Sunday, May 31, 2009

California and Proposition H8 - CA no longer ahead of the country


Sunday, May 31, 2009
California's Prop H8: The State Supreme Court Punts.

Upon hearing the decision of the Supreme Court of California on Prop H8, the first comment I made to my friend Juanita was made 'off-the-cuff', she asked me what I thought and I said "The Supreme Court is buying time", the reason I felt that was the case is very simple, in the previous rulings they have pleased the Pro Prop H8 proponents and angered the LGBT Community when they ruled that licenses for same-sex marriage were invalid under State Law because it barred such unions (California Proposition 22 (2000)), next, in another decision, they pleased the LGBT Community and angered the Prop H8 Proponents when they ruled that Prop 8 was an unconstitutional abridgment of civil rights, oookey... So, in their latest ruling, which they announced on Tuesday May 26, 2009, they declared the Prop H8 constitutional amendment is valid, albeit it takes away rights protected under the 'equal treatment under the law constitutional clause' (Part of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution), furthermore, they ruled that the 18,000 or so same-sex marriages performed in between their second and third ruling, were valid, because of their second ruling which was apparently reversed on their third.

He, he, he... I don't mean to laugh at this very serious issue, but, in addition to being a little confusing to follow their steps and logic, it brings to my mind overtones of the 'Keystone Cops' on a State Supreme Court Scenario, bumbling and fumbling.

But just taking a sample of the opinion pieces out there, here is Dan Walter's on the San Jose Mercury News on May 27th:

    Opinion: California Supreme Court followed the law on Prop. 8

    "marriage licenses that San Francisco was issuing to same-sex couples at the behest of Mayor Gavin Newsom were invalid because state law prohibited such marriages.

    A year ago, the same court pleased gay rights groups and angered conservative "pro-family" groups when it declared that the statute barring same-sex marriages, although enacted by voters, was an unconstitutional abridgment of civil rights.

    The court seemingly reversed itself again Tuesday, declaring that Proposition 8, a constitutional amendment again outlawing same-sex marriages, is valid. But all three decisions were correct, even courageous, because they upheld the limited role that courts play in public policy.

    As the court itself said, "In a sense, this trilogy of cases illustrates the variety of limitations that our constitutional system imposes upon each branch of government — the executive, the legislative and the judicial."

    In petitioning the court to set aside Proposition 8, gay marriage advocates wanted the court to rule that it was a constitutional revision, rather than an amendment, and thus could not be enacted via initiative. But had it done so, it would have made a mockery of the initiative system — which, for all its flaws, remains a valuable tool for effecting public policy — and created a legal quagmire with unimaginable unintended consequences."

It is not a simple issue no matter which way you look at it, but two points are blatantly clear, 1. Protection of Civil Rights on equal treatment under the Law and, 2. Public Policy or, putting it another way, pure, unbridled democracy, the worst kind of government but the best thing we got going for us, on the one hand, the governed have, supposedly, participatory prerogatives on a democracy, on the other, notwithstanding that nobody is either better or worse than the other, we humans have differences on how we look, what we think or our nature, but... And this is a big but, regardless of our differences, all of us are supposed to have the same inalienable rights, hence, "Individual rights are not subject to a public vote; a majority has no right to vote away the rights of a minority; the political function of rights is precisely to protect minorities from oppression by majorities.". but, there seems to always be a but, isn't?, what about democracy? Well, this beautiful monster called democracy, in it's extreme, purest form, is what is known as 'anarquism', another extreme manifestation of unbridled democracy is that "Fifty-one percent of a nation can establish a totalitarian regime, suppress minorities and still remain democratic."

Is it just? According to Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn, "The voice of the majority is no proof of justice", Maximilien Robespierre said that "Any law which violates the indefeasible rights of man is essentially unjust and tyrannical; it is not a law at all." and the great humanitarian, Mahatma Karumanchi Gandhi, left us one of his tenets "In matters of conscience, the law of majority has no place.", the answer to me appears to be a resounding no!

Going back to my comment that the California Supreme Court was 'buying time' or, as stated in this post's title, they 'punted', I must say that the point is valid because a) in their first ruling they validated the voice of the majority and, b) on their second ruling they upheld the inalienable rights of the individual and, c) in their latest ruling they upheld unbridled democracy as the supreme policy-maker of the land, making a little aside to say that because in their second ruling, they temporarily made legal the marriage between persons of the same sex, the legal marriage contracts made during that period, remained legal (Something to do with legal retroactivity versus current legal status, I think)

Yes, the State Supreme Court punted, they decided to go the political route, they left it to the electorate to decide public policy instead of settling once and for all the issue of whether or not a majority has the prerogative to take away constitutional rights from a minority, or until the US Supreme Court rules on the issue, which will happen, since already legal suits challenging the Cal Supremes' ruling have been filed.

