Monday, May 26, 2014

The War Back Home

Memorial Day: a holiday that once served as a day of remembrance for all the men and women who died while serving in our country's armed forces has slowly become synonymous with barbecuing and the beginning of summer. Memorial Day was established shortly after the end of the American Civil War to commemorate the Union and Confederate soldiers that died during combat. It soon became a day to remember all those who have perished while in the United States armed forces.
But unfortunately, it seem this country has lost the meaning of this holiday in recent years.  Instead of remembering and honoring those who have served and died for our country, we are often found turning our backs on them and leaving them to fend for themselves.
The brave men and women of the United States armed forces are facing a threat that is bigger than any they've ever encountered in their years in the service. Despite sacrificing their time, and often times their lives, the veterans of these wars are often left without support when they return home. They return home, only to face daunting problems such as unemployment, crippling wounds, mental health issues, homelessness, and a lack of education among other things.
While bills such as the post-9/11 GI bill helped over 800,000 veterans go to college, they still face problems on campus, such as lack of counseling or support networks to succeed. Despite the fact that many veterans do attend college, the numbers are still unclear of how many of them have succeeded. Their lack of education and job experience often times lead to problems getting a job once they've returned home from service. While there are many tax credits and other incentives provided by either the federal or the state government to businesses in order to promote hiring veterans, unemployment is still rampant among veterans.  The unemployment rate among recent (post-9/11) veterans is higher (9.0%) compared to the national average of 6.3%. This is due to the fact that many businesses are reluctant to hire veterans because they see them more of a liability than anything else. Many veterans lack the proper job training required for work that pays more than minimum wage.
Many veterans also return with wounds, both physical and mental, that are often irreparable. In the United States, the are over 2 million wounded former service men and women; that accounts for one in ten veterans.These veterans find it next to impossible to readjust to civilian life after having received these crippling wounds. But the wounds are not only physical; many times the most crippling wounds are the mental ones. A recent study found that nearly 30% of  veterans treated by the VA suffer from PTSD. The number is lower at 20% among all veterans. The veterans affected by PTSD often times cannot readjust back to normal civilian life as nightmares and flashbacks are common.
Another issue that is prevalent amongst veterans is suicide. In the month of March alone, nearly 700 veterans committed suicide. Yet the public and our government have remained silent, virtually unphased by the scores and scores of tragic (and often times preventable) deaths. Suicide is especially rampant amongst veterans under thirty. The group's suicide rate has increased by 44% over the past two years.
Homelessness is another problem American Veterans face when they return home. According to the Department of Veteran's Affairs, nearly 50,000 Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans are either homeless or in federal programs aimed at keeping them from becoming homeless. Veterans are also far more likely to become homeless due to mental/physical  health issues and lack of employment.
The United States military is massive. Actually, that's quite an understatement. It's gargantuan With over 1.3 million in the active forces and 850,000 in its reserves, the United States ranks as the most powerful military in the world. This statement can be verified by the fact that the United States spends 19% ($643 billion) of its budget on defense, which is more than the amount the next eight countries spend combined.
U.S. defense spending vs. next eight countries
U.S. Defense Spending vs. Next Eight Countries
I find it ironic that the United States spends such a ridiculous amount of money on defense and military spending, yet doesn't seem to care very much about its veterans. The reason behind this is simple: war is profitable. Just ask former Vice President Dick Cheney. Cheney's Halliburton, a multinational oil field services company, made $39.5 billion off of military (primarily Iraq-related) contracts in the past decade. The top 100 military contractors sold $410 billion in arms and military equipment, so even though the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan helped the global financial crisis of 2008 happen, hundreds of contractors made billions of dollars.  Veterans have become pawns in the military industrial complex's cruel game of money and economic gain. These companies profited off the backs of thousands of service men and women and did little to repay them.
More than ten years after the start of the operation Iraqi Freedom, the war has claimed 190,000 lives and has cost the United States approximately $2.2 trillion dollars, including costs for veteran care through 2053. This estimate is 36 times larger than the initial estimate of $50-$60 billion. But the cost of the Iraq and Afghan war is much more than just monetary. Over 2 million troops have been deployed overseas during the past decade. Of those, 6,808 did not return with their lives. That doesn't include the scores of others that returned either with a mental or physical disability, or the thousands of civilian casualties.
Iraq Ten Years After the War
Iraq Ten Years After the War

