This has always stuck with me, but it’s only in the past few years that I’ve been able to process it and come to terms with it.
About twenty years ago I was visiting a friend in Marina Del Rey. I got on the elevator, then saw a young black man about my age rushing to get on. I held the door open for him.
The first thing he said was “You’re lucky you’re white. You’ll never get stopped like I just was by the sheriffs.”
I protested that I was Latino, and subject to the same discrimination. He said, “You may be, but you look white. You’ll never be stopped.” He then got off on his floor.
Needless to say, I dismissed his assertion that I was “white”. I was Latino, part of the Prop 187 generation. We were fighting for our place in the sun. I was with the oppressed.
But here are a few facts.
I’m Cuban. That off the bat sets me apart from most of the Latinos in California. Cubans are always thought of as the “good Latinos”, not like those other ones who just want to take.
And I’m not only Cuban, but a white Cuban. That doubly sets me apart from most of the US Latino population. Cuba, like the US, has a horrifying history of slavery and oppression of its black citizens. Even in the Communist era, most people in high ranking positions are white.
It took many years, but eventually it did get through to me that my skin color conferred advantages and privileges upon me. That is merely a fact. I will most likely not be pulled over by a cop while walking down the street. I will not be stopped and frisked for no reason. I will be given the benefit of the doubt where people with darker skin will not.
When Barack Obama was elected, many of us felt as if a historical weight had been lifted off our shoulders. “Look, we elected our first African American president, and it happened so soon after Dr. King’s assassination!” There was a sense of national euphoria during the heady times surrounding the 2008 election.
But almost immediately it went to seed. Some on the Left were immediately disappointed that he wasn’t going to govern as their idealized version of an oppressed minority finally scaling the heights of power. And many on the Right were convinced not only that he would, but that he was.
I’ve documented the explosion of racial animus in our post-racial age elsewhere, all triggered by Pres. Obama’s election. But the previous week has seen it take hold of the national conscience in a way which has been extraordinary even in light of the past six years.
More broadly – big picture – as you end this trip, I don’t think I have to remind you there have been a lot of unflattering portraits of your foreign policy right now. And rather than get into all the details or red lines, et cetera, I’d like to give you a chance to lay out what your vision is more than five years into office, what you think the Obama doctrine is in terms of what your guiding principle is on all of these crises and how you answer those critics who say they think the doctrine is weakness.
Well, Ed, I doubt that I’m going to have time to lay out my entire foreign policy doctrine. And there are actually some complimentary pieces as well about my foreign policy, but I’m not sure you ran them.
Here’s I think the general takeaway from this trip. Our alliances in the Asia Pacific have never been stronger; I can say that unequivocally. Our relationship with ASEAN countries in Southeast Asia has never been stronger. I don’t think that’s subject to dispute. As recently as a decade ago, there were great tensions between us and Malaysia, for example. And I think you just witnessed the incredible warmth and strength of the relationship between those two countries.
We’re here in the Philippines signing a defense agreement. Ten years ago, fifteen years ago there was enormous tensions around our defense relationship with the Philippines. And so it’s hard to square whatever it is that the critics are saying with facts on the ground, events on the ground here in the Asia Pacific region. Typically, criticism of our foreign policy has been directed at the failure to use military force. And the question I think I would have is, why is it that everybody is so eager to use military force after we’ve just gone through a decade of war at enormous costs to our troops and to our budget? And what is it exactly that these critics think would have been accomplished?
My job as Commander-in-Chief is to deploy military force as a last resort, and to deploy it wisely. And, frankly, most of the foreign policy commentators that have questioned our policies would go headlong into a bunch of military adventures that the American people had no interest in participating in and would not advance our core security interests.
So if you look at Syria, for example, our interest is in helping the Syrian people, but nobody suggests that us being involved in a land war in Syria would necessarily accomplish this goal. And I would note that those who criticize our foreign policy with respect to Syria, they themselves say, no, no, no, we don’t mean sending in troops. Well, what do you mean? Well, you should be assisting the opposition – well, we’re assisting the opposition. What else do you mean? Well, perhaps you should have taken a strike in Syria to get chemical weapons out of Syria. Well, it turns out we’re getting chemical weapons out of Syria without having initiated a strike. So what else are you talking about? And at that point it kind of trails off.
