I’m getting ready to head to Chicago for YKos.
There were a handful of items I wanted to mention on my way out the door.
First, we are having an impact. I have been asking folks to contact the House Resources Committee and ask that they include the voice of the workers in their August 15 Hearing on proposed reform legislation for the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI).
Today it was announced that one of the CNMI groups representing the Guest Workers has been invited to the Hearing:
U.S. House Subcommittee on Insular Affairs chair Rep. Donna Christensen has invited Dekada Movement president Bonifacio V. Sagana to testify at the field hearing on a bill proposing to extend federal immigration laws to the CNMI.
It is a good start, but there is more to do if justice is to be extended to the CNMI.
That, Jeff Flake and Hillary/Sweatshop pie on the jump...
It is a good news that Rep. Christensen invited the head of Dekada to hearing. Good news, but only that. If justice is to come to the CNMI we will need the 110th Congress to hear what is happening to the foreign contract workers—in our name—on the far flung US Territory in the Western Pacific.
We need to encourage Congress to invite more workers and their representatives to the Hearing. This should include some of the 3,000 plus US Citizen who are children of parents who have no rights on the CNMI. When these workers are capriciously deported by the vile CNMI system of injustice, their minor children are forced into exile with their parents or left to fend for themselves on the CNMI. This story needs to be told and reform legislation must end this abuse.
- Include the voices of the workers at the August, 15 CNMI Hearing. In addition to Dekada, Congress should hear from Ronnie Doca, President of Filcowa and Jerry Custodio, President of the Human Dignity Act Movement. These are all leaders working together to organize the workers and advocate for their rights.
- Include some of the 3,000 plus US Citizen children of these legal workers on the CNMI. Their stories should be heard.
- Include Laurie Ogomuro of Guma Esperansa to hear about the women her organization has rescued from the human trafficking sex trade and those they have not been able to rescue.
- Meet with Wendy Doromal to testify about her summer spent investigating the current situation on the CNMI. They should read her 7-19-07 statement to Senate Hearing on the CNMI (PDF).
Wendy will be in Washington soon to try and get Members of the 110th Congress to read her new 2007 CNMI Report, to watch video of workers testifying and hear about the current state of affairs on the far flung US Territory. Let me know if you can help her on her trip.
It is way past time to shut down this system of abuse based on human trafficking, stealing the labor of others and keeping workers in the bondage of modern slavery.
Both Bills are similar and both share common flaws. Perhaps the most glaring is that these invited workers in the CNMI—who are there legally and have been there for years and years—do not have any pathway to US Citizenship.
While these Bills have some problems, it is important to remember that the goal of the Pirates of Saipan and their allies is to delay legislation, slow it down and once again kill reform. We can not let them run that same game plan again.
We have to use this Legislation as the vehicle for Reform and work to strengthen them. Adding these changes would greatly improve the legislation:
- Create a pathway to Citizenship for Guest Workers who have been on the CNMI for more than five years—and a Green Card for all workers with children who are US Citizens.
- Outline a clear appeals process for any worker denied Immigration Status and/or other rights by the local CNMI Government through new or existing Federal systems of appeals.
- Mandate that all CNMI entry visa programs—both work and tourist—are run by the Federal Government. (To allow the local CNMI Government to run a tourist visa program is to allow human trafficking.)
- Mandate random, spot check interviews of guest workers and tourists as they arrive and leave the CNMI to ensure that they were (and are not) victims of abuse.
If we can add amendments to make the above changes, we could have final legislation that is real reform.
One member of the the Insular Affairs Subcommittee is Jeff Flake of Arizona.
Flake is one of those Republicans they trot out when the GOP gang wants to show their face of reform. You know, Flake is the guy battling those "Earmarks" and other ethical lapses of Congress.
So naturally he would be the guy the Republican Party asked to carry water for the Pirates of Saipan, the Tan Family and those who support sweatshops and labor abuse around the globe. And being a loyal foot soldier he has stepped in to accomplish legislation left over from Jack Abramoff’s To Do List.
I’m talking about H.R. 3165. This seemingly innocuous piece of legislation would make some "tweaks" to General Note 3(a)(iv)(A) of the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States [also known as Headnote (3)a]. This would change the rules for goods manufactured on the CNMI and imported into the rest of the United States.
Right now, there is a Tariff on goods shipped from the CNMI if more than 50% of it was made elsewhere. Flake’s bill would change that to 70% and in some cases more. It would mean that the Tan Family could basically finish garments in their factories in China. Pass them through shops on the CNMI for "finishing" and a "Made in the Northern Mariana Islands, USA" label, and then ship the goods duty free into the rest of the USA.
It is free money for the Tan Family and the other foreign investors of sweatshops on the CNMI. The Flake Tariff Advantage will offset the hit the CNMI sweatshops took when textile quotas were lifted from Chinese. The Pirates of Saipan are betting that it will revitalize their economy—which means more CNMI sweatshops.
Flake’s Bill should be called The Sweatshops Revitalization Act of 2007. It has been referred to the Rules Committee. It should die there. And Flake should pay a price for trying to complete Abramoff’s unfinished legislative goals.
Now, after real CNMI reform legislation, that gives the workers rights and a path to Citizenship, it might make sense to review the provisions of Headnote (3)a, but not before. And then only if there are protections to ensure that the days of a labor abuse economy on the CNMI are over.