While there are organizations such as the VA (Veterans Affairs) that are there to help veterans, recent scandals have shown the United State public how inefficient and bloated our system for taking care of veterans is. In recent weeks, the VA and its Secretary, retired four-star General Eric Shinseki, have come under heavy fire for allegations of mismanagement. The allegations include reports that many VA hospitals, such as the one in Phoenix, had secret analog "wait lists". Amidst veterans dying from ridiculous wait times for simple medical procedures, the director of the Phoenix VA hospital was reported to have received a $8,500 bonus. While the bonus has since been retracted, it's still worth to keep in mind that Secretary Shinsake had the final say on any performance ratings and awards. The aforementioned wait lists have resulted in the death of up to 40 veterans, many of whom were waiting for simple gastrointestinal procedures, such as colonoscopies and endoscopies. This revelation, coupled with the lack of response from anyone at the VA has caused a massive uproar, with many calling for Secretary Shinseki to resign his position.
President Obama met with Secretary Shinsake earlier this week; shortly afterwards he gave an impromptu speech in which he voiced support for the VA and Secretary Shinsake, but also warned that if the allegations are true, he "will not stand for it". Obama also vowed to punish anyone who was involved with this scandal. The allegations have placed the White House and Preisdent Obama in an awkward position. Prior to the allegations surfacing, the Obama administration supported the VA and Shinseki. After all, it was Obama who nominated Shinseki to the position of Secretary of the VA. 
Earlier today, President continued the tradition of laying the wreath at the tomb of the Unknown Soldier at the Arlington National Cemetery. Secretary Shinseki was spotted in the crowd attending the ceremony. President Obama also briefly acknowledged the on-going VA scandal in his visit to Arlington.
“As we've been reminded in recent days, we must do more to keep faith with our veterans and their families to make sure they get the care and benefits and opportunities that they've earned and that they deserve,”
President Obama was quoted saying in front of the crowd in Arlington.
President Obama laying a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
President Obama laying a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
This country, its people, and its government shouldn't be turning our backs on those who have served us. We owe it to our veterans for their years of service and the amount of effort they have put into defending our freedom. While we may not always agree with the conflicts they are deployed to, we must nonetheless hold these veterans with the utmost respect. We need to provide them with the care and services that they deserved and hopefully this scandal brings reform.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

