Volunteering in Little Haiti: Democracy Lives in US— and is under attack.

Posted on February 11, 2018

IMG_9098So, as part of blogging my politics as a graduate student, I think it’s also nice to—every once in awhile—also post about some of the fun things that I get to do in grad school. Something fun that I was able to partake in on February 8th, 2018 as a volunteer— was the “Democracy Lives in Miami” event. Going in, I was unsure of what volunteering would entail, but the event sounded interesting and would give MALOKA (a grad student organization) some CSO points. I volunteered my time from 5 PM to 8:30 PM—mostly signing people up who didn’t initially RSVP to the event, to the event, so that they could attend. I also got to walk around Little Haiti a bit—something that I’ve always wanted to do as a Miami “resident,” which was fun. I also agreed to volunteer in this instance, due to the location.

 

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I also got to watch the event for about an hour after sign-ups and registration ended. It was a panel of concerned citizens—all from different walks of life and party affiliations—who all felt that our Democracy was under threat. It reminded me of how subtle things like fascism can occur—especially in light of negligence by the broader public and academia—under people’s noses. The panelists names are on the pamphlet and each are easily google-able, but essentially we heard the stores of an African American who lived through Jim Crow and knew MLK. A Haitian immigrant whose parents died before she was 15. A rabbi who was 13 in 1942. A daughter of immigrant parents who organizes, mostly women of color housekeepers and nannies, in Miami. A Cuban immigrant who served in the military as a paratrooper and is now a judge (who also enlightened us to the fact that Jimmi Hendrix was also a paratrooper).

I do think that this usually happens as a series, so although this video is a bit older, you can get a gist of the event and why it is held:

Overall, this was an interesting panel with interesting perspectives. I also happened to volunteer at the event in the afternoon after I read about how Donald Trump has ramped up drone strikes by over 200% killing more innocents than Obama did in all 8 years; and also how he wants to have a military parade—apparently for himself—on U.S. soil.

Democracy lives in all of us, and is under attack it seems, every generation. We are the ones that must keep it in check.

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Trump’s State of the Union Addresses Corporate America, Sander’s Response to Trump’s #SOTU Addresses the Problems Facing the American People… Democrats Response Sticks to their “Stronger Together” Narrative to hide their Complacency with Trump (most notably, this is the same narrative which cost them the 2016 election).

Posted on January 31, 2018

Last night on JANUARY 30TH, Trump addressed the Nation. 70% of his speech, as dissected by Politico, was either “False,” “Mostly False,” or “Pants on Fire False.” This to say, that if you actually tuned in to watch Trump’s #SOTU, then you are most likely less informed about the State of our Union, than you would’ve been had you not watched it at all.

Surprisingly, Trump starts off saying that the State of our Union is “stronger than ever”— who would’ve thought that just after a year in office, he’d “Make America Great Again?” Now, this is sarcasm which is hard to decipher in today’s political climate—but him saying that, should give you an idea about where the entirety of his speech headed. Essentially, thanks to Trump, everything wrong with America has already been fixed or is currently in the process of being fixed, thanks to him.

He proudly boasted about corporate tax cuts, lied about job creation under him—which is at a 2010 low—, fan-girled over our military industrial complex—except for the parts of it that are currently investigating those within his administration, continued to rail against un-reciprocal trade, said he would accomplish (HOW?) what no other President has with North Korea, and called all Americans “dreamers” (I’m not kidding and the irony was apparently lost on many…except for those on the white supremacist side of things).

One would expect people would rail against the nonsense spewed in Tump’s #SOTU by the mainstream media (I even thought amongst my facebook friends!), but no. Mainstream media and many people praised Trump’s SOTU address, not based on its content, but on “how well” he spoke. How he “didn’t go off script,” it’s almost as if not paying attention to the content (policy) got them/us here in the first place! Apparently, Trump just doesn’t have to sound like a dumb lunatic when he’s reading his teleprompter for them to bypass the evil that him and his administration are doing at home and abroad.

I skipped out on the Dems response to Trump, after I realized the bullshit that they were speaking about. I even posted on my Facebook— and I quote myself: The Democrats “resistance” would’ve been stronger against Sanders had he became President, than it is against Trump. Think about that.

