El Gringoqueño

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

Category: Politics (page 1 of 3)

Whatever politics, Puerto Rican, American. I might praise, but if you know politics, I’m probably more apt to complain. Beware!

Are these really the only Democrats that Republicans care about?

I am starting to notice a pattern. Are Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Nancy Pelosi, Elizabeth Warren, Maxine Waters, and Kamala Harris, really the only Democrats Republicans care about – or, is the right just afraid of women who speak up?

There are men on the left as well, no?

I just wanna say

Although I agree ideologically with people that are upset at officials within the Trump administration, if you are berating someone while they are having a meal or kicking them out of your restaurant, you are a crackpot.

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?


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.


I’ve been ruminating on this public catfight between the left and right for quite some time, trying to wrap my head around the subject, the debate, and the issues. Is it really a debate of equal sides of the same coin? Am I deluded? Are they deluded? Is there a way to peer through the veil and find something resembling an absolute truth of the matter? Who is right? Are both right, but different?

Some have said, that the difference is one of evidence vs emotion. That is, the “right” thing is what you feel in your gut. You don’t really know “why” in the sense of logic, but you say, “of course” we shouldn’t just let people immigrate to our country, and of course, tax cuts fuel the economy, and of course, the poor should just work harder if they want to get ahead. It’s their values that are to blame for their poverty.

Are there studies pro or con that elucidate these concepts? Ayn Rand doesn’t count as an authoritative source, by the way.

On the left, perhaps you might have the same effect working against you. One might think that their assumptions are just as emotional and just as possibly spurious as the ones on the right. Is the left’s “evidence” just as biased as the right’s?

I worry about this. Could I be confirming my own biases by consuming news, opinion, and research that just reinforces a particular left-leaning worldview?

I think it boils down to one’s normalized experiences and a lack of opportunity to break from them. You can make your own opportunities, but I think we need to be better as a society to promote a difference of perspective.

When a person is normalized to a particular upbringing and experience, it causes them to view the world and to perceive what is normal based on those patterns. If you are a white person, living in middle class suburb in the upper Midwest, with white middle class neighbors, then what is “normal” for you is what you experience every day. The police are friendly and helpful. The schools are fine and dandy. You pay your taxes and the potholes get fixed in a timely manner. Sure, there are challenges, like Tammy the gossip at work, or the fact that you’ve got too many bills to pay and not enough to pay them with. You wish you had more, but the new car will have to wait until you get get the much needed repairs to your vinyl siding. Your worries for your children in high school consist of keeping them on the straight and narrow. Don’t get pregnant, and don’t impregnate anyone, you exhort. Don’t be having sex, and you monitor them and make sure that you’re aware. Sure, they could get into trouble, but you’re present and try to do your best. Some of the kids are drinking and smoking marijuana. Say no, kids. Then they study, take their SATs and get into a decent college you can afford (albeit with some financial aid).

Whew, we did it. We worked hard, put food on the table, raised smart kids that are now studying and doing what they are supposed to be doing. We deserve these successes because we earned them.

You suddenly hear about Black Lives Matter. What are these people complaining about? They’re just rabble-rousers. They’re ingrates, uppity. Don’t they know that they need to have good values and make better choices in order to achieve what they want? They just want to take from what little you think you have. Let them earn and merit the same things you have. Nobody gave you anything. And you believe that the so-called reality that these people espouse just isn’t true, because it conflicts with your own truths.

In Puerto Rico, we say, “El ladrón juzga por su propia condición.” The criminal judges by his own condition, that is, if you lie, you expect that everybody lies. If you steal you comport yourself as if everyone steals. The flip side of this is that if you are a generally good, honest, hard-working person, you expect that everyone else is like this as well. Police mistreatment of the poor just doesn’t jibe with your experiences. You’ve always seen them as friendly, conscious, devoted public servants. I mean they came to your neighborhood watch meeting and were always so helpful whenever you called them. You don’t see yourself as privileged or particularly special. You have always treated others with courtesy and deference, and you received it in kind, thinking that you merited it because of your behavior. Based on your normalized experiences you just can’t conceive that others are not treated the same way.

There must be something wrong with them.

I get that. I get how good, God-fearing, white Americans who are not particularly wealthy can come to the conclusion that the world is just, and that fair treatment begets fair treatment, and that those who fail generation after generation must be doing something wrong. It can’t be the system, because it’s the same system in which you’ve succeeded.

I can only come to the conclusion that it is through one’s own cultural normalization that these myths of fairness continue to perpetuate, that the false ideas of bootstrapping, of just say no, of family values, of poverty, that the world is fair, and that racism and xenophobia are dead continue to exist just inside the purview of a normalized and mostly white experience.

