underhanded as what happened in front of Solages’ campaign office this October.

Racism and Intimidation In Nassau County – An Ugly History

Posted in Editorials on October 20th, 2011

Two years ago, I posted a diary over at Feministing about why I disagree with people who claim that those of us who have respect for others regardless of race, gender or sexuality can be Republicans. The idea of the Republican “big tent” is easily disproved.

The video below and the campaign that followed were a lesson to me in Republican dirty tricks. It wasn’t that I hadn’t seen mud slinging before on Long Island. I had heard Republicans use racist code words about to discredit Democrats, especially candidates who were people of color – if a person was Black, they would talk about how “the neighborhood is changing” and if the candidate was Latin@, “immigration” would suddenly become the top priority for local government. But the summer of 2009 and the time I spent on Nina Petraro Bastardi’s campaign was when I realized how much their prejudice meant to Republicans and how far they were willing to take it. I watched as the Nassau County Republican Party lost all claim to plausible deniability with regards to their bigotry. They really are burning with hatred. Listen to this man’s voice.

It doesn’t stop with screaming. One of the reasons that Ms Petraro Bastardi became a Democrat was because of explicitly racist voter suppression tactics used by the Republican party:

Nassau County Republican Board of Elections Commissioner John A. DeGrace [attempted] to reproduce and mail the bogus ACORN letter to newly registered African-American voters in the Hempstead-Uniondale district. The letter allegedly told the would-be voters not to go to the polls on Election Day, that their votes would be cast for their respective parties’ candidates.

Some blamed the outburst on anger that Ms Petraro Bastardi had left the Republican party. But this is just not true. Claims of intimidation have surfaced again, this time made by Carrie Solages, a local attorney who is running for the Nassau County Leigslature in the 3rd district against incumbent John Ciotti, the same contest Ms Petraro Bastardi attempted to win previously.

Does the man calling for “animal control” to come and take away the Black people look familiar?

John Ciotti denies that he knows Vinnie Prisco. But that’s patently false. In this followup video, it’s reported that Mr. Prisco’s mother said that he’s John Ciotti’s right hand man. In addition to the coverage by WPIX, ABC also gets the story right, putting it into context with past racism and voter suppression. NBC interviewed John Ciotti, and he insisted it was “an isolated incident” but the video from Nina Petraro Bastardi’s campaign announcement above, her statement, and statements from Patrick Nicolosi and others who have campaigned in Nassau prove otherwise.

Kudos to those who got the story right. It would be easy to let this devolve into a “he said/she said” story, but the evidence is clear – the actions of the Nassau County Republicans have been despicable and show a clear pattern of racism and voter intimidation. It’s time we started calling them out for it.

And if John Ciotti cares so much about justice, if he really was sickened by these events, then he should stop worrying about Vinny Prisco and start worrying about all of his other thugs. If Mr. Ciotti has seen the light, and really wants a fair election, then he should support Carrie Solages call for for Federal Election monitors on November 8th.

Cappie Pondexter Assures Us God Makes No Mistakes

Posted in Editorials on March 18th, 2011

Cappie Pondexter is an amazing basketball player. I cheer for her and Team USA during the Summer Olympics. She always had me on the edge of my seat when the Pheonix Mercury came to town – with Diana Taurasi and Penny Taylor she was part of a triple threat to my beloved New York Liberty. Last year, when she signed to play for the Liberty, I was excited. And she didn’t disappoint – averaging over 21 points per game it seemed at times she was carrying the whole team on her shoulders.

I follow a lot of the players in the league on Twitter. They’re very unfiltered and often interesting to read even when not tweeting about basketball. Pondexter’s tweets frequently mention God. However, I was not looking at my Twitter feed when she tweeted this in the wake of the horrific earthquake and tsunami in Japan:

So I think a lot rt! I knw it’s tragic n God makes no mistakes but what if japan was bout to do some bad things 2 another country?

u just never knw! They did pearl harbor so u can’t expect anything less

And then to a follower who was arguing with her:

r u jap?

There was a controversy on WNBA message boards almost immediately. Most condemning her for using a slur and saying something so ignorant. The media started to pay attention when she made a apologized, it was picked up by ESPN and The New York Times.

I wanna apologize to anyone I may hurt or offended during this tragic time. I didn’t realize that my words could be interpreted in the manner which they were. People that knw me would tell u 1st hand I’m a very spiritual person and believe that everything, even disasters happen 4 a reason and that God will shouldn’t be questioned but this is a very sensitive subject at a very tragic time and I shouldn’t even have given a reason for the choice of words I used.