Indeed, we are in SAD times. The most succinct analysis on Trump’s address, that I’ve read so far, was written by Patrick Martin on the World Socialist Website. In summation of Trump’s SOTU, Martin writes:

With Donald Trump, the real state of the union is revealed, not by the endless torrent of lies fashioned by his speechwriters, or the people they exploited as human props, but in the persona of the president himself: the first billionaire to occupy the White House, preening over the signal accomplishment of his first year in office—trillions of dollars in tax breaks for corporations and the super-rich.

In a speech that quickly received positive responses in the media, Trump cited the record-breaking rise in the stock market and the decision of major corporations to repatriate funds to the United States—since they can now do so virtually tax-free—as though these would benefit American workers.

However, Trump’s efforts to paint a portrait of a country on the rise, with living conditions improving, will not have fooled anyone. Only a few minutes after claiming that Americans have never had it so good, he noted that 64,000 people died of drug overdoses in America last year, a record number. This was one of his few concessions to social reality, which Trump used to demand increased police powers.

Thankfully, not everyone bought the “at least he doesn’t sound stupid” kool-aid.

Sander’s response was quite short and to the point. Although his live was interrupted for roughly 5 minutes, he came back on and basically fact-checked Trump’s speech and how what he is currently doing is at odds with what he said he’d do as President:

  1. Americans are going to pay for a border wall
  2. 3 million Americans have (still) lost healthcare due to GOP changes within the Affordable Care Act (aka “Obamacare,” aka Romneycare rebranded)
  3. 3 Americans have seen a $68 billion plus increase in wealth this year, whereas the average American worker has seen a pay increase of $0.04 an hour
  4. Cuts to social security, medicaid, and medicare
  5. Only 2% of American workers reported a raise or bonus because of the tax bill
  6. No deduction in drug prices

For a full transcript of Sanders speech— the only speech that was worth listening to last night— click here. 

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[Photo shared to me by my Uncle this morning via WhatsApp, I do not know the original source]

Preparing for Comps, Grad School

Posted on January 25, 2018

This semester, I have one class and am doing comps prep (preparing for my comprehensive examinations).

I am in an International Relations PhD program at FIU, where I focus on foreign policy and security—with a broad concentration on International Relations and the Caribbean.

My Comprehensive Exams will consist of 5 questions— 2 belonging to core IR theory, 2 on my 2 major focuses: foreign policy + security, and 1 on my minor concentration: Caribbean politics.

The good thing is, that I have read many of these books before and have taken extensive notes on them. I have highlighted material that I am confident with below. The bad thing is, at face value, the whole preparation aspect of it can seem daunting.

I am just taking it one step at a time. [Also, just because something is not highlighted does not mean that I have not engaged with the author, article, or book– I just haven’t engaged with that specific person or material well enough, to give you a 2 minute speech on what they essentially advocate/argue]

Below I detail what I am studying for, for my comps.

If something is highlighted, it means that I’ve read it in depth many times and have a lot of notes on it, to the point that I am not worried about it at all…

CORE #1: For the more traditional aspect of IR theory, I am studying these topics/themes/scholars below:

Realism (defensive, offensive, classical), (Social) Constructivism, Liberalism, Carr, Morgenthau, Niebuhr, Bull, Wendt, the Security Dilemma, the Cold war as analysed by the different schools of thought, the Democratic Peace Theory (/Hypothesis), Economic Structuralism, Larger Debates in the Philosophy of Science (Kuhn, Popper, Toulmin, Habermas), the Major Debates post Carr’s “Twenty Years Crisis,” Neoliberal Institutionalism, Anarchy, Role of International Institutions + Organizations in IR theoryCORE 2: In relation to my dissertation, the standout theme in this subset of traditional (“canon”) texts for alternative ways of viewing the world are divided in these categories below:

Race & Globalism/Globalisms from Below 

Michael W. Doyle, Liberal Peace:Selected Essays

Achille Mbembe, Critique of Black Reason

Charles W. Mills, The Racial Contract

Denise Ferrira da Silva, Toward a Global Idea of Race

Ann Laura Stoler, Duress: Imperial Durabilities in our Times

Daniel Levine, Recovering International Relations: The Promise of Sustainable Critique

Robert Cox, Social Forces, States, and World Order: beyond International Relations Theory Millennium