What can we do? Well, for one thing, I think that there should be a return to the professed Christian mandate to seek justice. Don’t make them come to you. Go to them. Find them. Listen to them. Believe them. Challenge your own normalization through a process of cultural and historical indoctrination. Accept the possibility that your assumptions about society and the “proper” way to do things may be wrong. They don’t have to be wrong, but allow for the possibility that they may be.

In short, don’t say, “I know.” Say, “I want to find out.”

Weapons Don’t Belong Everywhere

Before I go off on my rant, I just want to say, I do like firearms, but I don’t own any, because I don’t want the responsibility in my home with 4 children. That’s a personal choice, though.

I have had the privilege of firing quite a few different things in my time in the military and throughout my life.

Despite what the NRA says, there is a legitimate debate on where you draw the line of what you can own, what you can do with it, and who can own it. I don’t think we as a society want homicidal maniacs getting their hands on rocket propelled grenades, do we?

A registry and background check isn’t an unreasonable manner to facilitate our 2nd amendment rights. As a society, we should have procedures and laws, not anarchy, a wild west where the solution to every violent act with a gun is more guns. The first few words of the amendment are, “A well regulated Militia…” Some would argue that personal arsenals were never intended.

And don’t give me shit about the fact that “assault rifle” as a class doesn’t exist. Bullshit. A semi-automatic rifle packed with NATO 5.56 mm rounds and a muzzle velocity of around 3000ft/s is a helluva thing. It’s only purpose is to kill people. That’s why NATO uses these instruments in war. For assaulting the enemy. Sheesh. That the public calls them “assault rifles” is immaterial. You can accurately put a ton of rounds downrange at high velocity and they will kill every damn thing in the way. There is NO, absolutely no legitimate use for these types of military grade hardware in civilian life.

Oh, but it doesn’t do fully automatic, you’ll say. Well, I’m not so sure that’s a positive feature. I never put my M16 on full auto. That’s the way you miss your target and waste your ammo. You can empty a 30 round magazine before your first bullet hits the ground. I’d wager that if the Orlando shooter had modified his Sig Sauer to fire on full automatic, he probably wouldn’t have killed nearly as many people. He’d have emptied his magazine, missed most of his targets, and then been jumped by bystanders while he tried to reload.

Oh, but they’re fun to shoot! I agree, but the downside of mass murder is too much for me. I would very easily give up the right to own any high rate of fire assault style weapon it it meant no more deranged people could kill tons of people on a whim.

Open carry anywhere and everywhere?

If you’ve been on a military firing range, it’s a tense place. Safety is taken very seriously, I’ve sweated blood, I’m sure. You have to be aware to point your weapon down range at all times, make sure you clear the chamber, eject the magazine, put it on safety, exit and enter the firing line in an orderly fashion, all the while being aware that your weapon is to be considered loaded and ready to fire at all times and being aware of those around you. If you’re a good and conscientious person, then you’re going to be on guard during that time. For me, at least, it was stressful. One mistake and people die.

Do I really want some idiot eating next to me in a Longhorn steakhouse with his sidearm or assault rifle? I came to a restaurant, not a firing range.

Firearms are rightfully scary, and I don’t want to be scared 24/7. Everything in its place, if you ask me. Firearms don’t belong everywhere at all times.

Oh, but the only solution to a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.

Now let’s also deal with the pathetically unlikely white knight scenario that the NRA likes to promote. Let’s say you’re in a loud night club and someone fires a shot. Do you honestly expect me to believe MORE GUNS in this scenario will fix the situation? Hmm, let’s see, multiple armed un-uniformed members of the general public all shooting at an assailant, but more likely each other.

The Aurora shooter was in a dark movie theater. How in the hell are you going to identify and neutralize the threat without yourself being a target? The “he shot first” defense isn’t going to work when all other gun wielding members of the public see are your muzzle flashes in the darkness.

How stupid is the NRA, Republican politicians?

I have never been in combat, but most anyone who has been in the military goes through infantry training which involves maneuvering and firing (blanks, pyrotechnics etc.). It is confusing as hell. It’s hard to tell where shots are coming from, especially with explosions around. You’re trying to listen to your squad leader, maneuver, and engage your objective. It’s stupid hard, and more often then not, when the opposition forces are revealed, they weren’t where you thought they were, and they weren’t doing what you thought they were.

