Category Archives: History

Harris County Republican Commissioners Chicken Out on SB4 Lawsuit

As was expected, the Republicans on the Harris County Commissioner’s Court chickened out when Democrat Rodney Ellis made the motion for Harris County to join the SB4 lawsuit. So chicken were they–at the very least Judge Emmett and Pct. 2 Commissioner Jack Morman–that they wouldn’t even second Ellis’ motion so that a proper vote would be taken by the court.

A diverse set of leaders and advocates went before the court asking for the County to join the lawsuit against the legalized racial profiling law which would allow law enforcement to ask persons of their immigration status. Included in the list were State Senator Sylvia Garcia and State Representative Armando Walle.

As reported by the Texas Observer, it would seem to me that Emmett attempted to provide some political cover for his fellow Republicans.

“Don’t interpret, if we decide not to sue, that decision as an endorsement of SB 4,” he said after hearing the testimony, which lasted about 15 minutes.

“It is!” shouted someone in the audience. She called the commissioners  “cowards,” and promised that she and others would campaign against those who chose not to sue. Police officers escorted her out of the room.

Emmett said SB 4 goes too far in “interfering” with local government, but said that doesn’t mean the county should sue.

So, why not a vote? Admitting to overreach, yet chickening out, says a lot about the lack of leadership that exists in Harris County.

It’s just another way of saying, “We’re not racist, but…”

Anyway, who’s running against the judge and the Pct. 2 commish in 2018? At the very least, we need a good Democratic choice on the ballot, if not a well-funded one. The GOPers sell themselves to the highest bidders.

Democrats, though, seem to be leading the way in fighting SB4, along with various organizations. And as a likely bigoted and anti-education special session nears, at least one Democratic State Rep., Ramon Romero of Fort Worth, has  filed a bill to repeal SB4.

Hey, who knows? Perhaps the ghost of Texas’ Bigoted Past will visit a majority of the Republicans under the dome and they’ll vote for it.

UPDATE:  Kuff has more on the Republicans’ big miss on what might have been a profiile in courage. Morman’s excuse is pretty weak.

 

 

Advertisements

Is “Move to Center” Talk by Dems Code For Anti-Immigrant Talk?

An op-ed appeared in the NYT written by a Bill and Hillary Clinton pollster (Mark Penn and some other guy) calling for Democrats to move to the center because that’s when they were most successful, i.e., the Clinton years. Of course, they get really specific on the definition of “center”: Go to the right on immigration.

Specifically, it states the following:

Central to the Democrats’ diminishment has been their loss of support among working-class voters, who feel abandoned by the party’s shift away from moderate positions on trade and immigration, from backing police and tough anti-crime measures, from trying to restore manufacturing jobs. They saw the party being mired too often in political correctness, transgender bathroom issues and policies offering more help to undocumented immigrants than to the heartland.

The suggested immigration policy?

Washington should restore the sanctity of America’s borders, create a path to work permits and possibly citizenship, and give up on both building walls and defending sanctuary cities.

They blame so-called “identity politics” and then call on the Democrats to save  others who are hooked on opioids while calling for the ceasing of  pardons and early prison releases of black kids caught up in the US war on drugs.  And that Dems must also stop protecting brown people from deportation, thus, becoming “anti-sanctuary city” like the other guys.

Let’s be honest,  “working class,” is also code for  “white people in Wisconsin, Pennsylviania, and Michigan,” which are the states Clinton lost. So, kicking a group of people around is OK as long as Dems win? While they may consider it a path to victory, some Latinos will consider it a clear path out of the Party, or worse, away from their polling location.

Now, this may be one op-ed in a major newspaper by some high-paid consultant, but no doubt I’ve heard (and read on social media) the conversations by and about Dems needing to become more centrist ever since the big loss last November. “Change, or else!”, is the mantra. This op-ed, though, is the first time I’ve read something so specific. Otherwise, it’s been elected officials and activists on social media (still) whining about railing on Bernie, or on the “fringe,” which could be anything from Black Lives Matter, Immigration activists, and even “bathroom” policy protesters. (I miss the old days when Dems only hated the LaRouchies.)

