Monday, January 31, 2011

I am an American by choice

If you were born here, you don’t really have an idea what that means

The accident of the place you were born doesn’t leave you much choice…you are born there and that is that. But in the migrations and the political upheavals people have to move around. Some even do it seeking financial improvements and that is not looked upon as noble as one who comes to America searching for freedom and to embrace the principles which this country was founded.

My parents brought me to America as a fourteen year old. I didn’t have much a say in that either. As I adapted and became familiar with the culture; I became impressed with the noble purpose of the creation of America by the Founding Fathers. The idea of equality, participatory democracy and the pursuit of happiness was to me an awesome concept.

I was also very admiring of the fact that this is a nation of laws. Anarchy to me was much too fresh in my young mind as I saw my country deteriorate and the fabric of society crumble. I was experiencing in America the total opposite of my homeland and I liked it.

Unlike my peers who had not experienced any hardships due to politics gone wrong; I had that fire in my belly to participate, to become informed and to become an American. I even began to volunteer in Los Angeles for the campaign to elect Barry Goldwater President. At the time I still had a blindfold over my eyes as to the motivations and the underlying ideology of the Republican Party. I did notice that as a Latino I just didn’t see very many of my Hispanic brothers in the Republican Party. I noticed too that there were very few blacks. I found it suspect but because I was under the impression that the Republicans were staunch anti-communists I would be more at home there.

I was so much a hawk, a warmonger that I was in favor of the Vietnam War. Although I must admit I couldn’t understand why the U.S. would fight that war and tolerate a communist regime 90 miles from its shores. The “domino theory” that was the talking point then would also apply to Cuba, would it not? And it did…Cuba got itself involved in every imaginable conflict in Latin America and even obtained some limited success in Nicaragua and El Salvador while creating a headache for Latin American governments from the Mexican border to Patagonia…and giving America a veritable pain in the ass; some of the dominoes did fall.

It wasn’t until I was in my second year of college that I began to question some of my set of beliefs and American politics in general. On a personal level I noticed that no matter what I did, how well I did it and how hard I worked I was still not respected. Those just deserts never would come my way.

Kent State happened and I was horrified at the thought that American students would actually be murdered by the military while exercising their right of free speech. It started to become clear that the Viet Nam war was immoral and that we were there not for the reasons that our government claimed. By the same token; I was kind of irritated by those who would label us “hippie-communists”, traitors and unpatriotic because we opposed the Vietnam War.

I graduated from college and then it hit me like a ton of bricks. As long as I was cleaning floors, waiting on tables and even cleaning bedpans at a hospital; some Americans, a lot of them actually, had no beef with me; but the minute that I began to compete in the marketplace, entered the job market and tried to get ahead that is when I met all kinds of glass ceilings. No, I am not going to go into details because I would need four or five pages to enumerate all the instances I was discriminated. But curiously, all those situations for some reason or another always involved a recalcitrant Republican who didn’t give a hill of beans about me and what I could contribute to his company. I felt as if the Statue of Liberty had been hit by lightning.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

The English language can be a bitch

Take it from me…after 50 years I am still struggling with it.

Something I will never forget; my first semester of college and I received an “F” in an essay I wrote for my English 101 class. Mrs. Applegate said that I used trite and overused clichés. What she didn’t understand was that for somebody who had arrived in this country only four years before…those trite and overused clichés were brand new to me; they were clever and fresh and it goes to show how different perceptions can lead to different value judgments.

At times I still have difficulties with the use of certain things like “ON” which can be at times a preposition, an adjective and an adverb. For example: when used as a function word to indicate means of conveyance, like: “on the bus” but when I wrote recently that guys in motorcycles were hot, I quickly got a comment from a follower that unless the dude inserted himself through the escape pipe he could not possibly be “In” the bike, but does it not apply for being “on” the bus? I have images in my mind of people sprawled ON top of buses to get around.

There is a lot of “tribal knowledge” involved. For somebody new to the language there are expressions and quotes that don’t make any sense or are absolutely absurd. Case in point is “Hitch your wagon to a star”; what does it mean? I know it is figure of speech and all, put when you take a test to get a job and you are faced with twenty five of these mother fucking absurdities it is frustrating. You know that you are smarter than the person administering the test and the one who is going to be your boss…but because of these little “got cha” tests it makes you feel like an idiot.

We are all familiar with the amount of censorship that was present during the infancy of television. They actually had a stiff, prudish person sit in and have a final say on what words to use and what things could or could not be shown…for example: bedrooms of married couples had single beds….RIGHT. The tyrannical oversight by the Federal Communications Commission was reflective of a very uptight society; one that was extremely uncomfortable with sex and physiological functions. Under federal court rulings and commission rules, material is indecent if it “in context, depicts or describes sexual or excretory activities or organs in a patently offensive manner as measured by contemporary community standards for the broadcast medium.” Indecent speech can be aired safely between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m.