When engaged in these sorts of exercises, you’re primed. You know what you have to do. You’re in battle mode. You’re not in a shopping mall trying to find clothes for your 4 year old. You honestly expect to be ready for a gun fight 24/7, identify the assailant and neutralize them before going back to the jean rack?

I. Do. Not. Want. To. Live. In. That. World.

And what do you do with law enforcement arrives? Who’s the bad guy shooter? At least the police wear uniforms so we know they’re the good guys (and sometimes even they shoot each other). Forget the fact that at Pulse in Orlando, the news initially reported multiple shooters. It turned out to be false, but do you honestly expect all gun owners in a crowded loud night club to have some super secret and accurate radar, or like in video games a little tag that floats above your head identifying friend or foe. Bah! It’s stupid. There is virtually no scenario where having a gun to defend yourself makes you or the general public safer. Mostly you’re going to get shot by the assailant or some other armed bystander who mistakes you for the bad guy. This is why we have police, people.

No, the way to make us safer as a society is to make sure that nobody can own a mass death device.

The US Constitution is Complete but not Done.

Oh blessed unerring document, we must protect its sacred words – or at least that’s what many on the right in the US would have us believe.  The US Constitution (including the Bill of Rights), was a complete, although unfinished, document and one upon which we are still working.  It is not the unerring words of our “founding fathers,” white men who did not implicitly protect, free speech, freedom of religion, physical freedom for people, free press, right to assemble, or the ability to seek redress from the government for grievances .

WTF, I hear you saying.  Go ahead and read it, as it was written, its original text. I’ll wait.

Here’s the first amendment:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

It didn’t say the states couldn’t.  And they did.  States had state religions, banned literature, restrictions on press etc, all the way until the 20th century.

At that time, the federal government did not explicitly prohibit these things, nor protect them as inalienable rights.  It simply said, Congress shall make no law restricting or establishing. I know you’re scratching your head.  You thought the Constitution was sacred, handed down by a Christian God.  Obama wants to destroy it.  He is a tyrant.  He wants to take away our guns.

Want to know who else was a tyrant?

Abraham Lincoln.  He was a tyrant because he wanted to expand the federal definition of freedom to the states.

Want to know something else?  Activist judges were the ones to encroach the constitutional protections to the states. Yes, activists judges (as the right likes to call them) gave you your freedom of speech and press.

When did this happen?

1925.  Did you get that?  It wasn’t until nineteen twenty-five that case law recognized that the Bill of Rights applied not just to the federal government, but to the states.  And it wasn’t even really over at the point.  It’s still being fought about.

So, let’s remember that the Constitution is not sacred in its original form.  It was a complete document, but we’ve been fleshing it out, still working on it, tweaking it to make it better lo these 230+ years.   It also goes hand in hand with just as many years of judicial precedent.

Intentions of our “founding fathers?”  Their intentions were noble, I imagine, but short-sighted.  They left out women, black people, none-land holding whites, did not protect freedom of speech, assembly, press, religion, did not prohibit involuntary servitude, and a whole host of things.

Once we see the document as above reproach we cease to grow as a nation as a people.

Our story as a nation and our document are not yet finished and they will continue to be written and perfected.  They are not perfect, just as we are not perfect.

We/it are works in progress.

So the Gloves Are Off Are They

"Ms. Palin, you mentioned today that the ‘gloves are off.’  It puzzles me and I am curious."

"You betcha.  But why would you not get what we’re tryin’ to do?"

"Um, it’s just that, if the gloves were off, that would imply that the gloves were on at some point, right?"

"You betcha.  We’ve taken off the gloves, and we’re not holdin’ back.  We’re taking it straight to Obama.  We’re going to show the American people what we’re made of."

"Oh, okay, so here’s my question.  Did you wear gloves before?  If so, why?  Why were you wearing gloves when it seems the best method you have now determined is, in fact, sans gloves?"

"Well, the gloves are off now.  We mean business.  We’re gonna hit hard with our message."

"But before, when the gloves were on, you must have talked about it, right?  Were you possibly trying to match your opponent’s elevated tactics?  Did you think that it was classless to attempt to smear or ‘swiftboat’ your opponent?  You wanted to run a dignified campaign, rich in real substantive issues?  Did you believe that the road to the presidency was to be found on high not down low?  There must have been something in the merits of the ‘gloves on’ tactic.  Is this new ‘gloves off’ thing an indication that your ‘gloves on’ approach was failing because of a lack of substance?"

"I’m not going to answer that question.  You want me to, but I’m not.  I’m going to take our message straight to the American people.  You see, you’re smart, but the American people – they might just be dumb enough to buy it."

