An Eventful Morning-I Meet Alberto
If you're just now finding this blog, the #1 blog on the web according to my mother, then chances are you've read my article on MSNBC today, Fly The Cell-Free Skies... While You Still Can. It's my second MSNBC article, and the first time anyone's mentioned Tamagachis in well over 4 years.
I also mentioned a song in the first paragraph, which presumably got cut for space. I'd like to promote it here. "In The Sun," an excellent Joseph Arthur song in its own right, has been rerecorded by Joseph, R.E.M. frontman Michael Stipe, and that guy who named his kid Apple. The "In The Sun" EP is available on iTunes, and it's for a good cause-- money goes to Hurricane Katrina relief. It remains vital that we pay attention to New Orleans and continue to aid in the recovery of the city and the rest of the gulf coast. Mardi Gras may be coming up, but there's still not a lot to celebrate in the Big Easy. (Like toxic sludge.)
Now to today's momentous and ironic event. I met Alberto Gonzales.
For those of you who read this blog (hey mom, hey dad!), you know that me and Alberto don't exactly see eye to eye. I like playing Madden, he likes listening to phone calls. I'm a big Jets fan, Alberto enjoys torture. To each his own.
I attended a round-table discussion about Human Trafficking, hosted by Alberto and the Office of Public Affairs. The report they gave us is embargoed until March 16th, so I can't really talk about it. But in general, the report shows the efforts and progress the Bush administration has made in fighting this modern form of slavery, in which young, impoverished girls are lured to the U.S. with the promise of jobs, love, or safety and are then turned into indentured servants, sweatshop workers and prostitutes.
After passing through a metal detector, I entered the main conference room. It was not a large crowd.
There were 4 other reporters there. From Glamour, Parents Magazine, Ladies Home Journal, and People. Not exactly your "hard news" lineup.
They were there for the same reason I was. Human Trafficking is a "hot" story, like Blackberrys and MySpace. The woman from People was practically drooling as she asked Alberto if he could help her "get in touch" with some of the victims. "We've been trying to get a victim for a long time," she said. Ah, People. In what other magazine can you learn Britney Spears loves K-Fed soooo much and also read about a sexually abused illegal immigrant? What was Glamour's angle... "This month, we give a victim of human trafficking a makeover she'll never forget!!!"?
The other reporters were all women. Alberto entered and said, "Welcome Ladies." Then he saw me. A few seconds passed. "And gentleman."
In this intimate setting, Alberto sat across from me at the conference room table. From my vantage point, I observed a funny little mannerism.
Alberto does this thing with his hands. He rests his wrists on the table, and just sort of pushes out with his fingers while he's speaking:
Sometimes he thrusts downward instead of up.
The wrists never leave the table. At one point, he played with a napkin. Just a funny little quirk.
He mentioned his how being a Mexican-American made the issue of Human Trafficking especially important to him. A large number of women are lured into the states from Mexico. Apparently, this is a growing problem that the government is taking seriously. Alberto seemed sincere when he said this was a priority of the administration. Where it ranks compared to the war in Iraq, the war in Afghanistan, Hurricane relief and banning gay marriage, he didn't say. But I find it hard to hate on Alberto. He was quiet and unassuming, shook hands with everybody, answered most of our questions (although he said he'd have to get back to me on how the government is supporting non-governmental organizations dedicated to fighting human trafficking)
Now you're probably wondering. Did you hit him with any hard questions? Did you reem him out for defending the policies of torture and unaccountable spying?
Well. No. I couldn't. For the sole reason that I was there representing a magazine, and the magazine has no political interests. So it would have been unprofessional to go off topic. Fun, but unprofessional.
He did say his priorities were to "Promote the American dream" and "Assure protection of civil rights." I have no reason to doubt him on this. He seemed sincere. He didn't say anything, however, about how torture and unauthorized spying play into those priorities.
Afterward, I called my mom. "The attorney general? Of the United States?" she said, surprised, when I called to tell her about my morning. "I thought you were meeting the attorney general of New York!"
"They don't send reporters from such prestigious news outlets as Glamour and Ladies Home Journal to cover the attorney general of New York, Mom," I said.
We'll have to wait and see which magazine writes the Human Trafficking "scoop" first. In the meantime, tell your impoverished friends in other countries that it may not be such a swell idea to take that guy up on his offer of free travel to the U.S. in exchange for some... services. And visit ijm.org to find out what you can do.
And please, give my MSNBC article a 5 dammit. I work hard for your sake. Don't be a hater!