Category Archives: Ethnicity

Quote of the day: A dirty campaign’s toxic legacy


While Norbert Hofer [previously], presidential candidate of the far-Right Freiheitliche Partei Österreichs [Austrian Freedom Party, or FPÖ] lost Sunday’s election by 31,000 votes out of 4.6 million ballots cast, his campaign has left a deep stain on Austria, writes Cathrin Kahlweit of Süddeutsche Zeitung.

Her words are of exceptional relevance here in the U.S., where another candidates will lead his own party’s ticket in November’s presidential election in a campaign fueled by the same resentments, anti-immigrant fear-mongering, and Islamophobia employed so effectively by Hofer:

[R]egardless of the election outcome, the country has changed dramatically over the last several months. Sensationalist media, the FPÖ and even some in the Christian democratic and conservative Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP) have jumped on the bandwagon with hyperbolic platitudes splashed all over social networks: There is talk of an “increasing crime rate,” a belief that “women can’t walk the streets alone anymore,” and even that “foreigners are all rapists and murderers.”

Hatred and contempt are suddenly acceptable, because they’re directed at others — outsiders. That’s what Hofer suggested in his final speech, when he said foreigners who care about Austria may stay, “but those who follow ISIS, or rape women, must go.”

Gross generalization and defamation have become widespread, with hateful comments parroted back by a public that passively absorbs them. The election campaign drifted far away from its stated goal of finding the right person to represent the country, attract investors, mediate and connect.

At the end of the day, Hofer could claim victory, even if he didn’t become president. He demonstrated a clear path for how a right-wing leader can rise to power: to sweep the country “clean” with an iron broom, to set limits to the current establishment, to restore the old order. Those in Austria who still see shades of gray, and who favor a moderate approach, are lost right now.

With the ballots counted and Van der Bellen elected, the real fight for Austria has just begun.

Bigoted Hispanic studies book pushed in Texas


With all the anti-immigrant hysteria in the air, it should come as no surprise that Texas has proposed the adoption of a new Hispanic studies textbook perfectly in tune with these Trumpian times.

From NBC News in Dallas-Fort Worth:

A textbook proposed to help teach the cultural history of Mexican-Americans in Texas public schools is under scrutiny by scholars, some of whom decry the effort as racist and not a reflection of serious academic study.

The textbook, titled “Mexican American Heritage,” describes Mexican-Americans as people who “adopted a revolutionary narrative that opposed Western civilization and wanted to destroy this society.” It also links Mexican-Americans to undocumented immigrants, saying illegal immigration has “caused a number of economic and security problems” in the U.S. that include “poverty, drugs, crime, non-assimilation, and exploitation”

The State Board of Education voted to include textbooks on Mexican-American studies after activists last year demanded the subject be formally included in state curriculum. “Mexican American Heritage” is the first textbook on the subject included in a list of proposed instructional materials.

“Paradoxically, we pressed for the board to include texts on Mexican-American studies, and we achieved it, but not in the way we were expecting,” Tony Diaz, host of Nuestra Palabra (Our Word) radio program in Houston and director of Intercultural Initiatives at Lone Star College-North Harris, told the Houston Chronicle. “Instead of a text that is respectful of the Mexican-American history, we have a book poorly written, racist, and prepared by non-experts.”

More from the Associated Press:

Texans have until September to submit comments on the proposed instructional materials, said TEA spokeswoman DeEtta Culbertson. She also said the proposed textbooks will undergo review by a committee that includes teachers and administrators and that committee will make recommendations to the board.

Ultimately, books adopted by the elected members of the Texas State Board of Education in November become part of the recommended instructional materials for statewide curriculums, but school districts aren’t required to embrace them. Individual districts can use their state money to buy whatever textbooks they wish.

The book “is not a text that we have recommended nor we will be recommending,” says Douglas Torres-Edwards, coordinator of a TEA-approved Mexican-American studies course that has been implemented in some Houston Independent School District schools. “Frankly, that author is not recognized as someone who is part of the Mexican-American studies scholarship and most individuals engaged in scholarship will not recognize her as an author.”

Patrick Michels of the Texas Observer broke the story earlier this month, though it was largely ignored by most media until this week.

There’s more, after the jump. . . Continue reading

Quote of the day: A case of genocide in California


From a Los Angeles Times op-ed by UCLA historian and genocide scholar Benjamin Madley, author of the just-published An American Genocide: The United States and the California Indian Catastrophe, 1846-1873:

California’s Legislature first convened in 1850, and one of its initial orders of business was banning all Indians from voting, barring those with “one-half of Indian blood” or more from giving evidence for or against whites in criminal cases, and denying Indians the right to serve as jurors. California legislators later banned Indians from serving as attorneys. In combination, these laws largely shut Indians out of participation in and protection by the state legal system. This amounted to a virtual grant of impunity to those who attacked them.

