El Gringoqueño

All a man needs out of life is a place to sit ‘n’ spit in the fire.

Category: Current Events (page 1 of 7)

Stuff that’s pop-tastic, pop-o-licious, and currently playing on FoxNews

There Are Two Kinds of People in This World

I was watching Fox News today, well, not really Fox News News, just the talking heads that seem to love being hysterical. There are certainly a lot of them, I am finding. It is surprising what passes for critical thinking on that network.

For example, I was surprised to learn that hoards of Honduran and Guatemalan people were streaming into our country in “caravans” of chaos and lawlessness. The gist of the breathless and hysterical “reporting” was grab yo’ money, grab yo’ wife – they coming for your way of life!!! All of it was unsubstantiated by the way. The “report” showed some footage of hundreds of brown people traveling along a road, some walking, some riding in trucks. We don’t know when this was. We don’t know who they are. All brown people look alike, don’t they? We don’t know how many there are. No facts were cited. No credible reports by any organization. Nothing. The talking heads slid easily into “people say” and “reports indicate that” and then hissed the conclusion, “there are thousands of these people streaming into our country every day, and they have been coached by socialist leftest organizations to claim oppression and danger in order to gain entrance.” And as Dave Barry used to say, “And I am not making this up” the talking heads speculated as fact that these migrants are kidnapping or borrowing children to facilitate their entry in the United States. Seriously? Truly you have a dizzying intellect!

Do people really buy this shit? Do people really believe these ignorant, uneducated, careless talking heads?

Let’s say for the sake of argument that there really are hundreds of poor people (now they are saying thousands… THOUSANDS of ILLEGALS ) from Guatemala and Honduras trying to seek asylum in the US, and that they have been told that if they have suffered persecution, that they should say they fear for their safety. I’ll give your factless reporting the benefit of the doubt. I’m naive, I know, but bear with me.

When you see these people, mothers, fathers, teenagers, children, grandmothers, grandfathers…

Do you see them as mouths to feed?

Or do you seem them as hands to help?

Because that’s really what it boils down to, doesn’t it?

Do you see people as takers or makers?

Your answer really says more about you.

Look, Talking Heads in the News Media…

Look, if you preface your statement with “look” you are a douchebag.

Look, I shouldn’t really have to say it to you, but, – sigh – I guess I will again, because I am sooooo smart and you are sooo dumb, but the word “look” as a preface is condescending and all it does it cover up your lack of credentials, expertise, and gravitas. Look, the word “look” is for posers trying to seem smart by belittling the audience and host by tricking them into thinking you are smarter or more informed than you appear.

But look, it’s just a tip from me to you – what do I know?

Look, I’m looking at you Mr. looky look William Bennett.

Talking about Brett Kavanaugh this morning at brunch with the kids

Jim: So, the glaring difference I see is that you should be able to give more stories about Brett other than, “He’s a good guy.” I know some good people, and if you asked me what I thought of them, I’d have stories that would demonstrate their character.

Javier: Daddy, maybe Brett is the kind of guy that has dumb friends who can’t even invent a good story about him.

All of us: ROFL!!!!

A Senator’s Perspective

“Mr. Kavanaugh, would you call for an FBI investigation?”

“Um, um, I uh, um. Well, isn’t this what we are doing? Investigating. I don’t know why. I’ve already been investigated 6 times. The FBI has given me a green light.”

“I know that, Mr. Kavanaugh, but in light of recent information -“

Interrupting “That’s what we’re talking about here. Sheesh, why don’t you people -“

“Pardon me? Hold on a second, Mr. Kavanaugh. I want to remind you of something here. I am a United States Senator. What that means is that I am a representative of the people of my state, millions of Americans. When you talk to me, you are not talking to an individual, you are talking to the people of the United States. I am very aware of my duties and what I am called to do here. Do the people who have sent me here differ in their political outlook than some of the constituents of the other members of this panel? Yes, most definitely. There is a balance to be struck here, but make no mistake of it, the people of my state are no less relevant than the people of other states. A dismissal of my constituents, is a disrespect to America. We have a duty to do here, and we intend to do it as dispassionately and and methodically as possible.”