I do totally agree with Dan Walter's point that the California Supreme Court have "created a legal quagmire with unimaginable unintended consequences", fortunes and majorities change, public opinion attitudes change as well, today's majority may in the near, or far future, whichever may be the case, change too; so, let the 'political pin ball game' commence, the 'pro-this' or 'pro-that' will win a scrimmage or a battle here and there, only to be reversed later by the 'con-this' or 'con-that' majority, only to be set back later by the 'pro or con on this or that', yes indeed, by all means, let the 'political pin ball game' commence instead of answering two simple, yet vital, questions: "Does the individual has inalienable rights?" and "Does a majority has the right to abridge them?"

I do also agree with Dan on another point he makes because there is no question on my mind that same-sex marriage contracts will be legal in California and other states sooner than later, but I disagree that it is the appropriate course of action, as he and others are saying:

    The appropriate course for same-sex marriage advocates to take is to pursue their cause in the same political arena in which their opponents prevailed in November. Polls indicate that Californians are split roughly 50-50 on the issue of gay marriage, but support is growing over time, and a pro-gay marriage measure has a fair chance of succeeding next year.

In closing, I do most fervently disagree with the opinion of many and that Dan also exposes in his piece, while leaving for another post the role of "Organized Religion", more aptly called "The Religious Right" And the innumerable and outrageous ironies and the accompanying plethora of hypocrisies in this matter:

    A victory at the polls would have much more moral validity than the Supreme Court's ignoring legal precedent and blithely overturning Proposition 8.

I'll state why I disagree, moral validity is acquired when what is just is followed, what Dan and others are saying is that they expect that their views will be validated by political Trends/Will - What legal precedent? It seems to me this claim was done in a vacuum due to his not specifying to which precedent he is referring to.

I heard somewhere that the California State Supreme Court's ruling on Prop H8 was courageous, excuse me?

They punted, the stage is set thus bringing up a final question: Which minority will be next? link

Getting Sunshine vs. getting dark skinned

My Mom, who I adore, but has her quirks.  She told me just before my big wedding day (when I was 22) that I should not go to the beach because I would be too dark for the wedding.

Its a big thing in Mexican culture (and many others) - that if you are dark skinned you are lower on the social scale...

Especially for a wedding, a bride needs to look white.

What a problem. For one, we are told that the UV rays from the sun can kill us. We may be made fun of if we are dark. 

Now we are being told that we need more sunshine so we won't get cancer.

Maybe the answer is balance. Go walking in the late afternoon. Don't weed your flower bed in the middle of the day.

But if you are already brown and have a good tan, don't be embarrassed about being dark. I know that is a hard one for many people. It often happens if you are Latino and look white, many people tell you so... "oh, you don't look like a Mexican!" or "you don't look Puerto Rican!" - And you are supposed to take that as a compliment.

One of dreamacttexas' readers sent a comment recently about "the darks" taking over the world. I have to admit I reacted to that. But now I'm thinking, hey, that isn't so bad for someone to say that We are always talking about "the whites taking over the world." Why be insulted when someone says it?...  the reality is that the power balance isn't changing anytime in the near future, even if people think they see the hoards of brown people coming.

More on whiteness and darkness later.

In the meantime, read this article about the sun, vitamin D, and cancer prevention:

"Revealed: the best protection against cancer: Global study discovers astonishing power of vitamin made by the sun" London Independent, May 30, 2009

Twice a Minority - Twice the Anger

Sotomayor is a woman.  That becomes a significant issue for the Supreme Court since there have been only two women before her (in how many years?).  Adding to this is her "identity,"  which some people think is worth fighting about.

Of course, those who are honest and know about politics realize this the normal ideological battle that happens between Republicans and Democrats whenever an important appointment comes up.  As usual, the other side has a need to say a few nasty things.

For some of you that have access to this book through a library, it is worth looking at.  You can't buy it anymore:  Twice a Minority, by Margarita Melville

Here is a link to information from N.C.L.R.* on the Sotomayor nomination and the backlash:

A blog post from the Houston Chronicle that addresses the "Raza" issue:
"Debate redux: Sotomayor, La Raza and racism," Houston Chronicle - Immigration Chronicles, May 28, 2009

thanks to the following blogs for passing this information on:

The Long Term Effects of War - Gaza

It often occurs to me that we don't see much in the news about what happened to the people in Gaza.  There was much hoopla about it in the beginning, but now that it has been six months, its like the conflict never happened.

Thank goodness the NYT decided to say something about it.  I think this is especially commendable since they are highly pressured by their Pro-Israel Jewish constituency.

"Misery Hangs Over Gaza Despite Pledges of Help," New York Times, May 28, 2009

Arpaio thinks he is being picked on...

"Sheriff Questions Motives of Probes," Washington Post, May 31, 2009

Saturday, May 30, 2009

From a wise white woman: on Sotomayor

this is from the Staff Blog at the  New Yorker:

May 29, 2009
Close Read: The Lady Is a Judge

Sonia Sotomayor’s critics are up in arms about her lecture from 2001, “A Latina Judge’s Voice,” and especially these words:

    I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn’t lived that life.