Jodi Melamed, Represent and Destroy: Rationalizing Violence in the New Racial Capitalism

George J. Sefa Dei, Reframing Blackness and Black Solidarities through Anti-colonial and Decolonial Prisms

Post-Colonial Theory

Robert Young, White Mythologies

Dipesh Chakrabarty, Provincializing Europe

Edward Said, Orientalism

Arjun Appadurai, Modernity at Large

Paul Gilroy, The Black Atlantic

Early Black Political Thought

Aime Cesaire, Discourse on Colonialism

Frantz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth

WEB DuBois, The Souls of Black Folk

Find some interesting essays by Sylvia Wynter

CLR James, The Black Jacobins

Political Economy

Saidiya Hartman, Lose your Mother

Greg Grandin, The Empire of Necessity

Some key articles here

Other

Julian Go, Postcolonial Thought and Social Theory

Vijay Prashad, The Darker Nations

MAJOR #1: The first major topic is security and in my security major, I am currently studying and could be potentially tested on these give themes:

  1. Thinking and Framing Security and Strategy: Continuity and Change
  2. Security, Securitization, War, Coercion and the “Three Images”
  3. Is War an Extension of Politics?
  4. Revolution, National and International Security
  5. In Search of a Benevolent Hegemony? A “Hobbesian Order,” A “Kantian Paradise,” or a “Groatian Compromise?”

The scholars that I am expected to study closer are:

Buzan & Hansen, Kay, Art & Greenhill, Mahnken & Maiolo, Smith, Katzenstein, Waever & Buzan, Acharya, Kane & London, Gray, Freedman, Barash, Augustine, Hobbes, Bodin, Schelling, Jepperson, Wendt, De Mesquita, Booth, Desch, Der Derian, Enloe, Tycker, Sjöberg, Lebow, Betts, Bilgin, Yongtao, Tycker & Hez, van Creveld, Williams, Mitzen, Metcalf, Howard, Clausewitz, Sun Tzu, Vasquez, Leander, Lind, Biddle, Cohen, Battle, Maye, Lanis, Kaldor, Sylvester, Owens, Gordon, Milevski, Snow, Tse-Tung, Goldstone, Walt, Halliday, Cohen & Crane, Gentile, Arendt, Kissinger, Brzezinski, Kagn, Wallerstein, Agnew, Ikenberry & Slaughter, Layne, Measheimer, Blank, Legrenzi, Ehteshami, Escobar, Dorsey, Mesbahi & Homayounvash, Turse, Youngs, Morvchick, ECFR, Freeman, Alison, Buruma, and Kaplan

MAJOR #2: The second major topic is U.S. foreign policy and these are the books and articles, along with the authors, that I will be re-reading in more depth for this topic:

Anderson, American Foreign Policy and its Thinkers

Chomsky & Vitchek, The Decline of U.S. PowerLeffler, The American Conception of National Security & the Beginning of the Cold War, 1945-8

Ikenberry, Rethinking the Origins of American Hegemony; The Plot Against American Foreign Policy: Can the Liberal Order Survive

Fordham, Economic Interests, Party and Ideology in Early Cold War Era US Foreign Policy

R. Cox, Transnational Capital and the Politics of the Global Supply Chains

Mitchell & Massoud, Anatomy of a Failure: Bush’s Decision-Making Process and the Iraq War

Marsh, Obama’s Surge: A Bureaucratic Politics Analysis of the Decision to Authorize a Surge in Afghanistan

Allison, Conceptual Models and the Cuban Missile Crisis

Layne, Peace of Illusions

Vitalis, White World Order, Black Power Politics

Bacevich, The New American Militarism

Thorpe, The American Warfare State: The Domestic Politics of Military Spending

Stokes & Raphael, Global Energy Security and American Hegemony

Hope, The Promise of Constructivism in International Relations Theory

Jackson, Culture, Identity, and Hegemony: Continuity and the (lack of) Change in US Counterterrorism Policy from Bush to Obama

Eliassen Restad, Old Paradigms in History Die Hard in Political Science: US Foreign Policy and American Exceptionalism

Baum & Potter, The Relationships Between Mass Media, Public Opinion and U.S. Foreign Policy: Toward a Theoretical Synthesis

Gilens & Page, Testing Theories of American Politics

Measheimer, Walt, Wheatcroft, Pfaff, Levy, Massad, Chomsky & Mazower, The Israeli Lobby

R.W. Cox, The Military-Industrial Complex and U.S. Military Spending After 9/11

Scahill, The Assassination Complex

Keller, Democracy Betrayed: The Rise of the Surveillance Security State

Klare, Trump the Hawk

Gordon, A Vision of Trump at War: How the President Could Stumble into Conflict

Englehardt, The Honeymoon of the Generals

MINOR #1: Caribbean politics, topics and texts TBD

Some thoughts on today…

Posted on January 18, 2018

So I have been having two thoughts today that I thought I’d share and also open up to comments on my thoughts.
 