That same year, state legislators endorsed unfree Indian labor by legalizing white custody of Indian minors and Indian prisoner leasing. In 1860, they extended the 1850 act to legalize “indenture” of “any Indian.” These laws triggered a boom in violent kidnappings while separating men and women during peak reproductive years, both of which accelerated the decline of the California Indian population. Some Indians were treated as disposable laborers. One lawyer recalled: “Los Angeles had its slave mart [and] thousands of honest, useful people were absolutely destroyed in this way.” Between 1850 and 1870, L.A.’s Indian population fell from 3,693 to 219.

The U.S. Army and their auxiliaries also killed at least 1,680 California Indians between 1846 and 1873. Meanwhile, in 1852, state politicians and U.S. senators stopped the establishment of permanent federal reservations in California, thus denying California Indians land while exposing them to danger.

State endorsement of genocide was only thinly veiled. In 1851, California Gov. Peter Burnett declared that “a war of extermination will continue to be waged … until the Indian race becomes extinct.” In 1852, U.S. Sen. John Weller — who became California’s governor in 1858 — went further. He told his colleagues in the Senate that California Indians “will be exterminated before the onward march of the white man,” arguing that “the interest of the white man demands their extinction.”

Brazil’s acting president hews to neoliberal line


Michel Temer, Brazil’s acting president and chief neoliberal, is setting about the most ruthless privatization of the nation’s commons since the Portuguese colonialist first arrived.

And just as with the Portuguese, the nation’s indigenous peoples are shapping up to be the first victims of the relentless drive to turn everything public into a center of private profit.

From the Thomson Reuters Foundation:

Brazil’s interim government is moving ahead with plans for a constitutional amendment that would weaken indigenous land rights and pave the way for new plantations and dams to encroach on lands inhabited by native peoples, a United Nations official said.

Erika Yamada, a member of the U.N’s Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, a human rights advisory body, said the proposed constitutional change would result in Brazil moving backwards on indigenous land rights.

The procedures used to identify and indigenous territories could be altered to give lawmakers more power to decide which territories belong to native peoples, she said.

>snip<

“They (lawmakers) will try and move forward with changes to the constitution that would make it much harder to defend indigenous rights,” Yamada told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in an interview this week.

“I think they will also weaken the process of authorization for large development projects with great social and environmental impact for traditional communities.”

And it’s not just the land and water of the indigenous that are marked for the auction block

From Bloomberg:

Brazil’s Acting President Michel Temer is studying the sale of state assets to shore up public accounts, as well as an audit of the country’s largest savings bank, said a government official with direct knowledge of the matter.

A government task force will consider selling stakes in companies such as power utility Furnas Centrais Eletricas SA and BR Distribuidora, a unit of Petroleo Brasileiro SA, the oil producer known as Petrobras, said the official, who asked not to be named because the plans haven’t been made public. The intention is to help plug a near-record budget deficit and improve the efficiency of state-owned enterprises.

Petrobras’s preferred shares rallied as much as 1.6 per cent on the report, after posting losses during most of the morning.

The plans are the clearest sign yet of a policy shift since the Senate’s suspension last week of President Dilma Rousseff, who had increased the role of the government and state companies in the economy.

Temer has also take the first steps to privatizing the national public broadcaster, reports teleSUR English:

Michel Temer, head of the coup government in Brazil, fired the head of the Brazil Communications Company, the public firm that manages the country’s public media outlets.

The action was rejected by the firm’s board of directors on the grounds that the law that regulates the company prohibits political interference.

“The notion that the president-director of the company should have fixed term, that does not coincide with a presidential mandates, was enshrined precisely to ensure the independence, impartiality and guiding principles of public outlets,” read a statement by the board of the Brazil Communications Company.

“The aim is to ensure autonomy from the federal government and protect the right of Brazilian society to free and public communications, which ensures the expression of diversity and plurality — foundations of a modern and democratic society,” added the statement.

The head of the company, Ricardo Melo, was appointed by democratically elected President Dilma Rousseff for a four year term earlier this month.

The coup government, however, ignored the concerns of the board.

Melo was replaced by Laerte Rimoli, who served as spokesperson for Aecio Neves, the right-wing candidate defeated by Rousseff in the 2014 presidential election. He also previously served as press officer for Eduardo Cunha, the embattled former head of the Chamber of Deputies who was recently suspended by the Supreme Court.

There’s much more, after the jump. . . Continue reading

Headline of the day III: You knew it was coming


From the Guardian:

Sheldon Adelson backs Trump trip to Israel after $100m pledge, sources say

The multibillionaire and Republican Jewish Coalition are arranging visit before July convention, as Adelson also plans to donate millions to Super Pacs for GOP congressional campaigns, conservative sources told the Guardian

San Francisco ousts top cop over shootings


The lessons of Ferguson are being learned, albeit belatedly, is a city which has seen exposure of racist texts by all too may police officers.

And now, with the latest in a series of shootings by officers, the mayor has finally had enough.

From the New York Times:

Police Chief Gregory P. Suhr was forced out on Thursday after a fatal shooting of a black woman by a police officer, the third killing since December involving the police force, which is under federal investigation because of complaints of racial bias.

