Friday, July 29, 2005

The factual problem with facts

From Washington's Voz
For some reason, probably due to the times we live, I have heard many times recently that one is entitled to his own opinion, but not her own facts. However, this seems to be a case in which repeating it doesn't make it true.

Just this past week the country has seen a few examples of people trying to create or hide facts in order to generate a suitable version of “reality” to justify their own opinions.

On Wednesday, President Bush went on prime time television to explain to the American people why Iraq is a disaster and what he plans to do to turn it around.

Not only he didn't do this, but he insisted on creating his own reality, in which Iraqis are still throwing flowers at us, and it's only our lack of faith what makes us delude into believing those are actually rocket propelled grenades.

It's now an established fact that Saddam Hussein didn't have anything to do with the terrorist attacks of September 11, but why should something as stubborn as a mere fact interfere with the ability of Mr. Bush to use 9/11 yet again to justify the unjustifiable? Bush went on to mention the 9/11 tragedy five times, and to alude to it many more times.

A similar situation is now happening with Social security. There are statistics out there and they show something. But those statistics become vastly irrelevant for the politicians that try to create a separate universe where things go their way without opposition, and reality conforms to our preconceptions.

Critics of any proposal always say the other side is distorting the facts. But that's impossible, because the facts are, per their very nature, no subject to being distorted. You can have an interpretation of the facts as misleading as you feel inclined, but you can't change the facts.

O so you would think.
The Labor Department decided to hide and if possible disappear a study that contradicted the foregoing conclussions of the Administration that the Central American countries were models of compliance with the International Labor Organization standards.

The researchers went there, checked the facts on the ground and concluded that if those countries were in compliance they did not want to visit those who weren't.

Solution from the Bush Administration? Declaring the report biased and inaccurate, taking it out of the public eye for as long as possible, and moving forward with their CAFTA agreement based on the continuous and significant improvements in labor standards made by the Central American nations.

Should we mention the fixing of intelligence and the Downing Street memo on this breath?

So, the Bush administration has decided that they know better about everything, and they also have the Terminator's approach to some things: “take them to the people” ... but process them first.

One wonders if they have told the International Labor Rights Fund what the conclusion of the study should have been, before they came with that “disappointing” report.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Patience, he asked

From the Washington's Voz, the bilingual newspaper of Washington DC Metro Area.

Judith Miller, the New York Times reporter who decided that principles were still worth going to jail for, was getting ready for her gourmet lunch in prison when President Bush urged Americans to be patient and “not to prejudge the outcome of the investigation based on media reports."

The president was referring to the investigation on the rol played by his top political advisor and, for many, the gray eminence behind Bush's political gains, Karl Rove, who sat quietly behind Mr. Bush as he spoke to reporters.

Sources have it that Rove is indeed involved in the leaking of the name of CIA agent Valerie Plame, in what was generally seen as political revenge against her husband, Joseph Wilson, who was a fierce critic of the Iraq war and wrote a column showing that the case for war was exaggerated.

Miller is in jail for not revealing her sources, regardless of the fact that she didn't even write a story, when she perceived she was been used to further the administration's purposes. Matt Cooper has testified in front of the Grand Jury and has pointed to Rove, who had previously told White House press secretary that he had nothing to do with the issue.

The president had promised to give a one way ticket out of Washington to whomever in his administration was linked to the leaking of Plame's name. (Now, of course, Rove didn't say her name. He only said 'Wilson's wife,' and since polygamy isn't a crime, it could have been anyone in Wilson's harem.)

But, as Republicans are saying, this is mere politics. So, since the President asked for patience, let's use our time as quiet Americans to recall some unrelated facts, while we wait for the outcome of the investigation.

Wilson said the case for war was exaggerated. Time has proven him sadly correct. There were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, no yellow cake being sold, no case for war. But Plame's career was over anyway. And latest numbers indicate that over 128,000 civilians have patiently died there, along with over 1,600 American soldiers. All of this in a supposedly altruistic quest to bring freedom of the press and the ability to preserve the confidentiality of the sources to Iraq.

That war in Iraq also would have helped fight terrorists there – yes, those terrorists that weren't there in the first place, but that the President, in absence of any other justification for an unjust and illegal war, keeps mentioning in the same sentence with September 11, 2001 – so we didn't have to fight them at home. I guess London is not home, is it?

Patience was dwindling when the pictures of more than 20 dead Iraqi children showed up on the screens. Probably the parents of those children do need some of that therapy Rove said liberals and Democrats wanted to provide for the September 11 attackers.

Rove is a man of action, not like those weak liberals that did not want to respond to the carnage of 9-11 with over two years of sustained carnage. And patience is required here too, since nobody knows when or how we may be able to extricate ourselves from that mess we created.

Who could teach us a thing or two about patience are the detainees in the Guantanamo prison camp. They have been there for two years now, many of them don't even know why, without access to lawyers, and without the quaint Geneva Conventions except “ where military necessity has allowed."

Patience, the President asked... and the public will quietly wait.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

The “ethnic media”

From the Washington's Voz, the bilingual newspaper in the DC Metropolitan Area.

Now they call us “ethnic media.” They see that “ethnic media” as a ray of hope for the resuscitation of a sharp eye in the so called mainstream Media, which seems to be taken hard blows from every direction.

They call us “ethnic media” and they don't realize what they are saying. Are the New York Times or the Washington Post “ethnic media?” Is so CNN?

As Washington's Voz was at the annual conference of the National Council of La Raza, in Philadelphia, where the leaders of the Hispanic community were connecting to find ways to become each time more integrated into the American society -from which we could only be isolated in an artificial manner.

Calling us “ethnic media” brings to bear a myriad of implications: somehow Hispanics, Corean, Chinese, African Americans are ethnic groups, but Anglo-Saxon – i.e. whites – are the norm, they are not an ethnic group; also, it seems that mainstream media is made only by Anglo-Saxons: no Hispanics, no blacks.

When at the conference we were all trying to find out what makes us all just one people, in this case, the American people, we keep seem intended and unintended efforts to divide us.

It's very interesting how Raúl Yzaguirre always had the clear vision that this is not a matter of having a “Latino” institution but an American institution, because that's what we are.

Probably they find calling us “ethnic media” a good thing, innocuous, and well intentioned. We should feel honored. Probably they don't realize the mental racism hidden on that term. From a mere anthropological perspective, it brings back the myth of the bom sauvage, he who is different – and to some such as the Minute Man, the sauvage pure and simple.

It's important to remember they back then assume that a different system was the lack of system, and that different values meant absence of values. Now, probably they intent to be nice, but we don't really need niceties. Thank you very much. It's the mainstream media who needs some help when with all those resources and power, have let the big story slip right out of their hands.

But since there are tons of latinos, blacks, Asians and some Martians making what they call the mainstream media we are just as guilty.

They don't even has the excuse that we “look” different, because we are so mixed and so diverse that we look like everything and anything.

It's about time to stop talking about the “Hispanic contributions” because that implies that something existed previously to what the Hispanics has contributed. But history tells us that, indeed, we were here from the start, and before, so there was no American culture previously to the Hispanic incidence, let alone the African American incidence.

The discourse of contributions to a preexistent entity is deferential towards that entity, and is patronizing at best. The new separation of “ethnic media” vs. “media” is a new way of dividing us, and extricating us from a place to where we just belong. We are not guests here. We are building this country as much as anyone else. We are just the Media, and we are just Americans.