This isn’t anything new, and I’ve certainly blogged about it many times over the last twelve years. For some reason, immigrants, and by default, Latinos in general, are usually the first groups with a boot placed on their necks in the name of “working class outreach.” I still recall an East Texas Dem Chair telling my client to “go against the illegals” to win the white vote (and probably his own vote). Is this making a comeback? Please, tell us now, instead of a few weeks before the 2018 election.

Obviously, conversations must be had about the Democratic message, perhaps also about candidate quality, and the stances Dems take on issues. There are smart ways to communicate with voters without being openly divisive. Thus far, these members of the consultant-class who wrote the op-ed aren’t very much into party unity, and much less into the defense of those who come under attack for political purposes by the other side. Dems need to be smarter than what these guys offer.

Something on which to keep an eye and ear open, for sure.

A Wall, A Fence: Hysteria and Hate Continue To Build It

H.R. 6061, the “Secure Fence Act of 2006“, was introduced on September 13, 2006. It passed through the U.S. House of Representatives on September 14, 2006 with a vote of 283–138.

On September 29, 2006, by a vote of 80–19 the U.S. Senate confirmed H.R. 6061 authorizing, and partially funding the “possible” construction of 700 miles (1,125 km) of physical fence/barriers along the border. The very broad support implied that many assurances were been made by the Administration — to the Democrats, Mexico, and the pro “Comprehensive immigration reform” minority within the GOP — that Homeland Security would proceed very cautiously. Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff, announced that an eight-month test of the virtual fence he favored would precede any construction of a physical barrier.

On October 26, 2006, President George W. Bush signed H.R. 6061 which was voted upon and passed by the 109th Congress of the United States.

borderbeachtjI remember that 80-19 vote. I remember Hillary Clinton being among the eighty. And Chuck Schumer. And other Democrats that were loved by many.

A decade later, over 5,000 souls have perished attempting to find new entry points, dying in treacherous terrain, hot deserts, and at the hands of smugglers. Humans who were just looking for something better than their US-tainted home countries offered.

Trump’s wall is nothing new, really. Much like the current fencing, it’s a symbol of fear, blame, and hate. Or, as the old white Democrat (men and women) who voted for Trump calls it, “economic anxiety.”

That Republicans propose this kind of hate is nothing new. REAL ID and HR4437 back in 2005-2006 were in direct response to Mexican and other Latino migrants. But why do Democrats go along with it?

More often that not, Democrats go along with this kind of hate because they fear getting ousted by the bigots in their districts and states. So many times, I’ve been criticized for writing about Democratic bigotry in the ranks of the party, and told that “we need to win re-election,” as if some fake majority will save us.

A decade later, Trump’s wall may get its beginnings. Ridding itself of the EPA, I doubt time will be wasted on environmental impact statements. Ridding itself of the parks service, I doubt there will be any talk about protecting some of the area’s furry residents. And, certainly, such a project will call for an increase in military (and militaristic–think #NoDAPL’s response) presence on the border.

One can argue waste and corruption, which will happen. But no one will listen. This has been a decade in the making. Politically, though, it shows why Democrats should never support anything like this. All one has to do is realize the intentions of such policies and a NO vote should be easy. Unless, they actually enjoy promoting hate, blame, and fear.

Still, I doubt Democrats will ever learn. What’s upsetting is that it’s usually on issues regarding migrants and Latinos.

 

 

No Vendidos in the Cabinet

8247534_f260I’m sorry, I think that was supposed to be “No Latinos in Trump’s Cabinet.”

Either way, the response to that would be, “GOOD!”

What good would a bunch of sell-outs do for Latinos?

Seriously, what would they do for DREAMers, the 11 million, for public education, for health care, women, LGBT, or the low-income elderly? They would be too busy proving how self-loathing and loyal they are to Trump. Let’s get real.

I swear, sometimes I think “professional” Latino groups like LULAC, NALEO, NCLR, and chambers of commerce are just in this game for free tickets to a White House dinner and a photo op. Of course, they’ll call it “advocacy,” right?

Oh, my, how will they get on a DC guest list, now?!?

These “pros” have this silly idea that an “X” in the Hispanic box on a federal form is the same as representation. It isn’t. Far from it. Especially in a Trump White House and Republican Congress. Especially if you have a legislative agenda.