It is, in one sense, funny that Newt Gingrich and the like hear this as Sotomayor saying that Latina women simply make better decisions than white men—as though the word “wise” weren’t there. What is it about the proximity of the word “Latina” that renders the word “wise” invisible? Or is it that “wise Latina” is heard not as a description of, say, a person who is wise and a Latina but as a call to central casting for the older friend in the chick flick who knows a lot about relationships and soup? (Or rice, beans, and pork—also, bizarrely, a point of contention.) Whatever else she may be, Sotomayor is not a stock character.

But she is saying something slightly complicated, or at least less suited for printing on a coffee mug than the saying, attributed to Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, that “a wise old man and wise old woman will reach the same conclusion in deciding cases.” Sotomayor says that she’s “not so sure,” noting that “wise men like Oliver Wendell Holmes and Justice Cardozo voted on cases which upheld both sex and race discrimination in our society.” But she adds—and this is the point:

    We should not be so myopic as to believe that others of different experiences or backgrounds are incapable of understanding the values and needs of people from a different group…nine white men on the Supreme Court in the past have done so on many occasions and on many issues including Brown.

    However, to understand takes time and effort, something that not all people are willing to give. For others, their experiences limit their ability to understand the experiences of others. Others simply do not care. 

And how does her experience—“Being a professional Latina woman in a world that sometimes looks at me with suspicion”—affect how she judges?

    I am reminded each day that I render decisions that affect people concretely and that I owe them constant and complete vigilance in checking my assumptions, presumptions and perspectives and ensuring that to the extent that my limited abilities and capabilities permit me, that I reevaluate them and change as circumstances and cases before me requires. 

In other words, it inclines her to question biases—most importantly, her own. It makes her, in a way, a blinder justice, and thus one who is better able to see the things that actually matter.

Meanwhile, all those throwing John Roberts’s line about a judge just being an umpire, calling balls and strikes, at Sotomayor: Have they been to a ballgame lately? It’s not just that “unreasonable” and “cruel and unusual” are harder terms to call than “low and outside.” Warnings to pitchers, ejections, preventing brawls—those aren’t things that robots do. Just look at last night’s Red Sox game. (And there are other problems with the analogy—Sherrilyn Ifill has a good point regarding checked swings.) That gets back to the odd idea, explored in the Times today, that her reputation as a tough judge is a bad thing. So how mean is Sotomayor? Judge Guido Calabresi, her colleague on the Second Circuit, told the Times that “her behavior was identical” to that of her colleagues: it was the reactions that were different.

    “Some lawyers just don’t like to be questioned by a woman,” Judge Calabresi added. “It was sexist, plain and simple.”

And, anyway, when the manager comes charging from the dugout—or when a government lawyer offers an argument whose logical extension might be that citizens who are tortured have no recourse in court—how ladylike do we want our umpires to be? Sometimes it can help to yell back.

Posted by Amy Davidson in CLOSE READ  link


Friday, May 29, 2009

New York Mayor and Numerous NY Companies Endorse the DREAM Act

 This was released today (May 29, 2009) from

 click here to see Bloomberg's letter

Mayor bloomberg and nyc business leaders endorse the dream act

New York, NY - Yesterday, eighteen New York City-based businesses and Mayor Michael Bloomberg sent a letter to Senators Richard Durbin (D-IL) and Richard Lugar (R-IN) pledging their full support of the DREAM (Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors) Act and urging passage of the legislation.

The DREAM Act is a bipartisan bill that addresses the situation faced by young people who were brought to the United States years ago as undocumented immigrant children, and who have since grown up here but are being denied the ability to fully contribute to society.

The letter authored by Mayor Bloomberg and co-signed by the following companies:

    *  Hughes Hubbard & Reed LLP
    * Con Edison
    * Welsh, Carson, Anderson & Stowe
    * National Grid
    * American Express Company
    * JPMorgan Chase & Co.
    * Pfizer
    * Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide
    * Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz
    * Macy's Inc.
    * Morgan Stanley
    * New Corporation
    * Citigroup
    * WL Ross & Co. LLC
    * Tishman Speyer
    * Partnership for New York City
    * Boston Properties

The signatories stress that the "passage of the DREAM Act would go a long way towards correcting an inequitable situation that drains our economy of talent and resource." They go on to state, "[T]the DREAM Act offers a fair bargain benefiting both children and the country."

"This bold step taken by Mayor Bloomberg and these industry leaders follows on the heels of a similar letter from Microsoft and shows the business communities' understanding of the positive and much needed contributions these young people can make to our nation," said Marielena Hincapié, Executive Director of the National Immigration Law Center. 

A Few Comments on Judge Sotomayor's Words, part II


Sotomayor:  as Professor Martha Minnow has noted, there can never be a universal definition of wise. Second, I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn't lived that life.


 Let us not forget that wise men like Oliver Wendell Holmes and Justice Cardozo voted on cases which upheld both sex and race discrimination in our society. Until 1972, no Supreme Court case ever upheld the claim of a woman in a gender discrimination case. I, like Professor Carter, believe that we should not be so myopic as to believe that others of different experiences or backgrounds are incapable of understanding the values and needs of people from a different group. Many are so capable. As Judge Cedarbaum pointed out to me, nine white men on the Supreme Court in the past have done so on many occasions and on many issues including Brown.