In Ukraine, what we’ve done is mobilize the international community. Russia has never been more isolated. A country that used to be clearly in its orbit now is looking much more towards Europe and the West, because they’ve seen that the arrangements that have existed for the last 20 years weren’t working for them. And Russia is having to engage in activities that have been rejected uniformly around the world. And we’ve been able to mobilize the international community to not only put diplomatic pressure on Russia, but also we’ve been able to organize European countries who many were skeptical would do anything to work with us in applying sanctions to Russia.
Well, what else should we be doing? Well, we shouldn’t be putting troops in, the critics will say. That’s not what we mean. Well, okay, what are you saying? Well, we should be arming the Ukrainians more. Do people actually think that somehow us sending some additional arms into Ukraine could potentially deter the Russian army? Or are we more likely to deter them by applying the sort of international pressure, diplomatic pressure and economic pressure that we’re applying?
The point is that for some reason many who were proponents of what I consider to be a disastrous decision to go into Iraq haven’t really learned the lesson of the last decade, and they keep on just playing the same note over and over again. Why? I don’t know. But my job as Commander-in-Chief is to look at what is it that is going to advance our security interests over the long term, to keep our military in reserve for where we absolutely need it. There are going to be times where there are disasters and difficulties and challenges all around the world, and not all of those are going to be immediately solvable by us.
But we can continue to speak out clearly about what we believe. Where we can make a difference using all the tools we’ve got in the toolkit, well, we should do so. And if there are occasions where targeted, clear actions can be taken that would make a difference, then we should take them. We don’t do them because somebody sitting in an office in Washington or New York think it would look strong. That’s not how we make foreign policy.
And if you look at the results of what we’ve done over the last five years, it is fair to say that our alliances are stronger, our partnerships are stronger, and in the Asia Pacific region, just to take one example, we are much better positioned to work with the peoples here on a whole range of issues of mutual interest.
And that may not always be sexy. That may not always attract a lot of attention, and it doesn’t make for good argument on Sunday morning shows. But it avoids errors. You hit singles, you hit doubles; every once in a while we may be able to hit a home run. But we steadily advance the interests of the American people and our partnership with folks around the world.
Julia Edwards: U.S. Justice Department To Collect, Study Arrest Data For Racial Bias
The U.S. Justice Department on Monday said it will begin collecting data on stops, searches and arrests made in five U.S. cities to weed out possible racial biases within the criminal justice system. Later this year, a $4.75 million federal grant will be awarded to recipients who compete for the funds to work with their local law enforcement to analyze arrest data and find ways to reduce any biases they find, particularly toward young minority men.
Black men were six times more likely, and Latino men were 2.5 times more likely, to be imprisoned than white men in 2012, according to Justice Department data. Attorney General Eric Holder said the data collection effort is in response to President Barack Obama’s call for better relations between law enforcement and young men of color following the “not guilty” verdict in the shooting death of black Florida teen Trayvon Martin.
Philippine and United States officials on Monday signed the agreement that will allow an enlarged rotational presence of American troops in the country, hours before the arrival of US President Barack Obama. Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and US Ambassador Philip Goldberg signed the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City. The ceremony lasted for not more than 15 minutes. The two officials left did not take questions after giving short statements. Finalized after eight rounds of talks that began in August 2013, the new accord grants US troops access to designated Philippine military facilities, the right to construct facilities, and pre-position equipment, aircraft and vessels. But the pact rules out permanent basing, as the Philippine Constitution bans foreign military bases in the country unless covered by a treaty.
According to a fact sheet provided by the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), the pact has an initial term of 10 years and was signed as an executive agreement within the scope of the Visiting Forces Agreement that had been ratified by the Philippine Senate in 1999. In his speech, Goldberg stressed that the agreement will not pave the way for permanent US military presence and the reopening their military bases in the country. “The US does not intend to establish permanent military presence in the Philippines…it will not reopen US bases to enhance our defense relationship,” he said. Goldberg said the agreement will support the long-term modernization of the Armed Forces and will help it “maintain and develop additional maritime security, maritime domain awareness and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief capability.”