I was in Spain with my elderly mother and I had fallen asleep watching television. Sometime around 3 AM I was awakened by the sounds of sex, wailing, puffing and moaning coming from a female being shown on the television channel that only hours before had a very innocent geological documentary. I got up and turned off the TV before my mom could awaken and it would have been embarrassing for her.

Of course I use dirty words in my everyday language and in my blog. I have often been criticized for gratuitous use of profanity. But from where I sit, stand or lay-lie (another one of those ambiguous things) it would seem to me that “PROFANITY IS THE SALT AND PEPPER OF THE OTHERWISE BLAND ENGLISH LANGUAGE STEW”

Saturday, January 29, 2011


Tunisia had riots that culminated in toppling the government



Image from TV, Prime Minister of Tunisia, Mohammed Ghannouchi appears on state television Friday Jan. 14, 2011, to announce that he is assuming power in Tunisia. The announcement came on Friday after many thousands of protesters mobbed the capital of Tunis to demand the ousting of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, and unconfirmed reports said he has already left the country. Prime Minister Ghannouchi announced on TV that he will hold power until early elections are held. (AP Photo)

Read more:

Tea Baggers you are hereby put on notice: If you keep destroying the fabric of American society you may be causing a total collapse of our great nation…plagued with protests and riots that you will encourage and support. You keep talking about a 2nd Amendment option and that is a call to arms, a call to insurrection…that is treason.

You propose nothing realistic in return: smaller government, government it the problem, no taxes, no Social Security, no Medicare, no public education…and yes, a tyrannical right-wing Christian Fundamentalist theocracy…so what you are selling…WE ARE NOT BUYING!

To those who are not Teahadists and say it can’t happen here; it already has - forty years ago we had riots in almost every major American city. Below are photos of the Los Angeles Watts riots which I witnessed right next door in the city of Huntington Park where I lived. I also feel very uneasy whenever I see and hear a call for insurrection as I lived through the Cuban Revolution in the late fifties that culminated in the takeover of a Marxist-Totalitarian regime.

Teahadists can only offer chaos and anarchy and if they do have a chance at taking power we are going to see a totalitarian, theocratic oligarchy. I remember too the fall of Ferdinand Marcos in the Philippines and the deposition of Suharto in Indonesia. I find it hard to believe that any sane American would want to go that route.

Watts riots


Friday, January 28, 2011


Some garments of clothing are worn because of culture and tradition, others because of religious orthodoxy dictates it.

Arguably, some articles of clothing have no purpose whatsoever; they can be decorative or they can be a form of repression. Those who wear these are saying “yes, I submit, I will do as you tell me and my hat, tie; etc is proof that I will)

Clearly, the need for clothing and head coverings actually has a utilitarian purpose: to protect us from the elements. A lot of heat is lost through the head in the cold climates; while in the tropics the sun relentlessly punishes human beings; thus hats are necessary in both cases. However, it is my opinion that a tie has absolutely no utilitarian purpose…it is worn just as a form of conforming to the disciplined upper class work force while “blue collar” indicates that you are down one notch in the pecking order.

Then there is the ornamental purpose of hats and clothing; it tells others of your station in life, your affluence, your rank in an organization or simply an indication of regionalism…where you hail from will determine what you wear in order to fit in and be accepted. This conventional conformism exists across the globe in all cultures and all religions. No one place or civilization has been immune from it and we continue to display this type of conformism with fastidious insistence.

There are other reasons of course; like animals that “puff up” to show how formidable they are as opponents, so do humans…some who are short in stature would benefit from head gear that stands above the others; while colors and designs may also tell their perceived superiority as would be the case of bishops and cardinals in churches.

The headdress that is thought to have belonged to Aztec Emperor Montezuma II (or Montezuma). It is believed that the artifact has been in Europe since the 16th century. (

Hasidic Jews in fancy fur

Clothing, hats and ornaments can act as religious symbols and these can evoke strong emotional responses, particularly those that are visual. This article considers a set of cases in which members of ethnic minority groups challenge policies denying them the right to wear symbols important for the maintenance of their social identities. Among the controversies considered are those concerning religious headgear and hair as well as the kirpan, the Sikh ceremonial dagger. The number of disputes involving religious garb and hairstyles demonstrates how visual religious symbols are often perceived as threatening. By analyzing selected cases in which religious minorities experience discrimination, studies have revealed the precarious nature of religious liberty in democratic systems. Careful consideration of the religious symbols of minority groups may help avoid ethnocentric assessments and cross-cultural misunderstandings.

yarmulke, kippah or kappel

The Stoner Chasid

It wasn’t too long ago when women were not allowed in churches without having their heads covered. The Spanish women wore the traditional mantilla held in place by a peineta. Brides often wore a white veil and even more common was a white mantilla.