Mayor Edwin M. Lee said he had asked for Chief Suhr’s resignation after learning of the shooting.

“These officer-involved shootings, justified or not, have forced our city to open its eyes to questions of when and how police use lethal force,” the mayor said in the statement.

Chief Suhr had made “meaningful” reforms of the police force, the mayor said, “but it hasn’t been fast enough.”

Sunday’s Austrian election features two outsiders


Though Austria has a long history of populist governments, most notably under the pre-World War I Christian Socials, since World War II the national has been governed either by the moderately Leftist Social Democrats or the center-Right People’s Party, the SPÖ and ÖVP.

But Sunday’s presidential election marks a sea change, pitting a non-partisan Leftist populist, economist and descendant of Russian nobility Alexander Van der Bellen against the odds-on favorite, a former aircraft mechanic and leader of the far-Right Freiheitliche Partei Österreichs [Austrian Freedom Party, or FPÖ] Norbert Hofer.

Hofer, echoing another presidential candidate from across the Atlantic, declares himself to be “decisively opposed to forced multiculturalism, globalization and mass immigration.”

And while the presidency, as in most European parliamentary democracies, is largely ceremonial, the winner will be the commander of the nation’s armed forces.

Van der Bellen, formerly a member of and national spokesman for the Austrian Green Party, is running as a nonpartisan candidate, though with backing from the Greens.

Out of a field of six candidates in the initial round of voting 24 April, Hofer won  35 percent of the vote and Van der Bellen won 21 percent. And since no candidate had a majority, the two leading candidates headed to Sunday’s runoff.

What does it all mean?

From Der Spiegel:

All of Europe is looking this week to Austria, this small country in its midst where an eventuality considered by many to be outrageous may soon become reality. This reality, though, comes in the guise of a harmless, friendly face. Norbert Hofer is a 45-year-old trained airplane technician from the state of Burgenland, just southeast of Vienna. He is the father of four and his wife, his second marriage, is an elderly care professional. Hanging above his desk in parliament is a framed image of Article 1 of the constitution, which says of the Austrian Republic: “Its law emanates from the people.”

Will the people of Austria really elect a right-wing populist to become their highest representative on Sunday? Is Austria in the process of becoming part of that group of European countries, along with Hungary, Poland, Finland and Switzerland, where the right-wing is already part of the government? And if so, how long will it take before the new right-wing movement tears Europe apart?

If one looks geographically at the congratulatory messages the FPÖ candidate Hofer received following his triumph in the first round of presidential elections, a checkered pattern of new European nationalists emerges. Marine Le Pen from the French party Front National was first, followed by the Lega Nord of Matteo Salvini and Forza Italia, under the leadership of former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. From the Netherlands, congratulations came from PVV head Geert Wilders and from Germany, plaudits were sent by the right-wing populists from the Alternative for Germany (AfD). The right wing in Europe is becoming organized and developing contacts across the Continent. The election on Sunday is far more than just a purely Austrian affair.

Across Europe, large, mainstream parties are losing power and influence. It has happened in Spain, France and Germany, but nowhere has the phenomenon been as dramatically visible as during the first round of the presidential elections in Austria. Hofer came in first place followed by Green candidate Van der Bellen. An independent candidate came in third place. Only then did the candidates of the SPÖ and ÖVP — the two parties that currently form the governing coalition — follow in fourth and fifth place. Together, they didn’t even managed 23 percent of the vote.

UPDATE: For a broader discussion of what’s at stake, here’s a video of a panel discussion on the election just posted by Deutsche Welle:

Crisis in Austria: Another Blow for Europe? | Quadriga

Program notes:

In Austria, Sunday could see a right-wing populist elected to the position of president. The FPÖ’S Norbert Hofer, whose xenophobic slogans have struck a chord with voters, aims to tap into the constitution’s potential for authoritarian power.

Norbert Hofer could take the reins of government by emergency decree if he wins Sunday’s elections. The current state of play augurs well for him.

In the first round of voting, the traditionally popular Social Democrats, the SPÖ, and the Conservatives, the ÖVP, got a taste of the electorate’s wrath. Chancellor Werner Faymann of the SPÖ resigned.

It seems the Alpine republic is lurching to the right as its voters follow a pattern that has emerged throughout Europe. Is there no end to the trend towards right-wing populism?

Our guests:

  • Ewald König is a freelance correspondent and an Austrian himself, who has been covering Austrian politics for decades now. He says: “It’s not only the refugees, there are many other reasons for Austria’s and Europe’s drift to the right.”
  • Alan Posener is a commentator for the Berlin daily Die Welt, who says: “Nobody cares who governs a small country like Austria. But Germany has a responsibility for the whole of Europe. We can’t afford Viennese coffeehouse politics.”
  • Ulrike Guérot of the European Democracy Lab believes that “A wildfire is sweeping across Europe. It’s taken in Hungary, and now Austria, with France looking likely to be next.”