Dean Angstadt fells trees for a living. He’s a self-employed, self-sufficient logger who has cleared his own path for most of his 57 years, never expecting help from anyone. And even though he’d been uninsured since 2009, he especially wanted nothing to do with the Affordable Care Act. “I don’t read what the Democrats have to say about it because I think they’re full of it,” he told his friend Bob Leinhauser, who suggested he sign up. That refrain changed this year when a faulty aortic valve almost felled Angstadt. Suddenly, he was facing a choice: Buy a health plan, through a law he despised, that would pay the lion’s share of the cost of the life-saving surgery – or die. He chose the former. “A lot of people I talk to are so misinformed about the ACA,” Angstadt said. “I was, before Bob went through all this for me. I would recommend it to anybody and, in fact, have encouraged friends, including the one guy who hauls my logs.” Angstadt called Leinhauser. The political odd couple talked a bit before Angstadt mentioned he was having trouble breathing. Leinhauser, 55, a retired firefighter and nurse, drove him to a doctor’s office.
“Dean only saw a doctor when he needed to because it made a big difference in his finances,” Leinhauser said. From time to time, Leinhauser would urge Angstadt to buy a plan through the ACA marketplace. And each time, Angstadt refused. “We argued about it for months,” Angstadt said. “I didn’t trust this Obamacare. One of the big reasons is it sounded too good to be true.” Leinhauser went to Angstadt’s house, and in less than an hour, the duo had done the application. A day later, Angstadt signed up for the Highmark Blue Cross silver PPO plan and paid his first monthly premium: $26.11. Angstadt’s plan kicked in on March 1. It was just in time. Surgery couldn’t be put off any longer. On March 31, Angstadt had life-saving valve-replacement surgery. “I probably would have ended up falling over dead” without the surgery, Angstadt said. “Not only did it save my life, it’s going to give me a better quality of life.” “For me, this isn’t about politics,” he added. “I’m trying to help other people who are like me, stubborn and bullheaded, who refused to even look. From my own experience, the ACA is everything it’s supposed to be and, in fact, better than it’s made out to be.”
The United States froze assets and imposed visa bans on seven powerful Russians close to President Vladimir Putin on Monday and also sanctioned 17 companies in reprisal for Moscow’s actions in Ukraine. President Barack Obama said the moves, which add to measures taken when Russia annexed Crimea last month, were to stop Putin fomenting rebellion in eastern Ukraine. Obama added he was holding broader measures against Russia’s economy “in reserve”. Among those sanctioned were Igor Sechin, head of state energy firm Rosneft, and Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak. A Russian deputy foreign minister was quoted as expressing “disgust” at the White House announcement. The European Union, with more to lose than Washington from sanctions against Russia, a major energy supplier and trading partner for the EU,
is also expected to announce new penalties after member governments reached a deal, diplomats said. The United States will deny export licenses for any high-technology items that could contribute to Russian military capabilities and will revoke any existing export licenses that meet these conditions, the White House said. It was the third round of sanctions that the United States has imposed over Crime and troop build-up on the border. All the sanctions have been aimed at individuals and businesses. “Russia’s involvement in the recent violence in eastern Ukraine is indisputable,” a White House statement said.
TPM: Obama Pledges Federal Help After Deadly Tornado
President Barack Obama is sending his deepest condolences to those affected by a deadly tornado that ripped through Arkansas. Obama says he wants everyone affected to know that the federal government is on the ground to help. He says the Federal Emergency Management Agency will work with local officials. Obama says, quote, “Your country will be there to help you recover and rebuild, as long as it takes.” The president is also praising the heroic efforts of first responders and neighbors. A broad tornado killed at least 11 when it sliced through suburbs in Arkansas on Sunday at the start of the U.S. tornado season. Another person died in Oklahoma.