I think it’s really awful that she would use an anti-Japanese slur, and it seems even worse at this time when so many Japanese people are in danger of losing their lives. Sportswriter Michelle Vopel explained the racism inherent in her comments and the irony of a Rutgers alum saying something so insensitive.

But I want to focus on something else in her tweet that the mainstream media – or at least ESPN, NYT, WNBA, etc seem to be ignoring. It’s what she said about “God makes no mistakes” and her insistence that everything that happens is caused by God, who has a reason, that we might not know or understand.

Why is it that when she says this about a devastating natural disaster that kills thousands of people, there is outrage, but when she (or anyone else) says that God caused something as trivial as the outcome of a basketball game (and she’s not the only one) why do people just nod and accept it without questioning? Because if God influences basketball games, then obviously God must also decide who gets struck with earthquakes.

And Cappie Pondexter herself is not consistent in her own beliefs. Before she issued her apology, she said:

So funny the moment something is taken totally out of context, taking negatively the whole world wanna retweet n talk! Let’s talk bout Taking action n donating money to help! Why we as people focus on the negative? I’m not a negative person by me stating my opinion That will never change! I pray for people countries everyday not just when something tragic happens!

So… the almighty God has decided to kill thousands of people in Japan with an earthquake, tsunami and debilitating nuclear radiation, and our first instinct should be to stay positive, take action, donate money to help and pray for them. That makes no sense. If she really believed that God was trying to torture the people of Japan to death, she would not want to help them. Why should she want to interfere with the will of God? And if it’s a good thing to help them, then why would she believe that God caused the earthquake in the first place.

Taken a step further, why should Pondexter even show up for practice? Won’t God decide who is going to win or lose anyway? How could her efforts possibly matter?

That no one in the media ever points this out is a shocking example of the privilege religious people, especially Christians have in the United States. As a former Catholic and current Unitarian Universalist, I had noticed this, but never to the extent I have the past few days.

This has made me reexamine something I hadn’t give much thought to. Lady Gaga’s current single, “Born This Way” is a celebration of humanity in all of our diverse ethnicities and sexualities. She sings the chorus:

I’m beautiful in my way
’cause god makes no mistakes
I’m on the right track baby
I was born this way

and I love it! It’s the deepest part of my philosophy that I have taken with me from Catholicism to Unitarian Universalism. We are all brothers and sisters. We all have inherent worth and dignity. And there are responsibilities – to God, to each other, to the universe that come with that.

But the same problem occurs. What about sociopaths? Or people with brain tumors that make them pedophiles? Or children born with birth defects so severe that they cannot live more than a few days? Are they mistakes?

When both Gaga and Pondexter assure me that “God makes no mistakes,” I have to wonder – does that mean anything at all?

How To Respond To Rush Limbaugh’s Racism?

Posted in Editorials on March 2nd, 2011

The New Black Woman wrote a post, asking, “Why are white feminists silent on Limbaugh’s attacks on FLOTUS?”

In case you haven’t heard, Rush Limbaugh called First Lady Michelle Obama fat.

I’m fairly new to blogging, and I didn’t write about it because while I think we do need to combat racist memes in the media, when I first heard about this I saw this more as juvenile name calling that blatant racism. After reading The New Black Woman’s post, I can acknowledge that this initial understanding was influenced heavily by White privilege – I assumed that any reasonable person would realize that Rush Limbaugh is a racist piece of garbage without the class that Michelle Obama has in her little finger. What I didn’t think about was how a Black person would see it differently. And I think that’s the heart of the reason that White feminists haven’t called him out for racism about this comment. It’s (wrongly) perceived more as spitballs than cannon fire.

I would agree that everything Rush Limbaugh says about the Obamas is tainted with racism, however subtle, and I have left it to organizations like Media Matters to shine the spotlight on his rancid pronouncements. They’ve called out these comments at least four times so far. Chris Matthews has also made an issue of this on Hardball.

I do not know what should be done about hate mongers like Rush Limbaugh. I dread the thought that ignoring him makes it look as if I agree with anything he has said. He has a huge amount of power and influence and I would be much harder to take down than say, Don Imus. I’m not sure how to go about any sort of activism in opposition to his vile rhetoric without rallying his supporters or wasting my efforts. Can his reputation be tarnished anymore that it is? He’s not exactly an uncontroversial figure.

These past few months, I’ve seen a lot of feminists using twitter as a way to spread awareness about issues. Sady Doyle started #mooreandme to bring attention to insensitive comments about rape victims by Michael Moore and Keith Olbermann, and #DearJohn to call out the Republicans for trying to take away access to reproductive healthcare. Amanda Marcotte started #ThanksPPFA to praise Planned Parenthood for giving women that care. Maybe there should be hash tag to call out Rush Limbaugh? Or to respond to racist attacks on Michelle Obama? On the Obamas in general? Racism in the media at large?