In Defense of the One Percent

The one percent: the segment of our global society that is often blamed for the economic disparity both in the United States and throughout the world. They are also  the scapegoat of many of our society's problems. Financial crisis of 2008? Blame the one percent. Sluggish economic recovery? Blame the one percent. Your cat died? Blame the one percent. But is all this hate towards the exorbitantly wealthy really warranted? Or are we just blindly blaming the one percent for our (the "99%") own faults and mistakes? 
The one percent, for those of you who are unfamiliar with the term, refers to concentration of wealth and income in the top one percent of global society. In our global society, the highest earning one percent of the global population controls 46% of the world's wealth. The other ninety-nine percent is the rest of society, those who aren't incredibly wealthy and do not have multiple vacation homes in countries we've only seen in magazines or on television. 
These members of the upper echelon of society are very much like us. Despite what some liberals may have you believe, the incredibly wealthy have to abide by the same rules and regulations as us; their wealth does not earn them any special privileges when it comes to the law. Such as RadiumOne CEO and millionaire  Gurbaksh Chahal. Mr. Chahal plead guilty to two misdemeanors for domestic abuse and battery last month after security footage of him hitting and kicking his girlfriend 117 times over the course of half an hour. Mr. Chahal got 52 weeks in a domestic violence program, three years probation, and 25 hours community service. And justice was served! 
If anything, the one percent's wealth is more of a handicap than an advantage.
Take teenager Ethan Couch, whom we've covered here at In Loco Politico before. Ethan was driving a pickup truck while intoxicated and struck a stalled SUV on the side of the road. The accident left four dead and two seriously injured. But before you start getting your pitchforks and torches and start rioting, know that Mr. Couch got ten years of probation. Ten years! To add to this, a defense expert diagnosed Ethan with the terminal disease of affluenza-- a terrible disease that is prevalent among the one percent. Judge Jean Hudson Boyd believed that Ethan was far too privileged and wealthy to know better and let him off with a stern warning.
Judge Boyd has dealt with teenage drunk drivers before. In 2004, 16-year-old Eric Miller stole a bottle of vodka and proceeded to get drunk. He then stole a pickup truck from the parking lot and killed 19-year-old father and husband Philip Andress. A jury found Andress guilty and Judge Boyd sentenced him to twenty years behind jail. Andress's mother was a drug addict and he was raised by his grandfather, something Judge Boyd took into consideration. 
“The court is aware you had a sad childhood, but you are fortunate to have a grandfather who is so committed and loves you,” Boyd told Miller. “… I hope you will take advantage of the services and turn your life around.”
Affluenza is a mysterious disease that seems to only affect the wealthy. The symptoms of affluenza are a sense of entitlement, a feeling of superiority over the less fortunate, lots of disposable income, and a collection of exotic cars among other things.  
If anything, the one percent are actually oppressed in the United States.  President Barrack Hussein Obama and his liberal cronies in congress have made it (or have tried to make it) increasingly hard for the one percent to survive in the United States. They continue to propose tax hikes for the rich and also want to cancel the tax cuts of the Bush era, forcing the one percent to suffer. Just ask Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY).
“In the eyes of many, it is hard to ask more of households making $250,000 or $300,000 a year. In large parts of the country, that kind of income does not get you a big home or lots of vacations or anything else that is associated with wealth."
Because after all, all that matters in life is big houses and lots of vacations.
Raising taxes on the one percent and big businesses will only hurt our economy. After all, these companies and people are the job creators of the country. Albeit, most of the jobs they create are overseas but they create jobs nonetheless.  If anything, these people and corporations should continue receiving tax breaks to ensure they pay little to no taxes, such as General Electric (GE) (which paid a rate of 7.4% in 2010). The corporate tax rate in America is so high, it actually forced GE to hold $108 billion of their profits overseas because they would have taken a tremendous hit had they brought it back to the United States. 
Our Lord and Savior Ronald Reagan would have never allowed such preposterous and unfair tax increases. Sure, tax rates were actually higher in seven out of Reagan's eight years in office as opposed to now, but that's not the point. That's just another red herring propagated by the liberal media to get the public to forget the real issue at hand: the war on the one percent.
For the most part, the citizens of the United States (minus the fine folks over at Fox News) have brushed off this claim that there is a "war" on the rich. Our President and those greedy, un-American liberals continue to try and force the one percent to pay a higher percentage in taxes, in part to pay for social welfare programs for the poor. I say let them eat cake! The one percent worked hard to make their millions (or billions) of dollars and they put in years of blood, sweat, and tears into what they do. My parents never were rich not because they were paid minimum wage and worked forty+ hours in the freezing cold because that;'s the only job they were offered. No, it's not a culmination of all those disadvantages. They were never rich because they didn't work hard enough. 
The war on the one percent has reached unprecedented levels that it has become akin to persecution of the Jews in Nazi Germany. Venture capitalist Tom Perkins explains the parallels the best:
I would call attention to the parallels of Nazi Germany to its war on its "one percent," namely its Jews, to the progressive war on the American one percent, namely the "rich."
The one percent and Wall Street bankers should be free of any blame for the economic crisis of 2008. The fact that not a single Wall Street CEO has been prosecuted for their (non-existent) role in the economic collapse should be fact enough that they are innocent of any wrong doing. Instead of blaming the poor bankers and CEOs that were simply just doing their job and providing loans to people, we should be blaming the reckless individuals that took out loans they couldn't repay, simply to undermine the economic health of our majestic country.
We should go back to those circa 2008 days of very little to no government regulation. We all know that that turned out for the better and our economy is totally not in shambles because of it. After all, our great country was built on the principles of dog-eat-dog capitalism and stepping on the backs of the less fortunate to advance yourself. This is America after all. If people want handouts then they should move to a socialist European country where freedom is as hard to come by as guns are.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