Community Organizer

There was much to be ashamed of during the Republican National Convention, but I’m just going to pick one moment to tear apart.  I think one is enough, and after I gut it and lay its entrails open, y­ou’ll see just what I’m talking about, just what the Republicans are offering.

Although I don’t consider myself a community organizer, I do work with a lot of the same needs in my community as Barack Obama.  I consider it a privilege to mentor and share time with youthful offenders from, what Americans would consider, the "inner city," people who come from the projects. 

In Puerto Rico our "projects" are not segregated in specific areas of the city, congregated and sequestered far from the day to day life of "normal" folks.  Our projects are everywhere, and they have all the same problems you find on the south side of Chicago.  The projects are controlled by gangs.  The police are out-gunned, out-flanked, and out-manned.  The residents of the projects have no where else to go.  They could try to get out, but where would they go?  They live on public assistance, their children exposed daily to violence, fear, and a culture that offers them the way out – run this errand, sell these drugs, lookout for the police, and you will have the flashy car, the jewelry, the girl, and the respect.  It is the only way forward for these kids, and it is why I meet them in prison, why I talk to them, why I have compassion for them, and contempt for the system that foments this aberration.

Barack Obama saw the same things I see every day.   He saw a huge community of lost potential, wasted lives of violence, drugs, and guns.  He saw kids not nurtured and edified, wrapped in the warm embrace of love, but cold hard shafts of steel forged in heat, anger, and fear.

I don’t know for sure, but I can imagine Barack Obama had the same calling I did.  He decided that the war on terror begins at home, and it doesn’t begin with "shock and awe" but with service to the poor.  Barack Obama began his life’s work in the trenches doing what Christians would call the work of Jesus.  If you consider yourself a follower of the ways of Jesus, and you are not actively seeking to serve the most miserable and lost of our society, you are not living the message.  How come you are not engaging, putting your lives at risk in response to the great gift you have been given?

But Barack Obama did. 

He risked himself to go into communities held hostage by apathy and neglect and dealt with fatherless households, lawlessness, poor infrastructure and public schools, and a host of other problems that "white America" only sees on television.  "Oh my goodness, that’s so horrible," they say, "I’m glad I don’t live there."  Barack Obama didn’t say that.  He rolled up his sleeves and got involved.

So that’s why I was so insulted when I heard Rudy Guliani mock him in such a disrespectful manner (quote msnbc.com). 

"You have a resume from a gifted man with an Ivy League education. He worked as a community organizer.”

He paused and then said, “What?” as if to express befuddlement at that job title.

Giuliani had eloquent body language — a dismissive half-shrug — as he said the words, “community organizer.”

Immediately the delegates on the convention floor burst into laughter and guffaws.

GOP vice presidential candidate Gov. Sarah Palin also poked fun at Obama’s work as a community organizer, contrasting it with her own work as a mayor.

Don’t kid yourself.  It was not an off the cuff remark but conscious and deliberate.

If you consider yourself a Christian why would you ­laugh?  Jesus, was the son of a carpenter, a good Jewish boy with a bright future ahead of him as a respected tradesman.  He didn’t take that path though.  He threw it all away to spend time with the downtrodden, the cast out, the lost, and abandoned. He dedicated himself to a life of being a "community organizer."

And he got mocked too.

From Puerto Rico: I Cast My One and Only Vote for Barack Obama

I don’t think it will make much difference, as Hillary Clinton was heavily favored on the island today.  But I considered it an honor to have contributed something to a candidate that I think will transform the US Federal Government into an instrument of the people once again.

Why can’t I vote for him in the general election this fall?  It’s stupid, but it’s a Congressional thing. Protectorates are legal gray area… kinda like DC, but not.  We are US Citizens, technically live in the US, …but NOT. It makes no sense.  I could vote if I lived in Europe, but not in Puerto Rico.  Yet, if I am born in Puerto Rico, I am a US citizen.  I’ll leave you to ponder that.

But first, a short chat with Laura from last night.

"Hey did you see that Barack Obama is resigning his church?"  I remarked.

"He did? Wow, I bet black voters aren’t going to be happy about that." 

"I don’t know," I said,  "I think that they understand he’s doing what he has to do. He’s quiet, he’s not angry, he’s dealing with all this with maturity and grace.  It’s probably necessary in order for this whole issue to go away.  It’s the mature thing to do.  It’s like he has to kowtow to whitey, put his head down and endure indignities in order to achieve the prize of lasting change.  Up to now things aren’t so different than they were in the days of slavery.  Am I making any sense?"