Hernandez:  There are all sorts of ways of being wise.  Oliver Wendell Holmes said many wise things about the law, but as Sotomayor mentioned, he was part of those Justices who consistently voted against any claims of gender discrimination for decades and decades.  It could be a wise Latina with a richness of experience, or a wise woman, or a wise Bosnian that may have more sense about things than your typical White American Male.  No I am not a man hater, not at all (I am actually married to a white male - and I like him a lot).  But I am sure that the U.S. and many other Western countries have provided a societal framework that keeps white males from learning about the realities of the world.  There are many unconscious privileges some people have that we are often not aware of.

I could say that as a Latina professor I have experiences that white male professors don't have.  But I can also say that I was a social worker and psychotherapist for over fifteen years before I began my PhD studies in Cultural Anthropology.  I had a significant amount of mental health training, including that of the psychoanalytic study of groups.  I was also trained as a photographer.  So which experience makes me a better professor?  Is it being Latina?  Is it being a photographer (who certainly see the world in a unique way)?  Is it being a psychotherapist (some people say that could be a hindrance)?

Surely, hearing Agustin Lara and eating rice, beans and flour tortillas gave me a unique background and perspective while I was reading European social theorists.  Growing up in a Jim Crow town certainly helped me understand Faulkner.  Having brown skin made me stand out among the blonde kids at school, and sometimes their comments did hurt me (this did not keep me from making friends with some of them).  But now I understand a more realistic map of the world.  Most of the world is brown (or olive skinned) like me.  Many people that are my shade of brown are Jewish, highly educated, and well read.  I fit in most anywhere.  

If I had been born Jane Smith in Houston, Texas, and had blue eyes and blond hair, my life wouldn't nearly as interesting.  I can say the same for Judge Sotomayor. 

These comments are not necessarily about prejudice, they are about differences.

A Few Comments on Judge Sotomayor's Words, part I

Sonia Sotomayor with her parents

In this post I will expand on a few comments from her speech just published by the NYT - 

Sotomayor:  Who am I? I am a "Newyorkrican." For those of you on the West Coast who do not know what that term means: I am a born and bred New Yorker of Puerto Rican-born parents who came to the states during World War II.

Hernandez:  The family moved to NY during WWII - they were American citizens because all people born in Puerto Rico are U.S. citizens.

Sotomayor:  The Latina side of my identity was forged and closely nurtured by my family through our shared experiences and traditions.

Hernandez:  The stereotype that being Latina or Latino means being poor and uneducated is absolutely wrong.  There are millions of Latinos who are like Judge Sotomayor, we just don't stand out.  We blend in with the rest of the nation.  People don't write about us because we are regular people.  Actually, its a really rich experience to be educated, financially solvent and be Latina...  You develop a fascinating view of the world  - and of the people who stereotype you as poor and undocumented.

Sotomayor:  For me, a very special part of my being Latina is the mucho platos de arroz, gandules y pernil - rice, beans and pork - that I have eaten at countless family holidays and special events. My Latina identity also includes, because of my particularly adventurous taste buds, morcilla, -- pig intestines, patitas de cerdo con garbanzo -- pigs' feet with beans, and la lengua y orejas de cuchifrito, pigs' tongue and ears.

Hernandez:  Well, I can attest to the food thing.  Although I never ate pigs feet.  My family, who is of Mexican descent age cabrito (baby goat, considered a delicacy in northern Mexico and southern Texas) - to be honest I couldn't get myself to eat it.  But I loved beans, rice, and the flour tortillas that my aunt Rosa made me.  My Mom never made tamales, but lots of other people did and we always ate them at home.  We loved watermelon too...and canteloupe.  I lost a tooth eating canteloupe at a bull fight in Nuevo Laredo when I was six.

Sotomayor:  It is the memory of Saturday afternoon at the movies with my aunt and cousins watching Cantinflas, who is not Puerto Rican, but who was an icon Spanish comedian on par with Abbot and Costello of my generation.

Hernandez: In our small town, there was a movie theater just for Mexicans.  It was called the State Theater.  I used to go see movies with the singer/actor Miguel Aceves Mejia.  When I was six I saw him  in person and told all the kids at school I was going to marry him.

Sotomayor:  My Latina soul was nourished as I visited and played at my grandmother's house with my cousins and extended family. They were my friends as I grew up. Being a Latina child was watching the adults playing dominos on Saturday night and us kids playing loteria, bingo, with my grandmother calling out the numbers which we marked on our cards with chick peas.

Hernandez:  At my great grandmothers house (in Laredo, TX), the kids would gather around the bed of my great aunt Chata.  She would tell us stories about La Llorona.  Her sister, aunt Luisa would dance the charleston for us.  A couple of blocks away at my maternal grandmother's house I would run around the yard with my cousins and play hide and seek.  I was always afraid of the dark because the kids said a witch used to live next door in a house that had burnt down.