To Protect and Serve

Throughout the country, we have heard harrowing reports of the boys in blue abusing their power or using excessive force time and time. Within the past three weeks, three different members of the New York Police Department (NYPD) have been accused of shooting a weapon while drunk and off duty.
NYPD Officer Brendan Cronin shot at a random motorist and his passenger a total of thirteen times after a night of drinking at a bar. Joe Felice, the passenger, was hit six times throughout his torso but luckily enough he did not die and was declared as being in stable condition. Cronin fled the scene. After receiving a 911 call about a man driving frantically with his hazards lights on from motorists, the police chased Cronin down and managed to get him to pull over. When confronted by officers, Cronin brandished a gun and they needed to coax him to toss the weapon out his car window and surrender. Once out, he refused to take a breathalyzer test. Cronin plead not guilty and is currently being held on $250,000 bail.
A couple hours after this incident, NYPD Sergeant Wanda Anthony spotted her ex-boyfriend with his new fling outside a strip club in New Jersey. Drunk and biter that her ex was seeing someone else, Anthony fired a single shot, which thankfully did not hit anyone. She allegedly fled the scene but was apprehended a short time later for drunk driving.
The most recent case of inappropriate police behavior from the NYPD comes courtesy of Detective Jay Poggi. After a night of heavy drinking with another fellow member of the NYPD, Poggi thought it would be a good idea to show his friend the hammer of his gun. This show-and-tell quickly took a turn for the worse and Poggi accidentally shot his friend in the wrist. Poggi drove him to the hospital, which is what any friend should do-- except Poggi had a blood alcohol content of 0.11 percent. The legal blood alcohol content in New York is 0.08 percent. Sources state that Poggi left the NYPD on his own accord and is due back in court mid next month.
The NYPD immediately went into clean-up mode and in an attempt to better their image, they started a hashtag campaign. The premise was simple enough, Twitter users would take a picture with a member of the NYPD and hashtag it #MyNYPD for a chance to be feature on the NYPD's Facebook page. The NYPD's PR guy must have thought nothing bad could possibly happen with this hashtag campaign.
Within hours of the NYPD's tweet, the hashtag #MyNYPD was inundate with pictures like the one above, depicting police brutality or use of excessive force at the hands of NYPD officers.nypd2
But of course, New York is just one (gargantuan) city with one (ineffective) police department. Surely, this can't be representative of police throughout the country. Right?
Another hotbed of police brutality is Albuquerque, New Mexico, where a recent string of excessive force by the local police department has led a group of protesters to take over a City Council meeting on Monday. About an hour into the meeting, chaos erupted and soon the protesters were demanding that both the Mayor and the Chief of police resign their positions. The prosters were quoted as being tired of the lack of action by the APD or the city and called what they were doing "democracy in action".
This act of protest comes on the heels of a death of an Albuquerque man at the hands of police. Armand Martin, an Albuquerque man, barricaded himself inside his home after a domestic dispute. The SWAT team arrived on scene promptly. After a tense  and lengthy standoff with the officers where he threatened to shoot his wife and children, Martin stepped out of his house and fired shots with two separate handguns and a SWAT officer answered with a single shot, killing Martin.
Martin's house after the standoff.
Martin's house after the standoff.
At first, this shooting might seem pretty black and white, cut and dry. Martin was armed and he threatened to kill his family members and even open fired on SWAT officers. Many would say they were justified in opening fire on him. But as more of Martin's background details emerged, the situation became a little more ambiguous. Martin was an Air Force veteran and was treated several times at the local Veteran's Affairs (VA) hospital for mental health issues. When the police department pressed the hospital to release his medical records, they refused. Martin apparently had a history of suicide attempts prior to this.
The Department of Justice actually released a report on the Albuquerque police department a month earlier, in which they state "...the Albuquerque Police Department (APD) has engaged in a pattern or practice of excessive force that violates the Constitution and federal law." The DOJ also  states that "APD officers too frequently use deadly force against people who pose a minimal threat and in situations where the conduct of the officers heightens the danger and contributes to the need to use force," and lists the SWAT as the department's biggest problem causer. The Albuquerque police department has been involved with 20+ lethal police shootings, most of which were found unconstitutional by the DOJ.
Just yesterday, members of the Nassau, Long Island police department pulled over Kyle Howell for a routine traffic stop. When all was said and done, Howell ended up with a broken nose, bone fractures near his eyes, and facial nerve damage as well as chargers of assaulting the officers and tampering with evidence, as if to add insult to injury.
Kyle Howell
Kyle Howell

