Friday, December 22, 2006

The Iraq Study Group Report...An Interview/Conversation with Ruben Navarrette...Part One

After a couple of emails, I got the chance to speak by phone with Ruben Navarrette last Friday. At first, I asked him what his basic reaction was to the Iraq Study Group Report, but realized that I needed to get more specific. So I asked him how this report affects the way we, and by we I mean the average citizen in America, receive our information from the mainstream media? He responded by saying that at first glance people looked at the report in two ways. He explained that, "A lot of people divided this up, in the commentators, and the media, in terms of 'okay, one this is the assessment, you know the situation is grave and deteriorating'. Or, they go into phase two and say, 'well, no its which is the recommendation?" From there he went on to explain the following:
"I think the bigger way to look at this is sort of a big picture of the group and the recommendations versus sort of a small picture, specific as in "okay, let's really look at that they've proposed." I think that most people looked to what they proposed and as soon as they got to the clause about Iran and Syria, made it all about Iran and Syria. I say to myself, well jesus, there's no way I'd go along with bringing Iran and Syria to the table. They have no reason to come to the table, anyway. They benefit from chaos and they get with that and their 'interests' work against ours. What we want is diametrically opposed to what they want so they'll say, "well, gee," which is that's enough of that. They take a look at one recommendation and they throw out the rest of it.
I think what I prefer to do is take a look at the principal behind it. A big picture, and there's lots of reasons for me to feel good about this report, and for Americans to feel good about the report. There's the bi-partisan nature of the report. There's the fact that it didn't just do what I think a lot of government reports do, which is tell people what they want to hear, as opposed to what they need to hear, and clearly not what the President wanted to hear. They had a lot of guts in putting it out there.
Again, I think it was great that it was bi-partisan, that it was straight-talk, and as I mentioned in my column that I really liked the fact that they finally got off this notion of 'winning'. Because for the last three to four weeks or so, I would continue to hear commentators in the media talk about, "Well, this is what we need to do to win in Iraq." And I thought, my goodness, haven't we moved on, even if speaking as someone who supports the President and supported the War, I gave up the notion of winning in Iraq some time ago. I think my definition of winning in Iraq is no more 'dead kids'. You already have what will reach three thousand dead in a couple of weeks. If you can pull out before you get to four thousand, than that's victory. I commend the commission for deliberately not talking about victory, didn't say winning. They didn't talk about terms like that. In that respect, the committee was made up of those who were serious people, and took their job seriously.
We also talked yesterday with Alan Simpson, who is one of the ten on the committee. He was here in town. We talked for about an hour discussing the report in person. You know, it's clear that they had a lot of information at their fingertips, that they asked hard questions. A lot of them are big supporters of the President, you know, people like Ed Meese, Sandra Day O'Connor, and Al Simpson, all were Republicans. It had Jim Baker. People who hold the Bush family, not just the President-but the entire family, in really close regard. For them to have the guts to come forward and just tell W., clearly something he didn't want to hear, is amazing. And I think that he was clear about the fact that he wasn't happy with the recommendations he didn't favor. He never said it publicly, but I think in meetings with them, we were told, he said, "I thank you for your work, I thank you for your time, I know you did what you thought was the right thing..." etc. I think he was disappointed that they came back and told him what he didn't want to hear. So more power to them. That's how I'd break down the study group."-Ruben Navarrette from a phone interview/conversation conducted December 15, 2006.
This concludes Part One of my interview/conversation with Ruben Navarrette. Next Tuesday, I'll conclude with his thoughts of where the country finds itself after the recommendations, and the debate of whether or not to send more troops to Iraq.
Ruben Navarrette is an award winning, nationally syndicated columnist based in San Diego, and serves on the editorial board at the San Diego Union Tribune. He is the author of the book, "A Darker Shade of Crimson: Odyssey of a Harvard Chicano".