“Now, with that said, I can understand how the divisions between the two competing political parties may give you pause as to the fairness of your treatment. Rather than turn toward one side and shun the other, I would exhort you to look at us all on an equal basis, as the representatives of the American People. To sum up, when I ask you if you would invite an FBI investigation, it is only in the spirit of wanting to get to the bottom of this matter. I am a Senator, not an investigator. I will also admit that I represent the political views of my state which may not match with yours. Therefor, an FBI investigation is in your best interests as well as mine. If an investigation is conducted, and turns up nothing – shows us that these allegations are mistaken in their entirety, then I would vote for your confirmation even though your judicial record does not match the values of my constituents in general. If your reputation is of utmost concern for you, then I would submit that an FBI investigation would definitely and in a non-partisan fashion, clear your name. I can think of no reason for you to resist an independent non-partisan investigation other than you are afraid of what they will find.”

Does this sound familiar?

After yesterday’s confirmation hearing and testimony, something became pretty clear to me.

“Hey baby, you I think it’s time we um…   You know, I took you out to dinner. I bought you a gift. I was a perfect gentleman. Didn’t you like the dinner? The drinks? Top shelf stuff. Now, it’s my turn. Don’t I deserve a reward of some sort?”

“I don’t think I’m ready, Brett.”

“Oh, why not? You should be. What are you waiting for? I’m handsome, successful, connected. You should be throwing yourself at me.”

“I need more time, Brett. It’s just not that easy.”

“This is ridiculous. You can’t say no to me! I’ve given you so much. NOW IT’S MY TURN! You’re ruining my life!”

Contrast that with what should have happened.

“So, I really enjoyed our time together. Do you want to continue it someplace else?”

“I did, Brett, I had a totally nice time, but I have a long day tomorrow. Don’t take it the wrong way, but I really need to get a good night’s sleep.”

“Oh, of course. I totally understand. I didn’t mean… I just wanted you to know that I enjoyed your company, and didn’t want to end the evening yet. I like you. I enjoy spending time with you, but I don’t want to rush into anything either… or rush you into anything. I’ll still be here next week.”  Smile. “I mean, not right here at this table, but around, you know?”

Laughing, “Sure, yes. I do like you too, Brett. I’ll call you.”

So sure, Brett may not get the girl, maybe she’s not into him. Maybe he’s not a great fit for where she is at that moment. And Brett’s okay with that. He might be disappointed, but he’s not the kind of guy would would force himself onto another. He’s not a petulant entitled spoiled brat who thinks because he punched the right tickets, did the right things, knew the right people, that he should deserve her, that she is his for the taking.

He’s A Good Guy

I think I’ll weigh on the Brett Kavanaugh thing, okay? I wouldn’t do it unless I had something to say that is different from what I’ve heard in the media. It’s been talked to death, I know, but there’s something I think people are missing.

“He’s a good guy. That’s not the Brett I know,” said various classmates who have signed letters of support.

So what’s missing? Isn’t that the end of the story?

“He pushed me to the bed, placed his hand over my mouth and got on top of me, attempting to remove my clothes,” said Christine Blasey Ford. “His friend Mark Judge, kind of jumped on us knocking everybody to the floor and I was able to collect myself and escape.”

There’s a glaring difference between the two descriptions of Kavanaugh, and it’s not just one is bad and the other good.

Shifting gears a bit, I do these resume, job search, interviewing workshops for folks looking to better their job hunting skills. One of the tips I give them is to make sure your accomplishments are specific. “I was the best worker at my old job” isn’t as strong as, “I exceeded my sales quotas by 25% in four consecutive quarters” or “I was awarded with employee of the month among 40 employees for the month of July 2018.”

Those are specific achievements and tell us much more than, I was a hard worker, or I was liked, or I was a good guy.

Now do you see it?

A criminal can be a good guy. A criminal isn’t defined 24/7 by his criminal activity. Actions can be discrete. A person can rob a bank and still be a loving son and friend, a “good guy.” In fact, don’t we hear it a lot? He seemed like such a good guy, I never would have expected that type of behavior from him. It’s almost cliché.