Sotomayor:  Being a Latina in America also does not mean speaking Spanish. I happen to speak it fairly well. But my brother, only three years younger, like too many of us educated here, barely speaks it. Most of us born and bred here, speak it very poorly.

Hernandez:  My brother and I did not speak Spanish as children.  We both learned it when we were older.  I wasn't actually fluent until I lived in Monterrey, Nuevo Leon when I was in my mid 40s.  While just about everyone in my grandparents generation only spoke Spanish, the family says my maternal grandfather, Eugenio E. Hernandez was fluently bi-lingual (he was a WWI Veteran).  Both my parents are fluently bi-lingual.  When my Dad was just starting school, his wealthy grandfather had an English speaking teacher come to the house so my Dad and his cousin would be bi-lingual.  

My daughter learned Spanish while we lived in Mexico, but doesn't speak it much now.  My son now lives in Argentina and is studying an MBA at an Argentine university - he has studied Spanish for four years- but didn't speak a word before then.  (When he was (really) little he said "carne," "leche," and "mamon")  

Sotomayor:  Many of us struggle with this tension and attempt to maintain and promote our cultural and ethnic identities in a society that is often ambivalent about how to deal with its differences.

Hernandez:  Being educated and wanting the best for my kids, I moved my family to an upscale Houston neighborhood (West University).  My mother had always told me not to live in the Barrio.  Now that the kids are grown and I am more secure with my identity I have moved to the Barrio (Houston's East End).  And I love it.  People are much nicer.  There are more trees.  There are chickens and roosters on every block.  Some of my neighbors and I trade plant cuttings.  

Sotomayor:  I became a Latina by the way I love and the way I live my life. My family showed me by their example how wonderful and vibrant life is and how wonderful and magical it is to have a Latina soul. They taught me to love being a Puertorriqueña and to love America and value its lesson that great things could be achieved if one works hard for it.

photo:  with my maternal grandmother Petra Paredes Hernandez, and my mother Maria de la Luz Hernandez

Hernandez:  I can say the same about my family.  It was a mixed experience (in terms of national identity), because while they didn't teach me Spanish, we were always listening to Agustin Lara.  My Dad told me all about Mexican history.  I knew about Mexican President Benito Juarez (who was a Zapotec Indian) and how the Catholic Church said all Masons should be excommunicated.  At the same time, my Dad took us to see the Alamo, the San Jacinto Battleground.  He is very proud of being a WWII veteran and an American citizen, but still sees himself as Mexican (he immigrated to the U.S. as an infant).

In Her Own Words - Sotomayor on being a Latina and a Jurist

Below is an excerpt from a speech that Judge Sotomayor gave at UC Berkeley in 2001

click here for the text of the speech

Judge Sotomayor:
...America has a deeply confused image of itself that is in perpetual tension. We are a nation that takes pride in our ethnic diversity, recognizing its importance in shaping our society and in adding richness to its existence. Yet, we simultaneously insist that we can and must function and live in a race and color-blind way that ignore these very differences that in other contexts we laud. That tension between "the melting pot and the salad bowl" -- a recently popular metaphor used to described New York's diversity - is being hotly debated today in national discussions about affirmative action. Many of us struggle with this tension and attempt to maintain and promote our cultural and ethnic identities in a society that is often ambivalent about how to deal with its differences. In this time of great debate we must remember that it is not political struggles that create a Latino or Latina identity. I became a Latina by the way I love and the way I live my life. My family showed me by their example how wonderful and vibrant life is and how wonderful and magical it is to have a Latina soul. They taught me to love being a Puertorriqueña and to love America and value its lesson that great things could be achieved if one works hard for it. But achieving success here is no easy accomplishment for Latinos or Latinas, and although that struggle did not and does not create a Latina identity, it does inspire how I live my

Thursday, May 28, 2009

The White Wise Guys are Talking About Sotomayor

Can you see Sotomayor hanging around with these guys (and Ginsburg)?

The Sotomayor Supreme Court nomination is getting some tugs from those who think her comment about wise Latina women and white guys who haven't lived a life was a bad thing.

How can this comment even count after you look at her stellar achievements?  So what if she thinks Latina women are wise?  What is wrong with that?

To be honest, I don't think all Latina women are wise.  But a good number are.  If they have used their experience well, they become awesome people.  Some end up spending their lives doing too much for their husbands and watching too much TV.  But then that sounds like a lot of women in general.

Now, is it true that there are white guys out there that "haven't lived a life?"  I think many people agree that the white guys from our former presidential administration (Bush II) would be in this category, especially Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld.  I think Rove has actually lived a life and gone through a lot, but I don't think he has learned much from his experiences except to be mean.

If you want to use stereotypes, you can say that successful Latinas can be tough.  They work hard and study hard.  They are like Sotomayor.  I don't know if she and I could be friends, but I will certainly respect her as a Supreme Court judge.  I bet lots of white guys will too.

Sotomayor's "controversial comment" -

"I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn't lived that life,"

"Latina Woman - Tongue Tied Man," Washington Post, May 27, 2009

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

"Popular Opinion" Based on Mis-Information

When I woke up this morning and saw the front page of the Houston Chronicle I saw this huge headline about the selection of Sonia Sotomayor for the Supreme Court.  I mean it was BIG.