According to the police officers, Howell tried to eat a baggie of marijuana and kicked the officers when they attempted to retrieve the evidence. However, Mr. Howell's traffic stop was all caught on a nearby security camera. In the video, one can see the two officers rush the driver's seat and proceed to beat and kick him so violently that the car is shaking. Howell was released after receiving medical attention and posting $10,000 bail. Howell now plans to sue the police department, his attorney stating false arrest, excessive force, and denial of civil rights as the pretenses for his client's lawsuit.
Another police officer(this time in Tennessee) was fired late last month after pictures of him choking a handcuffed college student until he passed out surfaced on a British newspaper. Officer Frank Phillips arrested the suspect at a party near the University of Tennessee. He can be seen choking the student until he collapses onto his knees. (Former) Officer Phillips was let go by the department and they are looking at whether to press charges against him or no.
 UT Distrubance
I could continue to write about more and more and more acts of questionable police behavior/brutality/excessive force, but by now I think you get the point. I'm not here to denounce all police officers as sadistic pigs like some agnsty teenager/college student. There are good police officers as well and they, for the most part, do uphold laws and peace in our country. I write this not because I'm a cop hater, but because I want to illustrate the faults in the power structure of our police system in America. We are meant to trust these officers to "protect and serve" us, but how are we expected to do that when often times they are the very ones killing us and making us feel unsafe? It would seem as if police officers that abuse their power have an ill-conceived notion that simply having a badge automatically elevates them above the law-- it does not.
We need to reform the system. There are simply too many cases of police brutality and abuse of power that have resulted in not enough change.
One thing we can do is fire all police officers. No seriously, it may just work. In 2004, the president of Georgia (the country) threatened to fire his entire country's police force if they continued to take bribes and abuse their power. The police force apparently did not heed the president's warning, as the entire force of over 30,000 officers were promptly fired the following days. The entire country of Georgia had no police force whatsoever for three months. Looting, murder, and chaos promptly consumed the entire country-- except it didn't. In fact, the country's crime rate during this period of three months actually decreased despite not having a police force to enforce any laws. It became apparent to the president that the police force was actually the cause of a good amount of the crime in Georgia, extorting civilians for money.
Since the United States is several times larger and has a larger police force, this might not be the best solution to our problems, but this can be solved with technology. Some have argued that by placing cameras on officers, we can actually curb police abuse of power. Logically, it makes sense; officers (or just about anyone) would at least think twice before doing something rash/questionable if they were aware they were being caught on tape that could potentially be used against them. The Sheriff in the choking incident actually advocated for cameras, saying "This incident provides a perfect example of why we are in the process of purchasing officer-worn body cameras (video and audio recordings) so incidents like this will be fully documented."
Civilians can already record police activity, despite claims by many police officers that this is illegal (their claims are unconstitutional). But often times, there aren't other civilians around and even if there is, there is no guarantee that any of them are recording. We need a way of holding our police officers accountable because too often do they get away their actions with at most, a minor slap on their wrist.
Policeman: I have authority.
Civilian: Where is that authority derived?
Policeman: From the government.
Civilian: Where is government's authority derived from?
Policeman: From its people.
Civilian: So I am the source of your authority?
Policeman: Erm, yes.
Civilian: As a public servant, you answer to me.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Ozymandias Analysis



The title of Percy Shelley's poem is a reference to Egyptian pharaoh Ramesses II, whose alternate name was Ozymandias. 