That being said; I still have the opinion that wearing something in order to appease the mobs or to show servitude or obedience to me is not acceptable and will challenge anyone who tells me otherwise. I understand not practicing nudity for example and I will not do that although I think that there should be places dedicated to such activity…like nudist camps or recreation areas only for that purpose. But I refuse to wear a tie although in the past I had to when I was in the job market and working.

An Incan South American Indian in a fancy feather headdress

When it comes to religion, of course I criticize those who wear something just because their religious leaders and their religion tell them to do so. It is one form of submission that I will not tolerate, particularly if it is forced upon a secular government to enact legislation to do so.

There are sub-cultures within the mainstream that will wear a certain attire to identify their membership or allegiance to a group. A good example is the gay leather drag worn by those enthusiasts of a particular sexual preference and practice.

In the Middle East and Asia you are bound to find a greater variety of clothing requirements…after all, they have had the influence of civilization a lot longer than the rest of the world.

A Sikh man wearing a Dastar/Pagri

The Hijab

Sheila & Abaya

The Niqab

The Batula

The Burqa

Doa Gaun

The Chador

The Birquini

Certain colors and styles are more common to some regions over the others, and many of the looks are worn for cultural tradition rather than religious reasons; without going into more significant details and with university students Yara Darwish and Dina Mutassem of Qatar, "Know Your Veils" is a brief guide to preventing Westerners from shaming our entire race of people by calling every head covering a burqa.

The Cuban “Guayabera” is cool and elegant

You don’t have to ask these two what religion they adhere to

In the South and rural America this seems to be one of the most common head gear accessories


Thursday, January 27, 2011

The funnel law – La ley del embudo

In my culture we have this saying to describe a one sided, good for you and lousy for me situation.

When talking about entering into a legal contract one would expect that both sides are not just in agreement but that the contract is equitable, fair and not favor one over the other. In America, a nation of laws therein exist a lot of inequities built in to benefit the rich and the corporations.

A case in point is that of banks and mortgage companies. Not only is the law terribly tilted in their favor but a buyer of a property has no options other than to accept a rather one sided agreement and sign it if he/she wants to eventually own that property. This concept totally escapes me. Granted, we live in a free market society where it is in the best interests of the country to protect financial institutions from dead beats, cheaters and fraudulence; but in this case I think that we have gone far and beyond the expectations of what constitutes a fair and equitable contract.

We have seen repeatedly how banks and other financial institutions are on a rampage to foreclose on properties even when they don’t even own it nor have the proper documentation. We have even seen people thrown out of their homes when they had been making mortgage payments all along. It is a more than familiar and disturbing occurrence.

But not only are laws needed to protect consumers in this area but also we have to change the mentality of our country to reflect a more just and equitable situation when it comes to contracts. For example: Why is it that when one enters into a mortgage for the first segment of that contractual obligation the moneys paid only go to pay off the interest and not the principal? If you ask me, it should be fifty-fifty…you begin to pay off the interest as you pay off your principal. They could pro-rated if they so desire to calculate the total of the proceeds from the interests to be derived and added on to the total of the mortgage to be paid in equal amounts over a period of 25-30 years for example. But no, that is too much to ask and our financial institutions would scream bloody murder if such a thing was even suggested…greed is more pressing, the law of the funnel is what matters here.

What about the laws that are stacked in favor of health insurance companies? This is one of the most egregious examples of the funnel law. Insurance companies will only insure you if you are healthy, if you don’t make any claims when you get sick and they consistently will drop you if you do. Terms and conditions are often altered without notification. Claim denials are such a commonplace occurrence that it has become a joke. Sadly, the insurance business should be in this to offer some security and you pay a premium for that…usually a very high one; and in turn, the insurance company takes that risk…that is what the insurance business should be all about. However, the reality is that insurance companies exist only for the purpose of making a profit and have neglected to observe the reason or their existence. Let’s face it; as it stands, these companies don’t manufacture anything or provide a useful service; they are there as the middle man to skim the profits and not give anything in return. They are for all practical purposes parasites of society.

It is surprising however that a President who has been accused of being a SOCIALIST would even want to include these insurance companies in the mix in order to fix the terrible state of medical care in our country. If Obama had really been a socialist he would have fought for UNIVERSAL HEALTH INSURANCE much like what they have in other industrialized nations.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011





The Dow closed at 7,949 on Bush's last day in office. That means it's gone up 50% since President Obama's inauguration; YESTERDAY That same stock market that the goons at FOX so gloatingly pointed out had lost 3,000 points three months after Obama took office. It was clear to them that President Obama’s economic policies were driving the country into an abyss. They would point out what a leftist, SOCIALIST, anti-business guy ye was. They threw everything at him even the kitchen sink.