There’ve been sell outs like Bush’s AG Al “Torture is Quaint” Gonzalez, or a Honduran nightmare of a Bush nominee Miguel Estrada for a federal court who wanted to do away with judicial review that were backed by some of these professional groups. And for what? Because they were labeled Latino? Because numbers were more important than policy and law? Yeah, that’s pretty much it. This isn’t advancement. It’s an insult to people’s intelligence.

Note to these corporate funded groups:  Don’t do us any favors.

 

RIP: Juan Gabriel

JUAN_GABRIEL_2014_Thumb

Alberto Aguilera Valadez “Juan Gabriel” (1950-2016)

“Mientras exista alguien que cante mis canciones, Juan Gabriel vivirá.”

Houston: Cesar Chavez Parade on 3/19/16

chavezparade

This is always a great event.

When Happy Holidays Wasn’t Offensive

mexmasWhen I was 19, I used to work for a company owned by a dude who was a Jehova’s Witness. Among his clients back in the early 90s were a major call center run by the state Republicans and one call center owned by a certain Bush consultant we all love to hate and blame. Now, I’m not sure the CEO voted or not as he was very conservative when it came to his religion. But he was a huge supporter of Republicans in one way or another. (I still remember the scowl on his face the day Ann Richards had her inaugural parade right outside 111 Congress and I had to control my huge smile as I delivered the company mail.)

During the Christmas holidays, he wouldn’t allow employees to have Christmas stuff decorating their desks because of his religion, and when we’d leave for the long holiday weekend which included Christmas, all we could say was “Have a nice holiday.” (We were instructed by our supervisors to ensure we didn’t offend him.)

So, when I hear Fox News and right-wingers and born-agains complaining about red cups and the War on Christmas, I always remember my old conservative boss whom I had no choice but to comply with. Luckily, I was a big liberal then and had no problem respecting his wishes and his religious freedom, while my co-workers complained in the breakroom.

Funny how the state Republican party and the big right-wing consultants who used his service never complained about him, but cause a huge ruckus about the “war” on Christmas that us lib’ruls are supposedly waging. And don’t get me started on the idiotic “politically incorrect” signage that some businesses put up, as if it makes them any more Christian or patriotic than anyone else.

Anyway, Happy Holidays, One and All!

RIP Sheriff Jose Serna, Zavala County

serna2Believe it or not, at one point in our state’s young history, there was a political revolution of sorts in South Texas. Yes, Mexican Americans were voting…a lot. They had a good reason to vote:  Candidates with which they could identify; a liberal political platform which served regular working people; and a collective hope to effect meaningful social change after years of what could only be described as an apartheid in our own country and state. And a lot of this happened in my hometown during the days of La Raza Unida Party, a political party fed up with the racist and elitist ways of the Democratic Party of the day.

sernacampIn 1972, my Uncle Jose Serna was elected the first Chicano Sheriff of Zavala County. Prior to that, he, along with his wife, Olivia, had organized farm and seasonal workers to stand up to employers for fair wages and better working conditions. They organized fellow Crystal Citians to demand their rights to vote, to get educated, and to have a prosperous life. Their daughter Diana, played a central role in the Crystal City school walkouts as one of the banned Chicana cheerleaders and student organizers. Later on, Olivia would be elected to the Crystal City City Council, then chosen by her peers to serve as Mayor, becoming the first woman in that role. All of this under the banner of La Raza Unida. After Tio Joe ended his terms as Sheriff and took a well-deserved break, he became interested again in 1988, and won again after a contentious Democratic Primary.   His calling was about more than protecting and serving, but about making sure his community’s needs were met.

Tio Joe passed away on November 17, 2015, after a short illness, having lived just short of 86 years. He was my mom, Flora’s,  brother. He leaves to celebrate his life his daughters Diana and Olivia, as well as sons Joe, Jr., Roberto, Jose, Jr., Mario Alberto, and Eduardo–all successful kids in their own right. Roberto and Eduardo continued the political legacy, Roberto as the District Attorney of the 293rd District and Eduardo as Zavala County Attorney; however, all have served their communities well in the fields of law, education, and business.