"My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"


Near them, on the sand,Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,Tell that its sculptor well those passions readWhich yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things...
means: near the decaying statue lies a "shattered visage", or a metaphor for the illusion that many kings and leaders had that their empire would be eternal. This is a "visage" of sorts because it's not real. It's only half sunk, and the following lines reaffirm that this statue represented the longevity of Ramesses's empire. Much like the statue, it it mostly destroyed yet an old decaying shell of it's former glory stands. The sculptor's passion was written down on the statue.


Ironic. The statue is one of a pharaoh, and is metaphorical for the notion that many kings/leaders felt that their rule and empire would be eternal. The line that reads the inscription on the statue "...look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!" is juxtaposed the following lines, stating that the Statue is surrounded but nothing but barren desert. It's ironic because the statue is essentially trying to strike a sense of fear and awe with their so-called everlasting empire, when the reality is that both the statue and the empire have decayed and for the most part, faded into history.


The whole poem is overall ironic throughout, but there is a distinct shift between "Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!" and "Nothing beside remains. Round the decay...". This provides a shift from the mirage of grandeur, immortal empire to the reality that it has just become an ancient relic, faded into history.

Title Revisited: 

I find the title significant and a symbol for the rise and fall of empires.


Nothing is eternal. The inevitable decline and fall of empires due to pompous leader's own arrogance and shortsightedness.


Percy Bysshe Shelley's Ozymandias.

I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed:
And on the pedestal these words appear:
"My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