Okay, so what’s the takeaway here? For starters, I want Mr. Kavanaugh’s resume to contain specifics. He needs to firm up his statements of “I’m a good guy” with something that demonstrates his good guyness. What are those actions that make him a good guy? Tell us more about his character? For example:

“Brett was the kind of guy that would always look out for others. Now, I know there was alcohol at these parties, and yes, Brett was there, but he was always looking out for others. If you had too much to drink, he’d make sure you were okay. Since he was on the football team and a respected leader, when he asked you for your keys, you didn’t refuse. That’s the kind of guy he was. There was this time I watched him charm the keys out of the hands of a much bigger boy. He just kind of disarmed him, didn’t embarrass him. The guy afterward acted like Brett had just done him a great favor, which he did, of course, but you know how these things can get problematic.”

Or

“I remember distinctly, this one time that Brett intervened with a girl that looked cornered by a drunk young man. He didn’t make a scene or get in a fight or anything, but just the force of his character was able to cut off the unwanted affections from the young man and usher the young woman away. He looked out for the girls, and I think he knew that some of the boys could be problematic. But that was not Brett.”

Or

“It wasn’t enough for Brett to achieve, he wanted to make sure that others did as well. In addition to the service hours that were required by the high school, he went out of his way to establish study sessions, giving of his limited free time between football and basketball practice to make sure that his classmates were not falling behind. When we say he was a good guy, that’s what we mean. He didn’t just stick to his achievements, he wanted everyone to achieve. If you look at the class as a whole, you will notice that Brett’s class had a higher average GPA than classes before and after. I can’t prove it, but I think it had something to do with Brett.”

But I ain’t heard none of that. Not even a peep, other than “That’s not the Brett I know” or “He’s a good guy.” All I hear is the stories of a paper tiger, an entitled douchbag who has managed to keep his head down and maintain the status quo for his entire life, checking the boxes, being a generically “good guy” in the same way that white men who occupy high positions have gotten passes for decades – just on the strength of their outwardly normative behavior.

Let’s be clear. There are specific allegations against him. Those specific allegations cannot be dismissed by “That’s not the Brett I know.” If you want to portray Brett’s character, you’re going to have to come up with some specific stories of that demonstrate that character.

UPDATE (Later this same day – I swear I’m not making this up): Well, shit, Brett, you don’t seem like a good guy AT ALL.

Post María Calm

I approached the counter at the DMV smiling and said, “Good morning!” Well, actually, “Muy buenos días.” or VERY good morning. I asked the clerk how she was. Did she have electricity? Water? No, no electricity, only water. “Gracias a Dios,” I said. At least. That makes me happy. I told her that I hoped she’d get electricity soon. I was still smiling. I explained why I was there, what I had, and what I needed.

I have to be aware how I come across. I am impossibly physically large for Puerto Rico. I look like a big white American gringo federal agent, and that can immediately put people off for their assumptions of how I will act based on how I look. I don’t want to traumatize anyone. Yes I speak Spanish, no you don’t have to go find someone who does.

I slouched to make myself smaller, fumbled with my papers, and dropped the pen. I filled in the wrong field and then made a self deprecating remark about not being good at following instructions. She chuckled, and told me not to worry about it. When she finished with the computer, she passed me my activated RFID sticker, and I paid the small fee. I thanked her profusely for her time and wished the people in line a good morning as I made my way to the parking garage. I waved at the parking attendant and thanked the cashier for taking my parking fee, paying with exact change.

I queued up a gentle string quartet on the car stereo, nudged the car out onto the street, and waited at the non-functioning traffic light to let some cars pass. They were in a hurry. I wondered what their lives were like, how they were, what they were feeling, what they were going through. No aggressive moves. There is no hurry for me, just go with the flow, be in the moment. Let others go first.

Puerto Rico is a nation in crisis. We are a people in crisis. Every individual is in crisis. We are all aware of how delicate our state is, and there seems to be some sort of tacit understanding that we must treat each other delicately, because we could lose it at any time. We are all broken, held together by a revisited gentility post María.

But we know we may crack and shatter at any moment for the loss of our livelihood, a loved one, the care for elderly relatives, for living without electricity, and worrying about the future. In the dark after the sun goes down and the hum of generators drowns out the night creatures we find ourselves alone. What about our hopes and dreams, our utility, our self? Where will I go? What will I do?