The mayor of Ukraine’s second-largest city was shot in the back and pro-Russia insurgents seized more government buildings Monday as the U.S. hit Russia with more sanctions for allegedly fomenting the unrest in eastern Ukraine. Armed insurgents tacitly backed by Moscow are seeking more autonomy in the region — possibly even independence or annexation with Russia. Ukraine’s acting government and the West have accused Russia of orchestrating the unrest, which they fear Moscow could use as a pretext for an invasion. Hennady Kernes, the mayor of Kharkiv, was shot in the back Monday morning, underwent surgery and “doctors are fighting for his life,” city hall said. Kernes was a staunch opponent of the pro-West Maidan movement that toppled President Viktor Yanukovych in February and
was widely viewed as the organizer of activists sent to Kiev from eastern Ukraine to harass those demonstrators. But he has since softened his stance toward the new Kiev government. At a meeting of eastern Ukrainian leaders and acting Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk earlier this month, Kernes insisted he does not support the pro-Russia insurgents and backed a united Ukraine. Kharkiv is in eastern Ukraine, where pro-Russia gunmen have seized government buildings and police stations, set up roadblocks or staged protests to demand greater autonomy or outright annexation by Russia. But unlike the neighboring Donetsk region, Kharkiv has been largely unaffected by the insurgency and Kernes has been credited for this. Its regional administration building was briefly seized earlier this month but promptly cleared of pro-Russia protesters.
A gauge of upcoming home sales ticked higher in March after eight straight months of declines, a sign the sector could be pulling out of its malaise. The National Association of Realtors said Monday that its seasonally adjusted index of pending sales of existing homes rose 3.4% in March from February to 97.4. That was more than the 1% increase forecast by economists and placed the index 2.6% below its 2001 benchmark level. The report showed home sales perking up after suffering in recent months from an unusually harsh winter weather as well as declining affordability.
The spring buying and selling season is crucial for the U.S. housing market because many families prefer to make a move to a new school district by the end of the summer. Pending home sales provide a more timely gauge of market conditions than some other indicators as they tally sales at the moment contracts are signed. Sales typically close one or two months later. “After a dismal winter, more buyers got an opportunity to look at homes last month and are beginning to make contract offers,” said National Association of Realtors Chief Economist Lawrence Yun.
Here’s another sign that the stance on Obamacare held by many GOP Senate candidates — whether you call it “repeal,” or “repeal and replace with something-or-other to be specified later” — is becoming increasingly unsustainable and could get harder and harder to explain as these campaigns intensify. In a weekend interview with WMUR, Scott Brown — who is running for Senate in New Hampshire — attempted to explain his stance on health care. He endorsed the general goals of protecting people with preexisting conditions and expanding coverage to those who need it. But he then denounced Obamacare as a “disaster,” citing the usual litany of Obama tyrannies and horror stories often hawked by Republicans. So, how would Senator Scott Brown go about accomplishing the goals he says he supports? Well, he urges reform on the state level.
New Hamsphire recently moved forward with its version of the Medicaid expansion. Brown supports repeal — which would do away with the expansion — and yet to my knowledge, he has not taken a position directly on the expansion when asked. Repeal would scrap Obamacare’s consumer protections and other efforts to expand coverage. Brown (who supported Romneycare in Massachusetts) appears to think federal reform should be repealed and replaced with state level reform. Until he says otherwise, that seems to mean he doesn’t envision a federal “replace” plan.
First Lady Michelle Obama watches as students from the Ron Clark Academy perform at the unveiling of the Sojourner Truth bust at the U.S. Capitol in Washington DC, April 28, 2009 (Photo by Samantha Appleton)
President Obama greets various 2009 State Teacher of the Year winners during a ceremony in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington on April 28, 2009
President Obama speaks to employees of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) at FBI headquarters in Washington on April 28, 2009
Students from the Ron Clark Academy perform for First Lady Michelle Obama and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi during the unveiling ceremony of abolitionist and suffragist Sojourner Truth in the Capitol Visitors Center in Washington on April 28, 2009
President Obama greets workers and invited guests after speaking at POET Biorefining ethanol plant in Macon, Missouri on April 28, 2010
First Lady Michelle Obama jokes with participants in the Wounded Warrior Soldier Ride in the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House, April 28, 2010 (Photo by Samantha Appleton)
President Obama talks with Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour about severe storms and tornados that moved across the southeast, during a phone call in the Oval Office Private Dining Room, April 28, 2011 (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama greets cast members from ABC’s sitcom “Modern Family”, including Julie Bowen, center, and Sofia Vergara, right, in the Oval Office, Saturday, April 28, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)
First Lady Michelle Obama arrives at the 2012 White House Correspondents Association Dinner
President Obama laughs during the 2012 White House Correspondents Association Dinner held at the Washington Hilton on April 28, 2012