Thought 1: Lately, I’ve been thinking about the role of the academic in all of the research that they do. I believe in activist research, however, if we are to say that morality is relative and thus conclude that it is illusive– and that objectivity is unrealistic–how do/should we advocate/fight for things in our work as academics?
 
I think that this is an important question, because I believe that inaction in the academy helps to produce conservatisms– and in some respects reinforce them.
For instance, if we are to say that we are committed to progressive causes in the academy, why is it, that in this space, we appoint conservative bodies which oppose progressivisms (e.g. unionization of grad students at specific places “we support,” but lets appoint the people against this in charge) /(e.g. let’s study these negative effects, but give “practical solutions” so that our work isn’t too political and hence unpublishable)?
 
Thought 2: I have been literally stressed out about DACA and the temporary protected status (TPS) of Haitians and Latino/a migrants which will be devastatingly impacted on Monday; along with Caribbean and Latin American low-skilled visa workers who can also see their visas cut/destroyed.
 
Although this is all happening, I feel like the real social effects of present economic downturn (showing itself via massive inequality) of the global capitalist system for those migrating out of the Caribbean (for instance) for economic opportunities– with increasing xenophobias and politicization of migrants and criminalization of their bodies is being had– is not receiving much focus. Much focus outside of headlines for an obvious anti-immigrant administration.
 
But these things are all happening globally. All happening simultaneously, and I am wondering (in relation to my first thought) when the academy will seriously address these issues. When those in the academy able to give voice to those in power, give voice to works which address these issues…

We describe the “Underdeveloped World” / “Third World” / “The Global South” as shithole countries everyday…

Posted on January 13, 2018

Currently there is a huge uproar about U.S. President, Donald Trump, (allegedly) referring to majority black countries in Africa and Haiti as “shithole” countries. In this conversation, it is also alleged that he preferred to take black migrants out of the U.S., in favor of white immigration from European countries.

I do not doubt that Donald Trump has said these things— he’s already proven himself to be quite the racist. I only use the word ‘alleged’ since Donald Trump currently wants to change our libel laws and crack down on his “internal enemies.”  And, unfortunately, I do not have the funds to be sued in regards to libel issues. Or the time to be spent in prison over what was probably said and denied or vice versa.

My major qualm with the present headlines about the whole situation, is not even the fact that Donald Trump said what he said. What I really want to know is:

Who “checked” Trump when he made these (alleged) racist comments?

Apparently, no one in the room.

Yes, they may have feigned outrage after the fact— hence these recent expose’s— but let’s be honest: No one in the room checked Trump. Everyone in the room allowed Trump to feel comfortable enough that he could continue to make racist comments on foreign countries on more than one occasion during the length of the conversation (this according to one congressman that was in the room).

So why is that?

Well, as an International Relations scholar I would need a lot more finger and toes to explain to you how my discipline talks about majority black and brown countries in my field. I would be lying, in fact, if I said ‘I’m shocked by what Trump said,’ even if we were to disregard the fact that he is racist. What Trump said, is nothing new. What Trump said, is how these countries are viewed in the academy, veiled in “development” — usually underdevelopment — discourse. And it would not shock me if someone in my field gave Trump this precise language, when they “briefed” him on these countries. Let’s be honest, Trump did not think of the word “shithole” by himself. (Hollywood soldier blockbusters within black and brown regions, also refer to these countries as such)