Maybe tomorrow, when the sun comes up, it won’t seem so grave. Things will seem brighter, more hopeful. Muy buenos días. ¿Cómo se encuentra? Very good morning to you. In what condition may you find yourself? or How are you?

Perhaps we can hold each other gently enough and for long enough that we may not fall to pieces.

Okay, I Get it. Small Government is Best. The Constitution Never Made Provisions for Social Welfare…

…but can we stop fetishizing the “founding fathers?” Please?

I do get “it,” though. The nearly religious beliefs of the right are that the founding fathers were enlightened individuals endowed with some sort of special insight into what it takes to govern. They had the prescience to foresee all the basic needs of humanity going forwards hundreds of years. They were brilliant and made the US Constitution so specific and at the same time so general as to make it universally applicable. Bravo. Clap clap. Here’s a gem from the Declaration of Independence:

All men are created equal.

All men?

Well not African men, or African women or children for that matter.

What about white women?

Are they men?

No.

Then not them.

You see how this is starting to sound like the Monty Python Cheese shoppe skit, right?

These are the same guys who didn’t see the acute moral problem of slavery? Oh, but it was the times, you say. Times were different. Sensibilities were different. They did the best with what they had. I could agree with you, yes. But then you want to eat all that delicious slave cake too when you ascribe to them some sort of mystical transcendental infallibility. They knew exactly what our modern diverse society needed but had no clue about their own time? Remember, for as long as there has been slavery there have been abolitionists. Don’t give me that, “they didn’t know better” crock. Lots of people knew it was wrong. How come our super smart humanist Enlightenment thinker guys didn’t get that “little” detail right too?

Bah! Stop fetishizing the past, the Constitution, and the founding fathers. I do not want to be shackled by them (for many it would be literal) to a history replete with genocide, injustice, inequality, slavery, no collective bargaining, where half the population had no vote, where the monied and the landed had all the power, where the rich made laws that benefited them and exploited the masses. Wait! Hold up, I’m starting to think this sounds vaguely like the present. Maybe the founding fathers had it right all along, and this outcome is exactly what they intended.

My prediction. The Republican tax cut bill will increase inequality in the U.S. The rich will get richer. The poor will find their ranks swelling. Maybe if we wish hard enough we can go back to the way things were in 1788 and make America great again.

How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?

I’ll be offline probably for a couple of weeks if past hurricanes and storms are any indication. Maria looks to be heading directly for us like a freight train, and I don’t think we’re gonna be able to slip this one. We will probably have no water or electricity for a while.

I think we’ll be okay, though. The island will be mostly okay too. That is, the people are resilient and of good humor. When confronted with human need, I think most people rise to the occasion. The people of Puerto Rico seem to excel at having a generous spirit. Maybe it comes from not having a lot. I don’t know, exactly, but sometimes it’s the people with the least that are the most generous. I think it’s a learned thing.

Most everyone here has concrete houses and the topology is rather mountainous. We don’t get deep storm surge like in Florida or the Gulf Coast. It’s still super deadly near the water though, and tons of small businesses, mom and pop diners, stores, gas stations, hardware and furniture stores and assortments of small offices will probably go under. The crushing poverty in oppressed communities will get worse. The struggling owners of a small business that were probably just making do, will now throw in the towel, leaving their boarded up locale to collect mosquitos and rats.

But us personally? We’ll be okay, and I’ll check in again when things are less hectic.

*update note – haha, María was WAY worse than we thought. This post is laughable in hindsight 🙁

Throwing Away Gold, I Tells Ya, Yer Throwing Away Gold!

“It was not by gold or by silver, but by labour, that all the wealth of the world was originally purchased; and its value, to those who possess it, and who want to exchange it for some new productions, is precisely equal to the quantity of labour which it can enable them to purchase or command.” – Adam Smith, Wealth of Nations

We all know that Adam Smith is the little darling of the fundamentalist right and their form of free market extreme capitalism, but isn’t it interesting that he sees people as the very embodiment of wealth.

When immigrants come to America’s shores, they do not belittle its stature, they raise it, magnify it, enrich it. It’s simple supply and demand, folks. You want a rich nation, you need people. They (the countries of the world) are practically giving them away at bargain basement prices. Snap them up while you can!

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