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Friday's Post...An Interview with Nationally Syndicated Columnist Ruben Navarrette...Part One

Coming up on Friday, my interview with nationally syndicated columnist, Ruben Navarrette. It will be a two part post. The first one (Friday's) Ruben Navarrette discusses his thoughts about the Iraq Study Group. The second half should be up the day after Christmas. The second half of the conversation will revolve on the situation we find ourselves (U.S.) at this moment. Should we send more troops to Iraq? What has become of Iraq since the war began? Who's fault is it?
Couple of questions that Ruben Navarrette addresses.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Iraq Study Group Report...Reaction from Dr. Samuel Freeman

I just received a response from Dr. Samuel Freeman. Here's what he had to say about the Iraq Study Group:
"Basically, the Iraq Study Group tried to "square the circle". That is, they tried to present a clear picture of how bad the situation is, that we are losing, and that we cannot win. At the same time, they tried not to say these things, and tried to hold out a chance we at least might find a graceful way out of Iraq.
They made some intelligent recommendations that should be obvious to anyone with any brains. We gain absolutely nothing by refusing to reestablish relations with Iran and Syria. In the short run, doing so probably will accomplish nothing. Iranian and Syrian interests are being well served by the continuing debacle in Iraq. It is in their interest, as it is in the interests of most of the Arab nations, to see the U.S. suffer the most humiliating defeat possible in Iraq; and we are headed precisely in that direction. In addition, even if we did reestablish relations and could persuade Iran and Syria to use their influence with Iraqi resistance leaders to lower the level of violence, such negotiations would take more time then we are likely to have. In a very real sense, Iraq is imploding; nothing is likely to stop that implosion.
If the Study Group truly had been honest, rather than striving mightily to indicate the truth while simultaneously save face for President Bush, they would have said the war is lost, that there is nothing we can do to win it. In truth, the war was lost the day we invaded Iraq, as many people realized at the time. Unfortunately, the in-bed press was far too busy spreading Bush's lies and choking off all voices of dissent to allow the truth to be presented to the American people. So we now are left with a disaster of our own making. The Iraqis obviously are paying a heavy price, but the U.S. ultimately will pay a far greater price in terms of hudreds of billions--over $110 billion this year alone, plus another $100 billion next year, on top of over $100 billion prior to 2006. But we also will pay a heavy price in the hatred we have engendered not only in the Arab world, but throughout the world. We are being seen as the empire we are, and are losing all legitimacy as a world leader.
Consequently, our economy is going to be severely negatively impacted, and our ability to influence, much less lead the world is going to be greatly reduced. The damage we have caused ourselves by this war will take decades to be repaired. If the Iraq Study Group truly had been honest, they would have said these things and said the very best thing the U.S. could do, both for itself and for Iraq, is to withdraw as quickly as possible--meaning over the next 6 to 9 months. Without question, that will result in full fledged civil war in Iraq; but that is coming anyway. The longer we stay there, the more severe and the longer the conflict will be. As ironic as it sounds, leaving as quickly as possible actually will save lives."--Dr. Samuel Freeman
Dr. Samuel Freeman is a professor of political science at the University of Texas-Pan American in Edinburg, Texas.

More reactions for the Iraq Study Group Report...

Continuing reactions of the Iraq Study Group Report, Ignacio Almaguer shares his views:
"As far as the Iraq Study Group Report is concerned, we should not hold our breath if we think that the president will make any concrete decisions in reference to the findings presented to him. The president has shown that he is stubborn and has said that he has made only one mistake in his presidency.
The Iraq War, in the current president's eyes, can be won, but everything he has done in his administration has led this war to a complete failure. In the report, there is a section that states,
'Our embassy of 1000 has 33 Arabic speakers, just six of whom are at the level of fluency. In a conflict that demands effective and efficient communication with Iraqis, we are often at a disadvantage.'
This is how America treats Iraq--forget your culture and language since the only thing you will need nowadays is the English language and an American Ideaology. As long as the Administration keeps lying to themselves saying that they are freeing the citizens of Iraq from a savage like Saddam Hussein, they will never get the point. Don't get me wrong, I think Saddam Hussein was an evil bastard, but people were not dying by the thousands every month. That would have been called genocide, or even civil war, but the US doesn't dare call it what it is. Let's face it, Iraq is a mess and we have a president who will not listen to reason. Let's all hope that this shift in power somehow sobers these bureaucratic fat cats in Washington from their drunken stupor."--Ignacio Almaguer
Ignacio Almaguer is a community activist based in San Juan, Texas. He is president of the local school board watchdog group Grupo PODER, and a member of the community watchdog group The SanJuanistas. He currently serves on the San Juan Housing Authority Board, and the San Juan Economic Development Corporation (EDC).