Racism Declared Dead in America

The United States has reached a pivotal milestone in its 200-some odd year history. In an April 22 ruling, the United States Supreme Court upheld a Michigan constitutional amendment, which banned the use of affirmative action in the college admissions process. The Court sided six to two, with Justices Sotomayor and Ginsburg providing the dissenting opinion. This is an unprecedented ruling, which states that the individual states should have the right to chose whether or not to use the basis of race as one of the determinants of college admissions, meaning it did not outright ban the use of affirmative action. Of course, a ban on affirmative action does not necessarily equate discrimination. This constitutional amendment was supported by 58% of the Michigan voters, which was surprising because most of Michigan voters classify themselves as liberal. 
So it seems like the Unite States has reached a new age. The higher education playing field is level; no longer are minorities at such a disadvantage as before, so we no longer need affirmative action. Racism is a thing of the past; minorities have an equal chance of making in both this world and into college. After all, we can see this in my home state of California (which placed a ban on affirmative action), where Latinos are actually surpassing their Caucasian counterparts when it comes to percentage of 18-to 24-year-old High School graduates attending a university (29% and 47% respectively). 
We are finally moving away from the damage caused by years of discrimination and Jim Crow laws, established to keep minorities at a disadvantage. 
However, Justice Sotomayor wrote "Race matters... because of persistent racial inequality that cannot be ignored and that has produced stark socioeconomic disparities," in her dissenting opinion on Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action. While racism and discrimination are not completely dead in America (more on that later), we have reached a point where it is no longer socially acceptable to have discriminatory practices and minorities have a better chance than ever to get into college and to make it big in this country. I myself can serve as a testament to this.
If we are to continue the practices of Affirmative action, we must ask ourselves if we are not being discriminatory towards other races in the process. If there are two identical students with the same GPA, test scores, and volunteer work, but one of them is Latino and the other is white, it is truly just to accept the Latino over the Caucasian simply because of race? They are both equally qualified for the position, yet only one of them gets it because he's Latino. We must ask ourselves is this truly fair? In a way, we are babying the people who do get in via affirmative action. In a society as diverse as our own, we have to realize if we help one group, other groups should be entitled to the same help, or else we face risking unfairness and injustice.
Instead of creating a "leg-up" program based on race, we should be focusing on making sure everyone has the same chance at success, leveling the playing field early on. We as a country have a right that everyone, regardless of race or ethnicity, has the same chance at achieving the American dream. This cannot be done via affirmative action. There is still low-income, high-achieving students from every race, and often times because of practices such as affirmative action, Caucasians go without assistance from the government. Seeing how the education of its residents is one the best investments a country can make, we should be ensuring that these students have the same opportunity as success as everyone else, not just give a hand to minorities. I say this as a minority myself. I have struggled from time to time, but find it unfair and unjust that I should receive more help than a Caucasian student under similar circumstances. For most of our over 200 year history, the United States  has been about favoring one group over another and placing handicaps on minority groups. We should be beyond that in this day and age. We shouldn't be about favoring one race over the other.
Clippers owner and real estate mogul Donald Sterling
Just because we have reached this turning point in our history doesn't mean all is happiness and rainbows and that everyone gets along just fine and people are no longer discriminated based on their race/ethnicity. In fact, racism is still alive and kicking in the United States.
Earlier this week, TMZ released an audio recording of a private conversation between Los Angeles Clipper's owner Donald Sterling and his girlfriend, V. Stiviano. Sterling was upset that Stiviano, his half black, half Latina girlfriend, took a picture with basketball great Magic Johnson and posted it on the social app Instagram. Sterling told her he doesn't want her to publicize the fact that she socializes with black people and goes on to say he doesn't want any black people going to his games. When the audio recording was released onto the internet, there was massive backlash.
The picture that started it all
Within days, sponsors began to pull their endorsements of the team and people everywhere demanded Sterling sell the clippers and stop any further involvement with the franchise. The NBA responded promptly, and commissioner Adam Silver imposed a lifetime ban on Sterling as well as a $2.5 million fine, the max the league can impose. Sterling can no longer go to any NBA games or practices or be able to conduct any business with the Clippers franchise he owns. However, commissioner Sterling cannot force him to sell the team. That's up to the Board of Governors, or the 23 owners, who must vote with a three quarters majority to force Sterling to sell the team. Even after all this, we can expect a legal battle that may drag on for a while.
Commissioner Adam Silver
Sterling's racist views have placed him in hot water before. He has been sued twice, on one occasion by the Federal government. Federal prosecutors charged his real estate company in the past for refusing to lease apartments to African Americans and the prosecution settled out of court for $2.7 million. During the first trial, a property supervisor that worked for him testified that Sterling had said that blacks "smell" and are "not clean"
It's ironic that Sterling, a man with a half black girlfriend, mostly black players on his team, and whose team's fans are predominantly minorities, would say such horrible, racist comments. John Stewart put it best: the only parts of Donald Sterling that aren't racist are his d*** and wallet.
Cliven Bundy
Another such example of why racism is still alive and kicking in the United States can be seen in state's rights and right-wing activist's favorite poster boy, Cliven Bundy. We've covered Mr. Bundy and his antics before and it seems like he likes the media attention so much that he doesn't seem to have a functioning filter.
In an interview with the New York Times this past week, Bundy made no attempt to hide his racism and what he "knows" about the "negro". 
“I want to tell you one more thing I know about the Negro,” he said. Mr. Bundy recalled driving past a public-housing project in North Las Vegas, “and in front of that government house the door was usually open and the older people and the kids — and there is always at least a half a dozen people sitting on the porch — they didn't have nothing to do. They didn't have nothing for their kids to do. They didn't have nothing for their young girls to do.
“And because they were basically on government subsidy, so now what do they do?” he asked. “They abort their young children, they put their young men in jail, because they never learned how to pick cotton. And I've often wondered, are they better off as slaves, picking cotton and having a family life and doing things, or are they better off under government subsidy? They didn't get no more freedom. They got less freedom"
So basically in the United States, if you are a white male stealing land from the Federal government, you are a patriot. But if you're a black woman, you are "better off as of as a slave". This automatically discredited any credibility that Cliven Bundy and his cause had prior to this. As soon as he opened his mouth, Conservative politicians and figureheads that once supported him began to take back their support and distancing themselves from Bundy and his comments.
The irony of it all is that Mr. Bundy is calling others freeloaders when he himself has been grazing his cows on federal land without paying grazing fees in over twenty years.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014