It is almost 11 am and the headline is gone from the web page of the paper...  There have been over 1100 responses, some nasty---. 

One of them caught my eye:  here it courtesy of the GRAB program on my computer:

For one, ALL people born in Puerto Rico are American Citizens... It is not a state but is an American Territory.  I guess this is something people in Houston don't learn in high school.  I will have to make sure my students know about this when we start school this fall.

For another...  why so much hate?  A few days ago my daughter was flying back from LA and two women in their 60s were sitting in front of her.  One was white and one was black.  They were talking about one of them moving to Houston.  After a few minutes their conversation became much softer... when one of them said the word "illegals."  

Considering these women are on the brink of needing their Social Security benefits, it might be good for them to know they are only getting their checks because of the billions of dollars undocumented people have left in the social security fund.  If you are not a legal resident, you cannot use the money you put it, but if you work on a salary in the U.S. you are obligated to put part of your salary in the fund...  Undocumented workers have kept our social security system afloat.  Too bad so many people don't know that, kind of like so many don't know that all people born in Puerto Rico are American citizens.

Did the Houston Chronicle change its headline because of all those people who are mis-informed?

Thank Goodness for Justice - the nomination of Sotomayor

The writer of the article below is a law professor at the University of Houston.  He is well noted for his work on the DREAM Act and Civil Rights.
by Michael Olivas
May 26, 2009

 (CNN) -- I recently saw an old episode of "West Wing," where Edward James Olmos, playing a fictional Puerto Rican federal judge, was nominated to become the first Latino on the U.S. Supreme Court. I cried, thinking how remote this possibility seemed, yet how close.

Now that Judge Sonia Sotomayor has been nominated by President Barack Obama to the Court, that episode finally rings true. When I heard the news, I wept, for the long-overdue acknowledgement that Latinos matter.

Judge Sotomayor's life and legal career are arcs possible only in this country: a hardscrabble life in a south Bronx housing project, educational opportunities made possible by her own intelligence and hard work, and a legal career devoted to public service. When she assumes her position on the bench in October, no other justice will have had the depth of legal experience she holds, and none will have served as a trial judge.

The sum of her life is exactly what we should look for on this court: excellent academic credentials, an accomplished legal career in private and government practice, and appointments to federal benches by Republican and Democrat presidents. Her decisions have been well-reasoned and well-written, and she will ably take her place on the Supreme Court bench.

The search for a justice with "empathy" is no less coded than is the traditional search for "judicial temperament" and a person who will "judge, not legislate." All nominees have the requisite merit badges, as does Judge Sotomayor. And to make their way to such a short list, all have the combination of personal and professional lives that warrant their consideration.

What Sonia Sotomayor will have, as few other candidates, is the additional weight of historical expectations and the hopes of Latinos.

In today's culture, Latinos are marginalized and demonized and feared. In Judge Sotomayor's New York, roving gangs of thugs go "beaner hunting," looking to harm undocumented Mexicans. Such racial hatred knows no nuance, as one such mob killed a permanent resident Ecuadorian, thinking him to be Mexican.

Vigilantes along the Mexican border have taken the law of enforcement into their own hands. In cultural programming, this community is described as either lazy and shiftless, or stealing jobs from real Americans. They are typecast as drogeros or maids, long characterized as banditos or greasers. The racial rhetoric against Latinos has been tolerated for too long on cable television news and in political and polite discourse.

I will be carefully watching the confirmation hearings for the coded political messages, knowing that Justice-elect Sotomayor's many merits will ultimately win her confirmation. But also watching will be little girls in a south Bronx housing project, in the valley of South Texas, and in rural New Mexico.

Her service on our country's highest court will be the evidence that they, too, have reason to hope and to achieve. All of this country's citizens should realize that it is not just Latinos' dreams being realized, but our collective accomplishment. link to article

thanks to Tatcho Mindiola for passing this along

The Pictures You Take in Your Twenties

Photos of Barack Obama in 1980, by Lisa Jack

Telling you the truth, I am 56 years old, probably much older than some of my DREAMer readers would imagine.  Back when I was an 18 year old college student, I asked a cute photographer at Wharton County Junior College to take my photograph.  I still remember his name, it was Brian Noble.  I always wondered what happened to him.  He ended up taking pictures of me on a motorcycle.  He was nice enough to go into the dark room and print them for me.  I have to admit, I had a crush on him and it was an excuse to have a conversation, but he was courteous, took the pictures, gave them to me and never spoke to me again (except to say hi in the hallway).  Someday I'll find them and put them on the blog.

So here we have a young woman photographer (Lisa Jack) at Occidental College in 1980.  She asked a cute freshman if he'd let her photograph him.  Who would have thought that 29 years later, the guy would be President of the United States.  I think it is awesome.  

What it teaches us is that you never know what is going to happen in the future.  He may have shown his charisma then, but to be President?  