The Iraq Study Group Report...Further Reactions

As promised, some reactions from across the country regarding the Iraq Study Group Report. Here's what Stephen Pizzo had to say:
"Well of course the ISG's report is a political document, not a plan of any sort whatsoever. It offers both parties what they need right now. For the GOP, it's cover for supporting a withdrawal, even if Bush refuses. For the Dems, it represents a way for them not to have to take a position of their own. All they have to do now is criticize the administration for not embracing all the ISG's suggestions. The real answer is a rapid disengagement...unconditional and on a timeline that allows the military to get our troops out of harms way with the minimum of casualties. After that, the Iraqis, Iranians, Syrians, Kurds, and Turks will sort things out as they must. Will it be messy? You bet. But staying there with US troops will only kick that ugly ball down the road, not eliminate it. As for the administration, they got what they wanted out of the ISG's report as well...a way to stall until they can get out of office and then blame the inevitable collapse in Iraq on their successors who, they hope, will be Democrats."-Stephen Pizzo
Stephen Pizzo is an award winning journalist and author of The New York Times bestseller,"Inside-Job: The Looting of America's Savings and Loans". His web site, "News for Real" can be found at

Friday, December 15, 2006

Continuing posts on the Iraq Study Group Report...Different Ideas, Different Perspectives all next week...

Just a quick note this Friday afternoon to let you all know what's coming up next week.
I've been busy since Wednesday contacting different people from across our great State of Texas and the rest of the nation asking for their reactions to the Iraq Study Group Report. I've gotten a handful of responses that I will be posting all of next week.
In addition to Cesar J. Alvarado, I'll have a few natives from the Valley who have gone on with different careers in different directions and have set up life in different parts of the country. I'll have a nationally syndicated columnist who is based at the San Diego Union Tribune offer his insights. We spoke by phone earlier today--thanks to Ruben for his insights and his patience with this 'bloguero'. I'll also have feedback from Dr. Samuel Freeman from the Political Science Dept. at the University of Texas-Pan American.
So, it should shape up to be an interesting week, and I hope you'll find it as interesting as I have.
Have a good weekend, everybody.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

The Sad and Terrible Saga of Omar Guerrero...and OUR District Clerk's Office...