It's a cold Thursday night and I'm huddled in a staircase of my apartment complex for fear of going home. I told my parents I was going to go catch a movie with a few friends when in reality I was going to a party down the street. Being the rebellious teenager I am, I lied to them, well aware that if I told them where I was truly going, I wouldn't be allowed to go. My only downfall was that my dad saw where I was headed and it wasn't where I told him I was going to go. He called me and told me to go home and I was about to when I saw my mom parking her car; she was just getting home from work. At that moment, I knew I couldn't go home. I'd be in such trouble if I did and I'd get the scolding of a lifetime. So instead, I opted to hide out where I currently am to enjoy this time I have alone and outside before being grounded for the rest of senior year (presumably). Does this make me a coward? (I want to see you face the wrath of an angry Mexican mom). Perhaps, but this isn't why I'm writing this. I'm writing this because while here, I got to thinking about life. In particular, how I got dumped by my crush, who also happened to be the girl I asked to prom. Come to think of it, it was actually around this time last week when it happened. She called me on the phone and broke it off with me. For the sake of integrity, I won't go into the details of why or how it went down or my reaction. Point is, me and her are no longer a "thing".
When she first told me, my tiny, prune-like heart sank like a rock. I was devastated. In part because I no longer had a prom date, but mainly because I haven't felt this way about a girl in a while. That was actually part of my downfall. In short, I was mortified. I was frustrated at myself because I felt as if I caused it to end. After some time with my thoughts and Asking my friends (Based God bless their soul) for support, I came to the conclusion that it doesn't matter. I shouldn't let her or this situation get me down in the dumps. After all, it's only a high school relationship and there's only about a month of school left before we graduate. After that, I'd be off to college, perhaps never to see her again. So it was for the better.
Or so I thought.
But this time alone, in this cold, cold staircase, made me think. And it got me depressed as hell. I began re-analyzing myself and asking myself why I felt such a way about a girl I barely started seriously "talking" to about a month ago. Maybe it's cause I'm a lonely human being (aren't we all?), dissatisfied with being lonely. I soon came to the realization of why.
It's because she vibed with me. I like her not for the way she dance with my angels, but for the manner in which the sound of her name quells my demons. She kept me company, but more than that, she understood and accepted who I was. And me, being the megalomaniac oddball that I am, found that extremely rare and pleasing. There's very few people, let alone girls, who have seen my flaws yet still liked me. She liked me for me. In such a universe where we feel alienated and alone dispute being surrounded by 7 billion others like us, this was comforting. Alas, I pushed my luck too far and got too comfortable. I constantly pestered her to show emotion and to hang out with me, to no avail. It just wasn't her. She wasn't the type of person to be overly affectionate and she warned me before any of this even started. I continued well aware of this yet still found myself a little frustrated at every denied plea to hangout. I was never mad at her for this, but in retrospect, it was silly of me to be frustrated or mad for something that was an innate personal trait of hers. It would have been the same as Someone getting angry at me for being intelligent, or being cocky. It is who I am and wouldn't change it for anyone. So I found myself asking "why did I expect her to change?" I guess the answer was within me all along. I enjoyed her company because she was so like me and every time I was with her, everything just felt so good, so right. I was at peace and I was happy. More than that, I felt as if I was understood and accepted, something I have long yearned for. I was just so overwhelmed with emotion, with happiness that it led me to push it too far and make more of what me and her had than she would have wanted, Which led to out falling out.
It has been a week. We haven't talked in that period of time.
I can't bring myself to text or talk to her because I feel like any advance I'd make would be unwarranted; that I would come off as annoying. Perhaps I'm right, perhaps not. It's an unfortunate state I am in. I would say hopefully things do get better and we at least start talking as friends again, but hope is futile.
In case you are reading this, just know that I do miss you dearly and I'm sorry for all I've done.