There is an exhibition opening at M+B Gallery in West Hollywood tomorrow (May 28, 2009).  If you are in the neighborhood, drop by and see it.

The moral of the story?  Always take pictures when you can.  You never know what will happen 30 years later.

"Photos Show Barack Obama as Barry the Freshman,"  Los Angeles Times, May 27, 2009

click here for Lisa Jack's Photos of Obama as published in Time Magazine

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Sonia Sotomayor: She will not be like Alberto or Clarence

The Honorable Sonia Sotomayor, Nominee for the Supreme Court

Alberto Gonzalez embarrassed many of us.  He moved bad stereotypes of Mexican Americans back half a century.  Now Obama has nominated Judge Sonia Sotomayor for Supreme Court.  All indications are that she will do her job well and will help the image of Latinos in the U.S. and the world.

"Obama Picks Sotomayor for High Post," Boston Globe, May 26, 2009

link to Washington Post video of announcement

London Paper:   "Obama picks first Hispanic supreme court justice,"  The Guardian, May 26, 2009


Monday, May 25, 2009

America: A "Linguistically Neutered" Nation

How many languages can you speak? I can speak English, sort of fluent in Spanish, and can read French. But none of this has to do with going to high school or college. I decided way after college that I needed to seriously learn a language other than English.  My mother used to suggest I take Spanish in high school, but at the time it only seemed necessary when I went on vacation to Mexico.  

Only thing is, learning a second or third language isn't just about going on vacation.  It is about having an open mind about the world, realizing that you can gain so much knowledge if you look outside your own orbit.

Speaking of orbit, these days it isn't a bad idea to think about learning Chinese or Arabic. Everything isn't about the English and other European languages, especially in this era of mass globalization.  The article I post is about a woman in the UK saying that the other European Union nations are way ahead of Great Britain in learning additional languages.  What she doesn't mention is that a high percentage of UK residents are now multilingual -- they speak English, Arabic, Farsi, Polish or any other dozens of languages.  This isn't because their parents or schools insisted on it.  It is because of immigration to the UK - and globalization in general.

Just as learning Arabic in the UK may not be considered so important, Spanish is also downgraded because of our close-minded American attitude towards immigration. It is OK if our ancestors spoke Spanish or German, or Italian, but we are Americans now, and we HAVE to be English speakers - don't let your children waste their time learning anything else, because as you know, we (Americans) are the masters of the universe.* 

here is a different perspective from a parent in the UK:

"We Must Lift Our Children Out of Linguisitic Poverty" by Carolyn Sarll, London Independent, January 15, 2009

I was finding out how they [Germans] get their youngsters speaking a second language at such an early age – at six or seven years of age, at least four years before we traditionally get our pupils started. With four 50-minute lessons of English a week, that's how.

Compare this with our state school average of three lessons of German, French or Spanish over two weeks, and it becomes clear that time invested is the key. Forget technical and whiteboard wizardry – neither school that I visited possessed such gizmos, yet the pupils could converse brilliantly in English after just a year. That was a real fillip for us chalk'n'talk teachers, who still insist on the entire class parsing a verb at the expense of all those wacky visual aids.

The results prove that the Germans and other European states have got it right. In a recent survey, nearly 70 per cent of Britons said that they could not speak any language other than their mother tongue. Across the EU, this figure is 44 per cent.

Our reputation as a linguistically neutered nation is reflected, too, in the alarming nosedive in GCSE language entries. In 2001, 78 per cent of all pupils took at least one language; this year, it was a mere 46 per cent. In Wales, a nation that parades its bilingual badge unashamedly, the figures are even more depressing: in 1996, 46 per cent of pupils took at least one language, but this was down to a dismal 28 per cent this year. Cymru Am Byth (look it up) is all very well – and, before you think otherwise, as well as speaking German and French, I am a Welsh learner and proud of it – but not at the expense of our ability to function within a European and global context. To survive in today's world, we Welsh citizens must start speaking other languages, not just our own.
link to entire article

*and everyone should learn our language

Monolingual American

Avoiding Diabetes

Yesterday I went to visit my brother.  As I have written before, he has diabetes and is on dialysis.

I took him a cantaloupe.  I decided that everytime I go see him I'm going to take him some fruit.
With this in mind I am going to start posting occasionally with bits of information about how NOT to get diabetes.

Suggestion #1:

Avoid Fast Food (i.e. hamburgers, fries).  If you aren't convinced, go see "Fast Food Nation."

Using your brain for your hands

NYT Magazine:
'A gifted young person who chooses to become a mechanic rather than to accumulate academic credentials is viewed as eccentric, if not self-destructive. There is a pervasive anxiety among parents that there is only one track to success for their children. It runs through a series of gates controlled by prestigious institutions. Further, there is wide use of drugs to medicate boys, especially, against their natural tendency toward action, the better to “keep things on track.”'

Use to be that kids of color were guided by school counselors to do manual work.  This was because of the assumption that only the "smart ones" should go to college and Mexican or Black kids weren't smart.  Now the NYT is thinking about all those Hedge Fund Managers that want to become mechanics.  It's trying to make them feel better.