We have a serious problem, especially in the mainstream, at being reactive to things that should outrage us in the wrong way. Right now, we should be outraged, but I have yet to see anything analyzing the ways in which we talk about the development vs. underdevelopment of specific countries. We should be talking about extractive economies and why, Donald Trump, could say what he said and in his apology, still say that Haiti is “poor” and a “disaster.” Our discourse on development and underdevelopment should outrage everyone. These discourses, least we forget, are inherently racist. Continuously paint black and brown countries as destitute and hopeless— in need of help. Continuously paint black and brown people within these countries as uneducated, lacking skills, and entitled to help. Continuously paint these countries and the people within them as unwanted and undesirable. It’s sad, but I could go on, forever…

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This discourse, is what allowed a journal like Third World Quarterly to publish “The Case for Colonialism.” Because apparently, black and brown people cannot rule themselves. Not according to our disciplines or anyone else in the West (that is not black or brown themselves). This discourse, is what allowed Trump to (allegedly) refer to these countries as “shithole” places. Because again, without ‘help’ they are ungovernable, destitute, and hopeless.

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What pisses me off the most, is that if Trump simply said things like what other countries in Europe/The West do say (e.g. “[We] Must Ban Immigrants”) everyone would be fine with that. After all, it would be in line with “regular Trump rhetoric” and we would be getting think pieces on how “we’re all immigrants.” Thus, we would see people willingly choosing to downplay the fact, that when Western countries say that they would like to “ban immigrants” and “ban immigration” in the present day, they’re talking about black and brown people. #SorryNotSorry Sally & Harrison—they’re not talking about your great-grand relatives that migrated here hundreds of years ago on a boat from a European country in search of a better life.

They’re talking about people leaving or fleeing their countries, ironically due to their (Western) extractive practices in these black and brown migrant countries. They’re talking about people leaving and fleeing their countries due to their (Western) military activities that upset governments and populations. They’re talking about people in search of a better life, largely tied to our exploitative global system where black and brown bodies are at the bottom of the social and capital hierarchy—thus largely disposable.

Trump and what he says is merely a mouth piece for a system that has been put in place for centuries. Current feigned outrage is because he said what he said uncoded. After all, we all already knew he was racist. THAT IS WHY HE WAS ELECTED.

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What we need to be doing is talk about how we view majority black and brown countries. And I am just letting you know right now, that it is not nice. If we continue the narrative that these places are destitute, impoverished, and ungovernable—we are saying that those people are not wanted or welcomed. These narratives are in contrast to the enlightened and richer Europeans who automatically migrate with knowledge. These narratives exists side by side in our psyche in terms of how we view different immigrants from different places.

In the U.S. those in poverty are already frowned down upon— “it is their fault.” We do the same to immigrants from majority black and brown countries. This is why in 2018, people are still shocked that not all Africans live in huts.

Canada’s Financial Dominance in the Former English Caribbean Colonies (FECC)

Posted on January 10, 2018

I have some exciting news!

A section of my Master’s paper was published today by COHA, entitled ‘Canada’s Financial Dominance in the Former English Caribbean Colonies (FECC).’

You can check it out here.

Throughout the the Fall ’17 semester, I have been trying to publish this particular section because I felt that it was relevant, not receiving much attention academically, and going to contribute more to the topic due to my conclusions and connections that were drawn from the literature and data.

Needless to say, this portion was rejected and usually without explanation and it made me feel a bit saddened. My work felt like it was not receiving the outlet that it deserved and I felt less ‘valid’ in some respects because of it. Especially since I dedicated time to trying to polish this section to be the best that it could be on my own and with minor inputs from my already working friends.

However, I became more focused on getting it out there in spite of the minor setbacks. I sent an email to COHA and shared with them this piece and they felt that it was worthy. I was connected with a expert scholar and great editor (Dr. Ann Jefferson) and also introduced to a member at the U.N. whose work is connected to financial issues in the region (Winston Dookeran).

This is why it is always good to never spoil or sour connections.

And today, all of that hard work has finally paid off, as my piece was published on COHA’s website!

I will forever be grateful to COHA and former COHistA status! I would also in this post, like to thank my committee members that helped me during my MA process @ FIU: Dr. Cox, Dr. Damman, and Dr. Martín

Happy New Year!

Posted on January 1, 2018

In short, we must intensify the struggle against a structural condition within the U.S. and replace it with something more progressive. However, because most people view their progressiveness outside of other populations realities, I have a feeling that in Sanders progressive vision, people of color and immigrants will continue to be disproportionately negatively affected.