Monthly Archives: January 2017

8 posts

Opposition Needs a Bigger Boat

Scene from the movie ‘Jaws’ in which it’s clear the ‘opposition’ boat is too small for bagging the shark. /Universal Pictures

The opposition to the Trump administration is going to need a bigger boat. In fact, it’s going to need more than one boat.

It should be clear by now that the old order – whatever that was – is being washed away in a torrential tide of presidential actions – border security and immigration, Obamacare, ethics, sanctuary cities, environmental reviews, Keystone and Dakota pipelines, and much more.

No matter if you are pro or con, understand that the pace of the executive orders is no accident. It is a deliberate attempt to overwhelm the country in order to (a) please supporters and (b) swamp the opposition so they can barely keep up.

More than One Boat

The times require a multi-pronged approach, a real attention to detail and lots of follow up. Street demonstrations are a vital and valid manifestation of opposition. It’s your right. People need to “see” opposition because people believe what they see, creating a wave effect. That’s what we saw with the airport demonstrations.

But that’s not all.

Opposition also requires people to be in the sea weeds of policy, in the words and the actions of orders and proposed legislation. That’s what we saw with the American Civil Liberties Union, which challenged the immigration move in court. Some people may be more comfortable on the street than in the backroom. But both are needed on a large scale.

More than one boat is needed, to borrow a well-known line from the movie Jaws. The great, big shark is not going to fit in one boat.

Federal Agencies Become ‘Fly-Overs’

The Trump administration is engaged in a frontal attack on the Washington bureaucracy as much as it is undoing specific policies. The Trump folks are not engaging the federal agencies, creating a sea of chaos. Under Trump, the federal agencies have become “flyover country,” an area to be look down upon but not a place to land.

The Democrats don’t know how to respond, except in the way they always do – with House and Senate minority leader polite press conferences and talking points. This will not do.

Shadow Government

The British model of forming a shadow government may be a better strategy to emulate. Designate representatives or senators who will “shadow” a particular policy area, such as health care, education, environment, justice and civil rights, agriculture, etc. And go to it. Hook, line and sinker.

Hinterlands and Swamplands

The Democratic Party also needs to go on a reconnaissance mission: Visit the hinterlands and swamplands and stay out there as long as possible. Listen to how local people and organizations are mobilizing. Watch and observe. Ask questions.

It’s not a mistake that Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez (D) was on her home turf of New York and able to respond to the airport detainees. (Worth noting:  Velázquez and Anthony Romero of the ACLU are Puerto Ricans.)

That may have been a fluke. The Democrats have no idea what’s happening out here. And it’s clear they have no answers. At this point, they have nothing to lose – they’ve lost it all – and everything to gain.

˜˜Maria Padilla, Editor

Elections Officials Strike Back at Trump

Trump’s allegations of voter fraud could lead people to lose confidence in the electoral process.

President Trump continues to make unsubstantiated claims of massive voter fraud during the 2016 presidential elections, this time calling for a major federal investigation into what most experts say is a nonexistent problem.

Trump lost the popular vote by nearly 3 million to Hillary Clinton, the highest for any presidential candidate, but he won the Electoral College vote by a narrow margin.

If left unchecked, Trump’s allegations could undermine the nation’s electoral system as voters lose confidence in the voting process. In addition, it could prompt unnecessary actions, such as a repeal of motor voter laws that make it easier to register to vote and to unreasonable voter ID requirements. These and other measures would fall heavily on the Latino and African American voter communities.

Seminole Elections Supervisor Michael Ertel
Orange Elections  Supervisor Bill Cowles

But two well-respected Central Florida elections officials –  Orange and Seminole Counties  Supervisors of Elections Michael Ertel and Bill Cowles  – are speaking out against Trump’s debunked claims.

“Voter fraud is likely one of the least committed felonies in America,” wrote Ertel and Cowles in response to Trump’s assertions in a dual post published on Facebook. “Florida’s system, while not perfect, is among the best at ensuring voter trust.”

(Full disclosure: I have been a poll worker in Seminole County under Ertel and I also translate Seminole County ballot material.)

Here, in their own words, are Ertel’s and Cowles’ answer  to Trump’s assertions.