Of course, my memories began quite early as a five-year old kid who experienced his first political rallies at La Placita in the Mexico Chico neighborhood of Crystal City. My towering Uncle Joe was a commanding presence with his trademark mustache, western bow ties, and that shiny badge. He always gave me “deputy” badges to wear, which meant I had to be the Sheriff when I played cops and robbers with my friends. As a grown-up, I made several trips back to Cristal and I made sure to visit him. Our talks were about politics, especially in 2007, when we were both rooting for Hillary, although that young guy Obama probably had a good shot. We agreed that if Obama won, we’d support him and I’d send him stickers I’d procure from the local Party office.

If I sound like a little kid going through some hero worship it’s because I am. I grew up in a politically charged town that impacted Texas History so much, even Dolph Briscoe called us Little Havana. My parents instilled in me a love and drive for political involvement in a town where we had local heroes that went beyond the high school football field. It was a time of Chicano governance; it was something to continue striving for beyond Crystal City, too.

Lately, I’ve felt a bit disillusioned with politics. The ugly head of hate and fear seems to be growing–even among so-called Democrats–and now is the time for a new crop of heroes that will fight for what is right. Perhaps I’ll increase my involvement in things political, but one thing is for sure, my Uncle’s passing has been a reminder that the work is not done and that the struggle continues.

Jose Angel Gutierrez wrote in The Making of a Chicano Militant: After Judge Gutierrez swore in all of the newly elected Raza Unida officeholders who had swept out the bigoted incumbents, “I was presented with the keys to the office suite and with a can of Lysol by Sheriff Jose Serna, who stated in Spanish, ‘Go spray the county judge’s office, the commissioner’s courtroom, and the district judge’s courtroom to disinfect any redneck germs that may remain.'”

 

Review: Johnny Hernandez ~ The Cottonpicker-An Odyssey

I just got done reading the autobiography of Chicano music legend (and friend) Johnny Hernandez. Titled The Cottonpicker–An Odyssey, Hernandez takes us through various phases of his life:  The kid who worked the cotton fields and went through a racist school system that left him in need of a formal education; the young teen dropout (I prefer pushout) who struggled job to job with a young family; the vocalist of an up-and-coming Chicano music band that made it big nationally and internationally; the successes of his songwriting and La Familia with him at the mic; the trials and tribulations that brought an end to the “Little Joe, Johnny y La Familia” era of the band; and his struggles as a solo act and a person.

All of this, along with familiar stories of family love, personal struggles with drugs, alcohol, women, and business, and much more make for a book that was hard to put down. Add some personal successes in overcoming these struggles, and finding success in the radio business, and one can’t help but to feel good that Johnny is still around and thriving.

What was the toughest read was Johnny’s depictions of his struggles with his brother. Frankly, I would think this is the part that people wanted to read most because for the longest time, people were too willing to blame Johnny for the “Little Joe/Johnny” break up. Like most band stories, there is much more to the story, and perhaps some bitter pills that we as fans must swallow. It is definitely an entry into musician life that we never experience.

Of course, disturbing to me were the challenges Johnny faced as he attempted a solo career after La Familia. Being met with unhelpful promoters, producing and marketing his own albums, and trying to keep a band together aren’t necessarily new stories in music. They are part the overall story of what became of the Tejano market, where (in my opinion) big corporations exploited Tejano music, picked favorites, and left the industry in disarray once the cash wasn’t as lucrative. For Johnny, adding the 800 lb. gorilla that he was no longer a part of the premier TexMex band (La Familia), and one can only imagine Johnny’s struggles.

As a fan of Johnny’s for a long time, I followed his solo career. I also noticed his long absence after his “big break” when Capitol EMI signed him, and his next return with various self-produced albums. This book fills in a lot of those gaps that many fans will appreciate.

I’ll also say that Johnny putting his story in print isn’t only good for the fans, but it’s good for Chicano history. Seldom has the story of our culture and music been put in print, especially by the people that make the music. I hope this is the first of many more projects put out by some of our graying, yet continuing, Tejano titans. Great job, Johnny!

Buy Johnny’s book at CreateSpace today.

Saturday, 3/28/15 ~ Cesar Chavez Parade-Houston

I’ll be roaming around with my the DC-Cam, so if you’re around, let me take your pic! Congrats to Maria Jimenez on this great honor.

cesarparade