There are some things the residents of Hidalgo County have grown accustomed to. Ninety-nine cent breakfast tacos. High School playoff schedules ending abrubptly in mid to late November. Barbacoa on Sunday mornings. The Dallas Cowboys on Sunday afternoon. Sadly, though, the residents of Hidalgo County have grown accustomed to one more thing as well. Corrupt Elected Officials.
The sad and terrible saga of Omar Guerrero has left this county of roughly 250,000 eligible voters at a loss for words. Not even the who-are-you-to-cast-the-first-stone crowd have anything to say about the latest dilemma the District Clerk has found himself in. If it's possible to even find him. Omar Guerrero has been classified a fugitive of the law. Missing in action. On the lamb. A thousand ways to find himself, except where we elected him to serve in the first place-the District Clerk's Office.
At a salary, according to an article this morning in The Monitor, of $68,132 a year you would think that a one-time political novice with no formal education would take the opportunity of being elected to countywide office, a little more seriously. Since his swearing in four years ago, Guerrero has been reported by various media outlets as never showing up to do his job. Granted, the law that rules the jungle says he didn't have to be there, an old Mexican saying dictates, "Oyeme, no se tenia que pasarse del turno, eh?" But, okay, fine, he didn't have to be there, regardless of how much of a schmuck he turned out to be. Those are the rules-lesson learned.
But last December, our District Clerk with an annual salary of $68,132 without having to show up to work, decides to do his friend a favor and stop to talk to police officers that pulled his friend over. Cops find his actions suspicious (jesus, messed up or not, this was a bad judgment call on Guerrero's part no matter how you slice it) and arrest our District Clerk with an annual salary of $68,132 a year on allegedly being drunk. Denies a blood test on the basis of his religiouos beliefs, said religion smites him faster than God did to Soddom and Gammora, Guerrero finds himself a born-again Christian come the pre-trial hearing. Our District Clerk with an annual salary of $68,132 remains in office to run for re-election.
He loses.
No shockwaves of awe shake the atmosphere above the Rio Grande Valley over that one.
Has until the end of the year, really, to clear out his desk. Given that he allegedly hasn't spent much time there, Guerrero should have everything packed away in a nice little gallon sized plastic freezer bag. Maybe, a liter instead. Of course, if someone walked in to grab a pencil from his desk, I'm not really sure what our District Clerk with an annual salary of $68,132 has left-except maybe dust bunnies.
Summer rolls around, Guerrero finds himself in trouble again for alleged domestic abuse. Word around town, the blogosphere, and the media fall short of a virtual political lynching of the District Clerk. Especially, because he is getting paid $68,132 a year for never having to be at the office, throwing his political might around-then gets in trouble while doing so, and now is slapped like a mangy dog on the last of his wobbly legs with a domestic abuse allegation. Nothing comes of it, to my knowledge, and Guerrero remains our District Clerk with an annual salary of $68,132.
Most recently, oh-I'm sorry have you had enough? Well, hold on it's almost over, I promise-Guerrero is alleged to have sexually assaulted an underage girl....
(sarcastic pause)....
(overly sarcastic pause on the part of the author who wonders if anybody else is getting this)....
Mission, Texas Police issue an arrest warrant. Can't find him. His lawyer claims Guerrero is out of town, he will turn himself in on Monday. No show. Lawyer states Guerrero will turn himself in on Tuesday. No show. Police Department does not know where he is. Guerrero's lawyer does not know where he is. Nobody has a clue except the voters of a county who, according to District Attorney Rene Guerra in today's The Monitor article suggests they can do nothing more but grit their teeth 'til the end of the year.
To sum things up, 'cause cases like this can cause ulcers, Guerrero who's still cashing in on his $68,132 a year salary has all at once disgraced himself, disgraced his office, and disgraced this county. As sad a fact as this may be, the residents of Hidalgo County, and the rest of the Rio Grande Valley for that matter, have little to do but hope the next one at the turn doesn't screw it up as much as Omar Guerrero did. But given our track record with these types of people in elected office, there's little more to do than try and put a big smile on your face as the year finally runs down. Always remembering that smiling- keeps us from crying.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

The Iraq Study Group Report...Cesar J. Alvarado Responds

In an effort to collect a broad range of responses from different members of this community we call The United States of America, I asked Cesar Alvarado of Austin, Tejas, to throw his two cents into the mix regarding The Iraq Study Group Report. Here's what the good man had to say:
"I do not have time in my busy days and nights to read a "Report" that amongst many other things wasted taxpayers money and offers another smoke screen distraction. Can you imagine how much time and money it took to get all those humans (I question this word) in one room? Several Personal Schedulars, who are more than likely getting little pay, were involved as were several private planes owned by Exxon, McDonald Douglas, and maybe even Phillip Morris.
I could have invited my friends to la casa for fajitas, tortillas, beer, and non-alcoholic drinks and we would have come up with this report for about $30.15. I even think the fajitas are on sale at La Michoacana right now! Sincerely, how much did this "Report" tell us. We know the Iraq War is stupid. We should know there are People of Color who were promised a "career" dying and being messed with mentally, the Iraq War and the Military Industrial Complex are HUGE money makers and Anglo Americans rule the world, today.
I am tired. I am tired of focusing on the wars backed by the nation. Backed by M-16 guns, F-16 jets, Dell computers and the "Almighty Dollar". "God Bless America, and No One Else" has been said aloud and silently too many times.
I am willing to do the work on myself, my home, my neighborhood, my community, my town-city, my state...and eventually the nation. Are you? Please raise your hand if you know the Iraq War, War on Terrorism, War on Drugs...are smoke screen distractions. Distractions to what is happeing in our kitchens, bedrooms, cantinas, schools, streets, workplace, amongst many other places. Domestic Terrorism. Domestic Violence. Rape. Sexual Assault. These silent killers, silent emotional terrors are not being stopped and are being spread around the globe in the form of war like plagues.
We NEED to take care of self first. Then, work on your home, your neighborhood, your community, your town-city, your state...and eventually your nation. This is why I have not read the "Report". I am extremely busy working on myself, my home, my neighborhood...trying hard to stop and prevent violence from happening here and spreading all over the globe.
Con Amor y Paz,
Cesar J. Alvarado"
Cesar J. Alvarado is a community activist based in Austin, Tejas. He serves as a Community Organizer for the Texas Council on Family Violence.