"Yes," she said becoming animated. "It’s like Jackie Robinson integrating baseball.  He had to put up with all kinds of nasty behavior, but he let it roll off.  He didn’t fight back, he just quietly went about playing baseball as best he could.  He made his "blackness" a non-issue."

"Wow, that’s a great point, so here we are in the 21st century looking at beginnings of a painful integration of US politics.  How Barack handles it will set the tone for the future for good or bad."  I cracked a grin at the irony of it all.  Here’s a man trying to elevate the debate; there’s no blackness or whiteness but justice, honor, and integrity. And all anybody wants to do is to portray him and his "posse" as a bunch of radical angry black militants, and barring that, that he’s a closet Muslim.  They’re so desperate to character assassinate him, they even dig up a crackpot white Catholic priest and trot him out on youtube.

I sighed.  For now, mainstream America is still scared of the angry black man.  They see an animated, angry preacher who happens to be black and it scares them.  It’s an old and upsetting dynamic; the politics of fear, same ol’ same ol’.  It disgusts both Laura and me.  I hope it disgusts you too.

We voted for change today.  Please, America, let’s elevate the dialog.

Oh Come On, I Actually DO Like Obama

And here’s why:

First, I know he’s not going to enter into illegal wars.  I also like the idea that a leader isn’t the doer-in-chief.  He seems to realize that change comes from the bottom up, and that it is the role of the leader to inspire, nurture, or not get in the way.

I like that.

I also don’t think he has a problem sitting down at the table with Iran, Venezuela, North Korea and having a talk.  How can we turn down the tension, he would ask?  He realizes the strong nation reaches out, makes concessions, looks for peace, and isn’t afraid of diplomacy.  It is the weak nation that stonewalls dialog, refuses to listen, and uses the thread of force as a weapon of first resort. 

When I picked up my little dog Billy from the street, he was a nervous little crazy nut.  He was nippy and erratic, a little lunatic.  I reacted to him with anger and authority.  I tried to cow him into compliance.  It just made him more insane.  Then I realized if I spoke softly to him, stroked him gently, put myself on an even plane with him, he was much more reasonable.  It didn’t take anything away from me.  I knew I was still in charge, but if I could make him feel like he was a little bit more in control of his domain, it made all the difference.

I think Obama understands that.  He’s multi-ethnic, multi-cultural, well traveled.  I think those things give you a perspective on the world that makes you less afraid.

I’ve had discussions about the "illegals problem"  I always ask what is this problem?  It doesn’t seem to be a problem to me.  At some point, the erosion of the English language is mentioned.  I would ask again "Okay, so what is the ‘language problem’?  What is this problem? I need to know, because it doesn’t seem to be a problem to me."   Thinking the "problem" self-evident, we end up devolving into game saying and catch phrases gleaned from talk radio, until finally when all is exhausted, out comes the final appeal to authority,"they broke the law."

But it’s just fear, fear that they are bad, and they are bad because you don’t understand them.  I get the impression from Obama, that he sees lack of understanding as an opportunity to understand.  He may not be fully informed on all issues, but he’s not fearful about getting to know them.  He might not speak Spanish, or Farsi, or Arabic, but I think he’s willing to accept that those people are just like our people.  We aren’t that different.  And we shouldn’t be afraid.

That’s the key.  I’m sick and tired of politicians pandering to fear.  Elect the Dems and it’s a vote for terror!  Elect the Dems and dirty Mexicans will overrun the border, take your jobs, and marry your daughter!  Elect the Dems and the economy will stagnate further, turn to socialism and your lives will be over… or worse, be like Europe.

Bah!  Obama says, your future can be as bright as you want it to be.  He says, I’m not going to pander to your fears.  I’m going to be fearless.  I’m going to be a black man running for president in a still decidedly racist country.  I’m not afraid.  You shouldn’t be either.

What the republicans won’t tell you, and this is their dirty little secret:  Lowering taxes does not help the economy.  Raising them doesn’t either, but that’s neither here nor there.  The secret is this:  hope builds the economy.  When people have hope, when they see a future that looks bright, they create.  They build.  They grow.  That is why the economy booms.  Right now the economy is in the tank because people are afraid, and the current leadership doesn’t want to give up that tool of oppression and control.  A vote for McCain is a vote for fear, a vote for more foreign wars, more erosion of the Constitution, and a continued lessening of the collective national spirit.

Obama, I think, has this idealistic, audacious child-like hope, not dashed by fear, not crushed under the heal of bureaucracy.  The grownups at the table might snicker at his audacity, "Son, you just don’t get how the world works, do you?  Let the grown-ups handle things, okay?"

Obama, "And how’s that been going, hmm?"

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