Flake’s Bill is free candy for Pirates. Talk about an "Earmark". Abramoff had been trying to find somebody to bump up the percentage made in China to 70% since 1998. Nice try Jeff.
And now to Pie
It was interesting to wade into the swamp of Primary Politics the other day when I posted, Sweatshop/Abramoff Cash = Trouble for Clinton.
Since I’ve been writing about the Abramoff scandal, modern Slavery and the abuse on the CNMI, I had grown use to my Diaries having a small and regular readership. Every now and then one would get on the "recommended" list. A few even gathered up to 300 comments or so.
Most have been widely supported by this community and the only real exceptions have been when I’ve posted a Diary on how the issues I write about intersect with Primary Politics. Take this one, The Corruption/Reform Primary: Meet the Democrats as a good example.
Still, I was not prepared for the reaction to Monday’s Diary on Sweatshop cash being donated to Senator Clinton.
I’ve read a lot of "pie fight" Diaries, but I never instigated one—until now. An interesting experience to be sure.
The Dairy had over 600 comments. I was called a liar, a Republican (???) and other unpleasant things. There were emotional comments and emotional Troll Ratings in response. There were even a few thinly veiled threats directed towards me. The discussion spawned other Diaries, one defending me (thanks) and one attacking me (thanks). I have to say it was interesting.
When I went to work Monday morning, there were about 60 comments. When I got home there were over 550. It took some time to read them and respond.
I wanted to take a moment and thank everyone who contributed; especially those who were challenged by the Diary and took issue with it. I appreciated the comments and the criticism—even when it was harsh.
Beyond the knee-jerk, "how dare you talk about Hillary that way" variety of comments, there were some that I thought deserved a response.
Many took issue with my including Abramoff in the title of the Diary. I’ve reflected on it and sadly it fits.
The Tan Family and Jack Abramoff were partners in corruption. Jack received millions of dollars from them—on and off the books—to fund the Republican effort to establish One-Party-Rule in the United States. Money from the Tan Family is the same as money from Abramoff. Actually it’s worse.
The first part of the Diary title Sweatshop/Abramoff Cash referred to the $10,000 that the Tan Family donated to Senator Clinton in 2005. It was and is a fact that the money is tied to both sweatshops and Jack Abramoff.
The second part of the title, = Trouble for Clinton reflected my belief that it is a bad thing for her to have this money in her record of donations.
Another element in the Diary that generated comments was when I attempted to make the case of how the media would treat these donations if they got to break the story. To do this I created an imagined news story as it might be written by the Politico or a hack working for the AP, WP or NYTs.
In my imagined story, I illustrate how these donations can (and will be) conflated in the press. This story morphs a donation made in 2005 to HRC’s Senate campaign into a donation for a Presidential Campaign that was yet to be announced.
My channeling a future "news" article and the using a common "journalistic trick" to conflate the donations, confused some readers. I thought I had placed a disclaimer on it, but it was clearly way too subtle. I assumed that readers would understand it as a cautionary tale. Some did not. If you took that section with the imagined "news" story, to be me stating the "facts" of my case, you could fairly leap to the conclusion that I was lying. It’s a hard path of logic to follow, but I can see how somebody could get there.
There were others who thought I was wrong to say anything that the Republicans might use against a Candidate who might be our nominee for President. They seemed to prefer silence to confronting facts. I think that is the wrong approach.
We share a common goal at this site.
We want Democrats to win in 2008 and beyond.
We want to win back the White House and everything down the ticket—all the way down to Dog Catcher (as they used to say).
To get to that end game, we have to be ready to fight the coming attack on the Democratic Nominee in 2008 and all our Candidates.
Make no mistake, the attack is coming.
I think it is best for us to raise those lines of attack now. Have them vetted on this site, in the Primary and use that experience to prepare our candidates for the onslaught.
This link to the Tan donation is one of the very few "new" lines of attack that can be used against Hillary. Most everything else they have to throw at her is old news.
That is why I raise it now. I want HRC and her supporters to knock it down, make it right and neutralize this meme before the GOP has a chance to use it.
We have to be willing to "Red Team" our candidates. We have to challenge them, probe and expose their weaknesses. It is rough, but worthwhile. If we had subjected Kerry to this he might have been ready to fight back when the attacks came.
Clinton, Edwards, Obama or any of the rest: I want them to be battle tested. I want them to be ready to respond.
For those who were (and are) angry that I keep bringing up this tainted $10,000 donated to Hillary Clinton, I remind you that we are both working towards the same end game. Our tactics are different. I respect your take, but I feel now is the time to expose any and all weaknesses in our candidates.
Doing this work here at Daily Kos is another advantages that this site can give our candidates.
That said it is important to be civil. To remember we are on the same side. Folks who disagree with me should be able to say so without fear of a TR—even if they are angry when they say it. Civility would be nice, but I understand that it is not always possible in the moment.
The give and take is healthy. So are our emotions.
That's the way it is some times in the old blogosphere. I'm used to it.
Still, the piefight left me longing for something else.
What I would really like to see is a Diary on Modern Slavery generating as much passion as one on Hillary Clinton; or a Diary on the abuse of workers on the CNMI spawning other Diaries to keep the conversation going; or a Dairy about an American Hero like Wendy Doromal generating 600 comments.
That would be nice.