Letter Writing Sunday #2 – Move The Game

Posted in Editorials on January 9th, 2011

As a supporter of Civil Liberties, a baseball fan, and an American with Latino heritage, I am very interested in the controversy over this years Major League Baseball All Star Game. It’s scheduled to take place in Phoenix, Arizona. Activists opposed to Arizona’s immigration law which requires people to prove they are not “illegal immigrants” have called for a boycott of the state. Thus began “Move The Game” an organization dedicated to convince baseball Commissioner Bud Selig to move the All Star Game out of Arizona.

The intersection of sports and politics has always fascinated me. Desegregation, the Olympics, the growing popularity of women’s sports and other events show that what’s happening in the world is often reflected on the field. I outright reject any argument that a boycott of the ASG should it not be moved, or other political actions are illegitimate simply because they have to so with sports.

There is a precedent for Arizona and sports impacting the broader political discussion. In 1987, after the newly-elected governor rescinded the Martin Luther King holiday for Arizona, the NFL voted to move the Super Bowl from Arizona to the Rose Bowl in California. After Arizona voted to restore MLK day as a holiday, the NFL finally chose to host the Super Bowl in Phoenix.

I do not know if this movement will be successful, their web-page has not been updated since September. However, Spring Training is on the horizon (less than a month!) and I hope that more will be done.

I will be sending the following letter to Bud Selig, at his office address:
245 Park Avenue, 31st Floor
New York, NY Zip Code 10167

It is modified from the suggested letter on the Move the Game Website:

I have been a baseball fan since I was a little girl. My father taught me to play catch and all about the rules of baseball. It was one of the first things we bonded over and a love of the game is a special part of our relationship even now that I am an adult. He’s a proud American citizen, a veteran and also an immigrant. My dad came to this country as a child from Colombia.

I was shocked and angered when I heard that the state of Arizona passed SB 1070. I am opposed to racial profiling, especially that of American citizens like my father who, despite their service to our country might be singled out unfairly because of their appearance. It is for this reason that I fully support the Boycott Arizona movement and the Move the Game movement – to attempt to convince you, Mr. Commissioner to move the 2011 All Star Game anywhere outside of Arizona.

Arizona’s extreme immigration law is an invitation to racial profiling and harassment of Arizona residents and anybody who visits the state, including MLB players, an large number of whom are Latino or Black, their families and fans, an equally large number of whom are people of color and upstanding Americans.

Baseball is America’s National Pastime. It’s estimated the All-Star Game could bring as much as $60 million to the host region. Arizona doesn’t deserve to profit from discrimination and to host one of the great annual sporting events with your consent. Do what’s best for baseball and move the 2011 All-Star Game unless Arizona changes its harmful and hateful immigration law.

I have shared this letter on my blog, and via other social media on the internet and encouraged my friends, family and contacts to send you similar letters. I hope that we will convince you.

Are critics of Paterson racist? Are supporters blaming the victim?

Posted in Editorials on January 4th, 2011

One of former New York Governor Paterson’s last actions in office was to commute the sentence of John White. Mr. White, who is Black, was convicted of second-degree manslaughter and third-degree criminal possession of a weapon. White, 57, shot Daniel Cicciaro Jr. on Aug. 9 2006 when Cicciaro was part of an angry mob of white teenagers who came to his house threatening violence against is son, and some say his wife. There was a rumor that White’s son Aaron had threatened to rape a classmate, but this was untrue.

I believe that in all respects, the story is tragic. Cicciaro was only 17 years old and I cannot imagine what his death must have been like for his family. I have never met him but it makes me sad to think of anyone dying at such a young age. However, I believe that Governor Paterson’s decision was justified. Although I believe in the Unitarian Universalist Principle of the inherent worth and dignity of every person, I do not see what choice White had- at the moment that he pulled the trigger he was acting in self defense. If his story is true, and the gun accidentally discharged when Cicciaro tried to grab it, then there is no action on his part to criticize. No one is above the law, but the law cannot forsee each circumstance that may arise, and that is one of the many reasons pardons and commutations exist.

This sentiment is reflected in Paterson’s statement:

“On August 9, 2006, a young life was lost, beliefs were challenged, lives were ruined and a community became distraught,” Paterson said of the White case. “No one intended this, yet everyone suffered. … The action I am taking today is one of understanding, forgiveness and hope, which I believe are the essential components of justice.” Read the rest of this entry »