Monday, December 11, 2006

PSJA School Board to Address De-Annexation..The Inside Truth

For the most part, public board meetings in the Rio Grande Valley are on par with watching a chess tournament, or golf for that matter, on television. Neither are spectator sports. You either have something to personally win or lose-say one of the participants is a relative you've come to root for, or you're a player yourself and somehow have found a deep appreciation for something that makes most of the modern world keel over with boredom. Either way, it's no fun for outsiders. And trust me, if you are neither of the above, you are for most practical purposes considered an outsider. There would be no other reason why public board meetings are held at the most inconvenient hours of the day, and most hellish days of the week. And always, always announced to the public in the vaguest of ways.
"Next board meeting will fall on the third Monday of next month, unless the second day of said month falls on a Tuesday. In which case, Wednesday would be the alternate date for the meeting at 9 o'clock in the a.m. Except during a leap year, or any month containing less than thirty-one days. In which case, the second Thursday would suffice between the hours of 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. with a one hour lunch break consideration between the hours of 11:30 a.m. an 3:30 p.m. Or at the earliest convenience following the fetching and subsequent destruction of the broomstick of the Wicked Witch of the West. Whichever comes first."
So to be quite honest with you, it came as no real shock value to those of us with a life that the Pharr San Juan Alamo School Board meeting would be held at 5:30 this Monday afternoon at the PSJA High School Lecture Hall. Open, with all consideration, to anybody who conveniently works in the vecinity of South San Juan or within the half mile radius that does not contain a myriad of street lights and railroad crossings during rush hour. Otherwise, to quote the French, you're fucked.
South Texas politics is an insider's game, and unless you've got something to bring to the table, you'd be better off getting the watered down version from the evening news or the local paper. If you're lucky. Which I was not this afternoon. After a series of "unfortunate events" to quote Mr. Snickets, I was unable to attend tonight's meeting. And what a meeting it must have been. A preview of which was provided by the local newspaper reporter James Osborne who covers PSJA politics for The Monitor.
His article titled "Why would PSJA give away ritzy subdivision?-Possible conflict of interest taints deal between school board, developer" reads like something out of a Lorenzo Carcattera novel. Kids strenghten bonds in high school sports, become above average citizens of a small South Texas town, working their way up through the ranks of the political and social hierarchy of the district, and let the alleged political favors roll.
You see, according to the report, developer Cruz Cantu owns some subdivisions on the western fringes of the PSJA school district. Problem is these boundaries are within McAllen's city limits. McAllen citizens paying McAllen bills want to send their kids to McAllen schools. Only way to do that is for PSJA to de-annex in order for McAllen to get it's share of the school taxes. And here's what's bothering a lot of people in the Tri-City area. Those taxes would generate more than a quarter million dollars in revenue, along with more than three-quarters of a million dollars in State funding they may be entitled to. Bottom line:Whichever school district stakes it's claim to this properties tax money, is going to be a hell of a lot richer for it.
So, Cantu goes to the PSJA school board requesting this property to be de-annexed to McAllen for the sake of the residents in the subdivision. Problem here lays on the fact that he knows people on the PSJA school board, and has known them for years, or by his own admission as he was quoted in the paper-"decades."
Beyond that, well, so what? I've been hard pressed to agree with the majority of people who share the underlying sentiment that besides this whole fiasco wreaking of personal political favors, it also reflects badly on a community whose heads are still reeling from all the corruption and dirty politics within a school board system they could handle just over a year ago. There's a feel, a sense that letting go of a subdivision within PSJA school district boundaries would, in essence, contribute to the ongoing scrutiny that the PSJA school system is sub-par to the system found in McAllen.
Well, isn't it?
After all, for all the crap the McAllen ISD Administration dishes out to it's employees, it never has failed to call a spade a spade when it comes to the children. A stabbing is a stabbing. Not a scuffle. And no, it does not happen everywhere. A special needs pre-schooler is a special needs pre-schooler. Not a menace to society. And although it is indeed a team effort between the school districts and parents, the fact that the school district does not have enough funds to create jobs for additional, highly qualified professionals to help with the normal curriculum, I would say the school district is having a hard time keeping up with it's share of the bargain when it comes to a child's constitutional right to an education.
A land developer, regardless of social and political affiliations is not at fault for the shortcomings a school district is failing to address. And for all the complaints surrounding the loss of tax revenue if this thing goes through, it is the school board who's fault lies in never taking the time to pull their heads out of the sand long enough to realize how bad the direction we've been heading in for the past two decades is starting to show it's serious repercussions. And all they want to do is hold bond elections every season to build new schools. Awaiting that next construction project like vultures circling the smell of death. Projects of which have historically been marred with either strong allegations, or subsequent convictions of their own personnel on corruption charges.
Inevitably, we've reached a point where we are losing important tax revenue, not because of some well-connected land developer, but because we have a school board which continues in it's failures to recognize, accept, and acknowledge it's innate faults. As long as that happens, the school district will lose more money, and businessmen like Cruz Cantu will be served up as prime fodder for the media circus that's sure to follow.
That's bad business for everyone. Insiders or not.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