The truth is that people who do things with their hands (of course their brains help) are just as gifted and can usually be considered "artists"  - like the person who tiles your bathroom, puts up your siding, straightens your car out after an accident.  

But there is that old class issue, that goes back a milenium.  The rich and noble didn't (and don't) have to do anything but use their brains.  Can you change the oil in your car?

"A Case for Working with Your Hands," New York Times Magazine, May 24, 2009

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Bait & Switch at Immigration Court in LA

A number of Immigrants thinking they are moving forward  their immigration cases have been given a big surprise.  ICE has been arresting them when they go to their hearings.  

According to the LA Times:

"[ICE] Agents have arrested people at Immigration Court in downtown L.A. and expelled them. Authorities say they're reinstating previous orders. Lawyers say the legal process is being flouted."

Where is Napolitano these days?  Does she know this is happening?  Does she approve?

Friday, May 22, 2009

Cheney's Mouth

This detail from a Mike Luckovich cartoon says enough for me not to want to listen to Cheney.  It is difficult to understand why the news media seems to be hooked on him these days.  Obama (and the rest of us) should just ignore him.  Isn't that what you are supposed to do with a bully?

see "Obama and Cheney clash on fight against terror,"  Boston Globe, May 22, 2009

You are White and Want to do the Right Thing?

One of the things I have found in my classes over the years is that people generally don't want to be hateful or discriminatory or (!) racist.  Often there seems to be a problem with lack of information.

Another problem is that white people have a really hard time talking about being racist (well, maybe all of us do).  

Here is an interesting essay on being a white person in an imperfect (or excuse me, racist) society.  It focuses on people working as college professors, but we can all learn from it. Click the title for the link.

A few days of silence

It has been a few days since I have posted anything.  My co-blogger asked me what was going on, since I usually keep pretty busy with dreamacttexas.  

The thing is, my brother is really sick.  He is one of your millions of Latinos with diabetes.  I am really worried about him and don't know what will happen from one day to the next.  I tell myself it probably isn't bothering me but it really is.  There are only two of us.   I am eight years older than he is.  I was in third grade when he was born.  

He is on dialysis now.  He had to retire from his job as a fireman.  He can barely walk around, and one doctor has recommended amputation.  

Between that and working really hard to finish a book, the hour I had been spending on dreamacttexas has somehow gotten lost.  Even when I have the time, the enthusiasm I had for the writing slipped away.  I am hoping that in a few days I will get it back.  

I apologize for not writing more, but you know how it is...

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Harvard's President Supports DREAM

Now that Harvard's president has supported DREAM, what will it take for southwestern states to get on the bandwagon?

Harvard's Faust backs path to legal residency
Illegal immigrant bill called 'lifeline'

By Maria Sacchetti, Globe Staff | May 21, 2009

Harvard President Drew Gilpin Faust yesterday backed federal legislation that would clear the way for illegal immigrant students to apply for legal residency, an endorsement that stunned students and drew criticism for a president who has largely steered clear of fierce debates.

In a letter this week to federal lawmakers, Faust expressed "strong support" for legislation known as the Dream Act, which would allow students who have been in this country since they were 15 to apply for legal residency under certain conditions. She acknowledged that students with "immigration status issues" attend Harvard, and said the bill would be a "lifeline" to such students.

"I believe it is in our best interest to educate all students to their full potential - it vastly improves their lives and grows our communities and economy," she wrote in a letter to Senators Edward M. Kennedy and John F. Kerry and Representative Michael E. Capuano, thanking them for their support for the legislation. "This bill will help move us closer to this goal."

Faust, who declined to be interviewed, is not the first leader to endorse the Dream Act. But her action adds a powerful new voice to the debate over a bill that has languished in Congress since 2001.

The Dream Act often surfaces in the debate in individual states over whether illegal immigrant students should pay resident tuition at public colleges and universities.

But the latest version of the Dream Act focuses largely on allowing illegal immigrant students to apply for legal residency, which is an issue that affects public and private colleges such as Harvard because its graduates cannot legally work in this country. (The act would make it easier for states to charge resident tuition, but does not require it).

Private colleges do not rely on government funding and can decide to finance those students on their own.

Harvard students said they have been lobbying Faust for months on the issue. They held a rally and submitted a petition with 120 signatures, said Harvard junior Kyle de Beausset, one of the organizers.

In recent months, two Harvard students who are in the United States illegally met with Faust in her office to seek her support. Yesterday, one of those students, an 18-year-old former high school valedictorian who has been in the United States since he was 9, said he was thrilled.

"We realized that what we were asking her to do wasn't an easy thing. The issue of immigration is politically charged," said the student, who spoke on the condition that his name not be used. "I am and will forever be indebted to this institution."

But Bob Dane, spokesman for the Federation for American Immigration Reform, said Harvard should not admit illegal immigrants because they displace students here legally.

"Maybe the elites at Harvard should come down from their ivory tower and get some ground perspective on what kind of cost and competition that legal US residents are actually incurring these days," said Dane.

Maria Sacchetti can be reached at