“Long, but important post. President Trump has created quite the kerfuffle with today’s tweets concerning voter fraud. To be clear: voter fraud is likely one of the least committed felonies in America, and barring system-wide collusion, it is simply not the case that “millions voted illegally.” However, there are always political operatives who attempt to manipulate the process throughout, and to pretend it doesn’t exist at all, is to either be putting your head in the sand or to exercise an extreme naivete of the presence of dirty political tactics. There is good news: Florida’s system, while not perfect, is among the best at ensuring voter trust. We have hard-working, ethical supervisors of elections, and Seminole County is home to pollworkers and staff who together constitute America’s Finest Elections Team. Moreover, like with any crime, there are things which can be done at the state and local levels to decrease the likelihood of the crime being committed. From strong enforcement of existing laws, to realistic voter registration guidelines, to common sense photo ID laws with non-arduous provisions for those without an ID, to local election officials who are savvy enough to identify the potential threat areas and create procedures for eliminating or minimizing the threats, to community members contacting their elections administrators if they see anything they’re not comfortable with. Like with any endeavor, we can’t stop all bad actors from attempts, but we can work together to ensure their efforts are thwarted. An honest appraisal of the process is fair, and if done in a dignified, professional manner, could certainly bear positive results. Because after this new discussion, the trust in the democratic process of electing our republic’s leaders now hangs in the balance.”

˜˜Maria Padilla, Editor

Experiencing America as a Split-Screen Nation

Experiencing America as split-screen nation is unnerving and jarring, but it has always been this way./ Maria Padilla

The march of women all over the country provided a glimpse of America, our split-screen nation.

Millions of women – and men – mostly progressive but also conservative came together in peaceful fashion in cities and communities from coast to coast and around the globe to say, “I disagree with this moment, this movement.”

About 10,000 people marched around Lake Eola, which has become Orlando’s go-to ground for all important things. (Full disclosure: I was at the march as first vice president of the League of Women Voters of Orange County.)

Nation Gone Rogue

Protestors stood against what appears to be a resurgence of racism, a reset of gender inequality, a reprise of old battles in a nation gone rogue. They held up signs stating:

• “Hoping for Moral Leadership.”

• “Love America Again.”

• “Women’s Rights Are Human Rights.”

• “Equality Doesn’t Hurt.”

• “Hell Hath No Fury as 157 Million Women Scorned.”

• “Be Excellent to Each Other.”

Many believed that our nation always marched forward toward progress, toward the promise of the lofty ideals contained in our Constitution.

Split-screen Truth

But I’m learning this is not so – and perhaps never was. America bobs and weaves like boxer in the ring, making it hard to pin it down, put your arms around it. The boxer is so bold and beautiful that you forget he’s brutalizing his opponent. Split-screen nation: The bright lights obscure the dark corners, but the dark corners were always there.

Understanding America means facing this ugly truth.  I turn to Rubén Blades’ song Buscando America, written in the 1980s:

Te estoy buscando América
y temo no encontrarte,
tus huellas se han perdido entre la oscuridad.

Te estoy llamando América 
pero no me respondes, 
te han desaparecido, los que temen la verdad. 

I fear America is hiding, for the America I know and love is on the second screen. That is the history and legacy of our split-screen nation.

History and Legacy

A Founding Father and owner of slaves pens an amazing document stating that “all men are created equal.”

The end of the Civil War brings a truncated Reconstruction that leads seamlessly to Jim Crow.

The populist uprising under Andrew Jackson disempowers and disenfranchises Native Americans under a Trail of Tears.

Lady Liberty welcomes the huddled masses from Eastern and Southern Europe as discrimination against newcomers flourishes.

Women earn the right to vote but cannot obtain credit, take out a loan, seek birth control – to say nothing of abortion – without men’s approval.

Women enter the workforce during the 1970s because of a feminist movement but also just in time to counter men’s wages  that are starting to stagnate. We didn’t earn dollar for dollar what men earn and still do not.

A women’s right to an abortion is not settled law but is under attack in many states.

So are voting rights, which are being chipped away in many, mostly Southern states with ludicrous and unproven claims of voter fraud that push for more stringent voter identification laws.

Revolt Ongoing or Underway

And so it goes. Split-screen nation. A major or minor triumph even as the revolt against it is ongoing or underway. It is not all or nothing. It is a lot of this – say, civil rights marches – and a little of that, say George Wallace proclaiming, “Segregation today, segregation tomorrow and segregation forever.”

