Political Intelligence

Marchers, McCain, Y Mas

Cloak and Gown

Universities and institutions of higher learning are supposed to promote intelligence, but the University of Texas-Pan American in Edinburg might be taking that mission a bit too literally. The university may soon offer classes sponsored by the Central Intelligence Agency and other federal intelligence agencies. That’s right, UTPA students may soon get a degree in the CIA.

Long a recruiting center for the clandestine agency, UTPA is floating a plan to join four other universities in the country that house an Intelligence Community Center of Academic Excellence-a $1 million academic program run by the 15 federal agencies that comprise the U.S. Intelligence community. The goal of the centers is to “increase the pool of eligible applicants in core skills areas, specifically targeting women and racial/ethnic minorities,” according to the federal government’s guidelines.

While UTPA has not yet submitted a proposal to the Department of Defense, the word around campus is that students accepted into the program-which requires a 3.0 GPA and U.S. citizenship-will enroll in classes with special curricula developed by university faculty in consultation with the intelligence community. For example, Trinity University in Washington, D.C., home to one of the four existing intelligence centers, offers a history course entitled “East vs. West: Just War, Jihad and Crusade, 1050 – 1450” that according to the syllabus “seeks to develop the critical/analytical and writing skills that are particularly important to the intelligence community.”

Graduates of the program will receive a minor degree in National Security Studies and the chance to work for the CIA and other agencies. The center also will sponsor a summer camp for high school students (they call it “spy camp” at Trinity-no, we’re not making that up). The center at UTPA will also fund new faculty positions, travel to other countries, and-cryptically-“other related activities” (perhaps a stab at a coup d’etat in Venezuela or Iran?).

Some faculty and students aren’t thrilled about their school’s new academic program. “They are profiling certain universities that have a high minority enrollment,” said Josi Mata, a 40-year-old UTPA student of anthropology. “They want students to fit in in Third World countries, specifically Latin America.” Mata points to the long-running presence of the CIA, the FBI, the military, and defense companies at UTPA. Besides frequent recruiting sessions on campus, both the FBI and the CIA have paid EdVenture Partners, a California-based company, to work with UTPA business students enrolled in a marketing class to develop an educational program that presents the agencies in a positive light and encourages recruitment of other students.

Samuel Freeman, a professor of Political Science at UTPA, added, “I think [the center] can conceivably have a chilling effect on academic freedom.”

But Dr. Van Reidhead, the dean of the Department of Behavorial and Social Sciences, where the center would be housed, insists that the university “wouldn’t put in place a program that had any kind of manipulation on the part of the intelligence community.” Reidhead promotes the center as a benevolent, win-win for the cash-starved university, which will receive much needed federal dollars, and for an intelligence community in desperate need of critical-thinking skills in the aftermath of the botched job on Saddam Hussein’s non-existent WMDs.

Still, not everyone’s convinced. As Samantha Garcia, a biology major from Corpus Christi, put it, “You just cannot have a government agency inside the classroom-it’s indoctrination.”

Getting Run Off

Fear not, sexy cheerleaders-you can now shake and shimmy in those dance routines all you want. That’s because 13-term incumbent state Rep. Al Edwards (D-Houston)-the author of last session’s infamous anti-sexy-cheerleading bill-was bounced from office in the primary runoff election on April 11. Edwards’ loss was one of several runoff election results that may further erode Speaker Tom Craddick’s power.

Edwards is one of Craddick’s closest Democratic allies in the House. The Speaker rewarded Edwards with a spot on the House Appropriations Committee and chairmanship of the House Rules and Resolutions Committee. Last session, Edwards was also the lone Democrat to vote in favor of a controversial GOP-backed property-tax-cut bill. Democratic challenger Borris Miles, a former law enforcement officer who now sells insurance, ousted Edwards with 53.5 percent of the vote-and with support from some of Edwards’ Democratic House colleagues. In a way, though, Edwards isn’t going anywhere. A likeness of him is set to adorn the planned Juneteenth monument. (Edwards serves as chairman in perpetuity of the state-funded Juneteenth commission that created the monument.)

The other House incumbent who went down in the runoff was Scott Campbell (R-San Angelo). Campbell lost his seat despite a recent $10,000 contribution from the Future of Texas PAC-one of the PACs funded by James Leininger, the San Antonio multi-millionaire, school voucher proponent, and Craddick backer. Campbell was desperate after nearly losing outright in the March 7 primary and didn’t exactly take the high road in the runoff. Campbell put out mailers and radio spots that accused challenger Drew Darby of failing to pay child support and claimed that Darby “abandoned” his family after his first marriage ended. Ten days before the runoff, Darby filed a libel suit against Campbell.