The Iraq Study Group Report...Matt Taibbi's Reaction

As part of a continuing study of the Iraq Study Group Report here at RGV Politics, I asked Matt Taibbi of Rolling Stone magazine, whom I've come to respect for his no-nonsense reporting of various issues most namely National Politics, what he thought about the report, and here is what he had to say:
"My basic reaction to the Iraq Study Group is that it's clear that its aim was for use in the domestic political arena rather for any practical application in Iraq. It provides political cover for all parties not connected to the Bush White House who want to assault the president's policies without having to take a politically risky position, i.e. cutting off funding for the war, announcing a timetable for withdrawal, or increasing troop levels. Basically the Democrats and the Republican moderates are launching a circling movement around the president; ISG is designed to suffocate and isolate Bush politically while leaving the future inevitable rift between the end-the-war-now crowd and the extremely-gradual-withdrawal crowd shelved for the post-Bush landscape in '08. As an actual diagnosis or road map for resolving the Iraq mess it's basically useless."-Matt Taibbi
Matt Taibbi is a contributing editor for Rolling Stone Magazine. He is the author of the book, "Spanking the Donkey: Dispatches from the Dumb Season," which chronicles his 2004 Presidential Election coverage. His weekly online column, "The Low Post" can be found
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  • Friday, December 08, 2006

    The Iraq Study Group Report...or How I Spent My Summer Vacation

    If you've been living under a rock the past couple of years, I have just the book to bring you up to speed with what the rest of us have been dealing with. The Iraq Study Group Report was published Wednesday with about as much political fanfare and hoopla as a mob of crazed teenagers outside Lindsay Lohan's AA sanctuary. It reads like a junior high history textbook, but less entertaining, and far less informative. With passages like the following filling it's pages:
    "Because events in Iraq have been set in motion by American decisions and actions, the United States has both a national and a moral interest in doing what it can to give Iraqis an opportunity to avert anarchy."-The Iraq Study Group Report
    It's no wonder reporters such as Matt Taibbi from Rolling Stone who's covered D.C. and Congress for a while (check out The Low Post at have criticized this report for not addressing the ways and means by which our soldiers will get out of Iraq, and the realistic stabilization of the Middle East, but rather have regurgitated the same points of opposition the majority of this country has reflected since the war began.
    Only Uncle James is handing out the hard medicine this time that the President will finally take words like 'mistake', 'urgency', 'morality', 'see Dick run', 'see Jane hide', seriously.
    Well, if that's the case, I hope the President decides to take the following passage seriously as well:
    "The Iraqi people could be subjected to another strongman who flexes the political and military muscle required to impose order amid anarchy. Freedom could be lost."
    That's straight from the Iraq Study Group Report. Hell, I couldn't have put it better myself.

    Wednesday, December 06, 2006

    The Iraq Study Group Report

    Just a quick post to let everyone know that courtesy of the United States Institute of Peace, you can download the Iraq Study Group Report which was released today. You can go to for a pdf formatted copy.
    More later.