Happening simultaneously.

Resistance is not futile; it is our right, enshrined in the Constitution. But don’t forget, we are flipping roles with those who resisted Barack Obama for eight years. That opposition created a template for incredible disrespect of the most inclusive commander in chief this nation has seen. Ugly and distorted as it was, that was a form of resistance.

Somebody’s empowerment is somebody else’s disempowerment. We are unable to march forward together or at the same time in America.

Split-screen nation.

˜˜Maria Padilla, Editor

Obama Grants Clemency to Oscar López Rivera

Rep. Luis Gutiérrez (l) with Oscar López Rivera (center) and Lopez’s brother Jose Lopez. Obama granted clemency to López Rivera this week. /Rep. Gutiérrez

Oscar López Rivera will go free after 35 years in prison, thanks to President Barack Obama’s order granting clemency to the 74-year old imprisoned on charges related to violent activities in support of Puerto Rico independence.

Community activists in Florida, New York and Puerto Rico had stepped up pressure on Obama – wrote, called, held marches – to draw attention to López Rivera.

The president issued the order Tuesday as part of commuting the sentences or pardoning a total of 273 individuals – 209 commutations and 64 pardons, according to the White House.

Clemency Not Pardon

López Rivera, however, was not pardoned for his bomb-making activities in connection with the FALN (Fuerzas Armadas de Liberación Nacional) that is believed to total over 100 bombings, six deaths and many others injured.

A clemency is not a pardon, which means López Rivera’s record is not wiped clean and his rights are not restored.

“These … individuals learned that our nation is a forgiving nation, where hard work and a commitment to rehabilitation can lead to a second chance, and where wrongs from the past will not deprive an individual of the opportunity to move forward,” according to the White House statement.

The Puerto Rican community reacted joyously to the news that López Rivera would be out of federal prison in May.

Read Orlando Latino‘s story on López Rivera here.

Below are reactions from local residents and members of Congress.

Sen. Bernie Sanders:

“I appreciate listening to Puerto Ricans and people worldwide who believe Oscar Lopez Rivera deserves a chance to enjoy his freedom.”

Congressman Luis Gutiérrez (D-Ill.):

“Estoy lleno de alegría y emoción. Oscar es un gran amigo, mentor, y miembro de mi familia…”

Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez (D-NY):

“Pardon of is profoundly important for all Puerto Ricans. At long last, time for Oscar to come home. My profound thanks to for pardoning – an important and powerful move during last days in office.”

Congressman José Serrano (D-NY):

“Thankful to for listening to our community and putting an end to the imprisonment of after 35 years.

Congressman Darren Soto (D-Orlando):

‘We want to congratulate on his new freedom in May. We also want to thank for doing the right thing”.

Congressman Adriano Espaillat (D-NY):

“I commend on today’s decision to pardon , granting him freedom and a second chance.  has long served his time & now will return home to be with his family and loved ones.”

Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló:

“Gracias x escuchar reclamo de los puertorriqueños e indultar a Oscar López.Luego de mucho tiempo,regresa a casa y a su familia.”

Playwright Lin Manuel Miranda (“Hamilton”):

“Sobbing with gratitude here in London. OSCAR LOPEZ RIVERA IS COMING HOME. THANK YOU, .”

New York City Council President Melissa Mark Viverito:

‘TONIGHT! In !! We come together to celebrate w/ FAMILIA Oscar’s release. Pass by! 115th St & Park Avenue. 8PM .”

Marcos Vilar, Orlando community organizer-activist:

“Obama just commuted Oscar Lopez Rivera’s sentence!!! Coño!!!! Al fin!!!!!

Christina Marie Hernández, Orlando community organizer-activist:

So proud of the thousands who never gave up.”

Fernando Negrón, Orlando radio host:

“En buena hora Mr Presidente.”

Josephine Balzac, Orlando attorney-activist:

“I’m so proud of everyone who advocated for Oscar’s release, this gives the people of Puerto Rico 🇵🇷hope and sometimes HOPE for CHANGE is all you need!”

Jimmy Torres-Vélez, SEIU organizer:

“Viva el Pueblo.”

 Sami Haiman-Marrero, Orlando community volunteer:

“My heart bursts with happiness again! Obama has pardoned Oscar Lopez!”

˜˜Maria Padilla, Editor