The reality is that President Obama is a centrist; he is a lot more moderate than some of us progressive liberals would like…but hey, it is better than having McCain and the Republicans saying NO and driving this country into misery, wars and lying through their teeth to do it.

Wouldn’t you think that if Obama was a SOCIALIST when he took office and all those banks and Wall Street financial institutions were going broke that instead of extending the bush bail outs he would have simply confiscated them and have the government own them, run them and pocket the profits for the good of the nation? Does it ever occur to any of these right wing-nuts that when the automobile industry was about to shut down all their plants and fade into oblivion that Obama would have taken them over and have the US Government run them and the people own them? Aren’t you glad he didn’t? Look at the car manufacturers now…they are making a profit and employing millions of people.

The moral of the story here is that you can’t believe one iota of what Teahadist-Republicans tell you and also you can’t expect immediate results in a few months, even a few years is not enough to correct the mess that took the Republicans years to accomplish through deregulation and tax cuts for the rich, subsidies for corporations, and, worse yet the Republican encouragement to have corporations close their doors here, stop manufacturing and set up shop abroad…they did plenty of that and look at all the American jobs we have lost. Yes my friends…perhaps President Obama can walk on water, multiply the bread and the wine but it is not going to be easy to fix the hot potato the Republicans bequeathed him.


All of that is noble and would be great if we were among adults

While the President gave a superb speech last night at the State of the Union; he did what he does best: give excellent speeches…I mean the man is articulate and eloquent… he can do with words what others can’t. His views for the future are noble and visionary…but I think that is where it may stop. There are a couple of stumbling blocks that might prevent the President’s vision from becoming a reality.

The number one issue is economics…our country is in a different position than it was when we decided to send a spacecraft into space…then we not only had surpluses but the economy was ebullient, there was affluence all around. Today the realities are that we are deep in debt and spending more than we take in. How do we fix that? It is not by cutting education or Social Security…it is not by not embarking on infrastructure building…it is by eliminating wars altogether and cut down on defense.

But the Teahadist-Republicans are not behaving like adults; that is one of the other stumbling blocks. The GOP has made it their most important goal to dislodge Obama from the Presidency and to sabotage any effort to fix the mess they left behind…which was for at least a good 90% of it their own doing due to incompetence and greed.

Now we progressives are told that we have to ”tone it down”, to scale back our expectations and to compromise. I for one don’t see how you can compromise on some issues. It is like being “a little bit pregnant”…you either are or you are not. On issues like eliminating Social Security, giving tax cut for the rich at the expense of the middle class and poor while getting our country into debt to do so, in the areas of equality…there is no such thing as compromise…you either have rights or you don’t; this idea that somehow we give minorities just enough to shut them up and still don’t recognize that equality has to apply for all, not just a few…it is not just unacceptable, it is also un-American.

I for one have absolutely no taste to accept any of these ideas that deprive individuals their rights, that decimate the middle class, that get us into unnecessary wars and that will, if allowed destroy all the safety nets and entitlement programs while giving the super rich and the corporations all kinds of privileges and tax cuts. That is not acceptable to me nor will I compromise on any of those issues. The Teahadist-Republicans can obstruct and say NO all they want…they know they are hurting the poor and the middle class but it really doesn’t matter to them as long as they can solidify that oligarchy they represent.

The Constitution says Congress can call up the militia only to “execute the laws of the union, suppress insurrections and repel invasions,” all tasks performed within the United States. Yet today there are National Guardsmen in Iraq and Afghanistan. That is possible because the militia, which the Second Amendment was intended to protect, is defunct. Are we less secure or less free as a consequence? After all, it is very clear in the Constitution:

I don’t think that executing the laws of the union, suppress insurrections and repel invasions mean that we have to spend billions of dollars invading countries that did nothing to harm us. I don’t think that it means that we as a nation are obligated to defend other countries. We can barely defend our own and the costs of doing so are staggering.

It also defies logic to go and destroy a country while we invade it, occupy it and then spend billions of dollars of our treasure to rebuild it while our own infrastructure languishes and deteriorates; ironically, we want to reduce social programs, education and even plan for future building just so that we can do just that.

I think that the starting point should be to cut down on our defense budget and stop unnecessary wars, defending countries that can do so by themselves, the military wastes so much money…stop giving tax cuts to the very rich and close tax loopholes for corporations; streamline the tax codes and lastly, stop giving subsidies to oil companies. I am sure the Koch brothers were not very happy with the President's speech last night. We have to fight them every inch of the way or we will never become energy independent.