Darby’s win was another success for the Texas Parent PAC, the group of mostly Parent Teacher Association moms who dived into the GOP primary to challenge members of Craddick’s leadership team over education policy [see “Wrath of the Soccer Moms,” March 24, 2006]. In the runoff, three of the four Republican candidates backed by Parent PAC won their elections, including Darby. Including the March 7 primary, eight of the 15 House candidates backed by Parent PAC won the GOP nomination-not bad for a first election.

¡Sí, SE PUEDE! Earlier this month another wave of massive rallies for immigrant rights took place across the state and throughout the nation-evidence of a new civil rights movement. On April 9, 500,000 marched in Dallas-a city not exactly known for protest marches. On April 10 (the anniversary of the death of Mexican revolutionary hero Emiliano Zapata) hundreds of thousands marched around the nation in over 100 cities, including 500,000 in Washington, D.C., 125,000 in Phoenix, and smaller protests everywhere from heartland locales such as Boise, Idaho, and Des Moines, Iowa, to Waco, Texas, where an estimated 3,500 people took to the streets. Driving all those marches was a bill passed by the U.S. House of Representatives late last year that would criminalize illegal immigrants. Juan Ortega, an undocumented immigrant from Honduras who is helping to build an Austin bank, took time off from work to join an estimated 10,000 to 12,000 people at the Capitol waving flags-American, Mexican, Honduran, Salvadoran, and Cuban-and listening to speeches in English and Spanish. “We are here to work, nothing more,” said Ortega, dressed in a cowboy hat and dust-spattered jeans. “We are not criminals, just people who do the hard work.” Against the backdrop of thousands chanting “Sí, se puede” (Yes, we can) and “Aquí estamos y no nos vamos” (Here we are and we won’t go), Ortega said that he fears that he and 12 million other illegal immigrants will soon be branded criminals and sent home. For an Austin high school student, who introduced himself to a youthful crowd at UT-Austin as Ruiz Orozco, there was an additional motivation to march: “We need to show we can not only do the hard jobs,” he said. An immigrant from Mexico, Ruiz Orozco was one of hundreds of middle- and high-school students from the Austin area who left class to join the rally and march, risking fines and suspension. “We can do the good jobs because we are good enough to do it.” A sign behind him echoed his call: “My father was an undocumented worker- I’m a law student-let us all live the dream.”

Messages such as these are seeking an audience in D.C. as the Senate tears through draft after draft of an immigration reform bill. A bipartisan effort to pass a compromise bill in the Senate was announced with great fanfare on April 7, but fell apart later that day. According to Cecilia Muñoz of the National Council of La Raza in Washington, D.C., there was “overwhelming support” for the compromise bill, which would have legalized some roughly 10 million people, while another group would have been able to adjust their status “with additional hurdles” in two to five years. “We have been urging both sides of the aisle to get to an agreement … and to protect it throughout the [legislative] process.” Congress is expected to take up the immigration issue again when it reconvenes on April 24. Expect more protests.

Crashing to the Right

Sen. John McCain has some work to do be-fore he can run for president. McCain’s problem is that too many right-wing-ers, the grassroots voters so important in the GOP presidential primary, see the Arizona Republican as being too liberal. In response, McCain has taken to the road-including a recent stop in Texas-to prove his conservatism.

In an April 3 speech at the George (H.W.) Bush Presidential Library Foundation at Texas A&M University, McCain sucked up to “41” and wowed the crowd of students and older people with decidedly conservative rhetoric and praise for the former president, his wife, and their son.

McCain has at times put forth somewhat conservationist stances on environmental issues. In his A&M speech, however, he went so far as to support President George W. Bush’s 2001 decision to opt out of the Kyoto Protocol, an agreement under which industrialized countries agreed to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases. McCain told the crowd at Rudder Auditorium on the College Station campus that he opposed the Kyoto accord because it exempted India and China.

OK, so McCain gave a technical-albeit lame-justification for the Kyoto pullout. But he has an even harder time explaining some other recent moves to appease the country’s influential right-wing voters. For example, McCain has announced his support for extending the Bush tax cuts that he fiercely opposed when they were passed.

In his most extreme effort to shed

his moderate image, McCain has agreed to speak at an institution of higher learning that makes A&M look like a liberal think-tank. In May, he plans to deliver the commencement address at, of all places, Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University. McCain once described Falwell as an “agent of intolerance.”

That should send the desiredmessage to the hyper-conservative Republicans across the country that McCain is no moderate.

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Published at 12:00 am CST