The DREAM Act – Six Years Later

September 4, 2017

The following is a paper (minus citations) that I wrote for a college English class six summers ago. And here we are, still arguing and fighting about immigration reform.

The more some things change, the more they stay the same.

In Support of The Dream Act

The controversial Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act legislation, commonly known as The DREAM Act, was first introduced in the U.S. Senate on August 1, 2001 and re-introduced on May 11, 2011 in the Senate (S-952) by Richard Durbin and in the House (HR 1842) by Howard Berman, Democrats from Illinois and California respectively. The Dream Act would:

provide a path to conditional legal residency for undocumented immigrant                     students if he or she was 15 years old or younger when brought to the United                       States, has lived here for at least five years before enactment of law, is of good                     moral character and has earned a high school diploma or GED. Eligible students               would have six years to earn permanent residency status if they complete two of               years of higher education, or two years of military service with honorable                       discharge if discharged. (The DREAM Act).

Supporters of the bill believe that it’s a fair way of allowing eligible students to become legal residents and cite the “5 Reasons to Support the DREAM Act” to bolster their argument (America’s Voice) while opponents say its passage into law would serve as an incentive for others to enter the U.S. illegally (this argument is baseless due to the five-year residency requirement prior to the law’s enactment). As seems to be the case with everything in Washington, DC today, support for and opposition to the bill splits mainly along political party lines: Democrats for it, Republicans against it. However, when all is said and done, the DREAM Act should be voted into law.

A great deal of the opposition to this bill is based on the belief that no legal act should come from an illegal one. That tends to be the primary position of those who have voted against the bill in the past, especially on the Republican side. Representative Dana Rohrabacher of California went so far as to call it “affirmative action amnesty” when he urged colleagues to oppose it (Navarrette).

Many people make seemingly valid arguments against the DREAM Act. But, should society really punish children whose parents simply wanted a better life for them? Can it hold them accountable for something totally beyond their control? What about a child, a legal citizen or resident, whose parents move from say, Tennessee to California, for employment reasons? That child has no say in where he or she lives and neither does an undocumented immigrant of the same age in a similar situation.

So, what is it that fuels those on both sides of the argument? Republican Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama, as conservative as they come, believes that “this bill is a law that at its fundamental core is a reward for illegal activity.” (Herszenhorn). However, in that same article, Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, a former Republican turned Independent, said:

I support the goal of the Dream Act which is to enable children who were                             brought to the United States by their parents to earn citizenship through                               service in the armed forces or pursuit of higher education. I do not believe                           that children are to blame for the decision of their parents to enter or remain                     in the United States unlawfully. The reality is that many of these children                               regard America as the only country they ever knew…America should provide                     these young people with the opportunity to pursue the American dream. They                     have much to offer America if given the chance.

There in a nutshell is the dilemma of the DREAM Act: should the federal government give undocumented students assistance, financial and otherwise, in their quest to achieve the American dream? On July 25th of this year, California Governor Jerry Brown signed into law his state’s version of the federal bill. This law, also known as the California Dream Act, allows illegal immigrants to receive privately funded scholarships to attend California’s public colleges and universities. Expressing a position that many Democrats take on this subject, Brown said at the signing ceremony, “At the end of the day, if we’re going to continue as a powerful, equal-opportunity society, we’re going to have to invest in our people.” (Dobuzinskis). Ironically, California’s approach is exactly the one many who supports the concept of “states’ rights” – political powers reserved for the U.S. state governments rather than the federal government – would approve of in many other situations, but not this one.

Other Democratic leaders, including President Obama, support the DREAM Act and are very vocal about their support. In a recent address to the National Council of La Raza, the largest Hispanic advocacy organization in the country, he said:

Five years ago, 23 Republican senators supported comprehensive immigration                   reform because they knew it was the right thing to do for the economy and it was               the right thing to do for America. Today, they’ve walked away. Republicans                           helped write the DREAM Act because they knew it was the right thing to do for                   the country. Today, they’ve walked away. Last year, we passed the DREAM Act                     through the House only to see it blocked by Senate Republicans. It was heart-                       breaking to get so close and see politics get in the way, particularly because some               of the folks who walked away had previously been sponsors of this…So, yes, feel                 free to keep the heat on me and keep the heat on Democrats. But here’s the only                 thing you should know. The Democrats and your President are with you. Are with               you. Don’t get confused about that. Remember who it is that we need to move in                 order to actually change the laws. (Cohen).

While there are some African-Americans who oppose the DREAM Act for reasons known only to themselves, many support its passage. In fact, Leslie Watson Malachi, director of African American Ministers in action, an alliance of progressive African-American clergy, issued a statement that called the bill a “common-sense solution” to the problem (Malachi).

The reality of the situation today is that as long as Republicans control the House and maintain their current level in the Senate, the federal DREAM Act doesn’t have a chance of being passed, let alone being signed into law. Opposition to the act runs deep among congressional Republicans and was recently crystallized by Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) who said that the Democrats’ push for the DREAM Act “had all of the hallmarks of a cynical effort to use the hopes and dreams of these young people as a political wedge in the run-up to the 2012 election.” (Sherry).

There are some Republicans, most of them not in the House or Senate, who believe their party’s opposition to the DREAM Act is not only misguided, but a crucial mistake for a party still trying to attract Latino voters. Conservative columnist Linda Chavez, a former White House senior staffer during Ronald Reagan’s second term, said in a December 2010 Boston Herald opinion piece that “The refusal of all but a tiny handful of Republicans to vote for the DREAM Act will become a future nightmare…It could well cost Republicans the White House in 2012 – the Democrats are betting on it.” (Chavez).

            While few would argue with the position Chavez stakes out, the fear that many Republican elected officials and potential candidates have of offending the so-called Tea Party is a factor in the upcoming election cycle. Republican Senator Orrin Hatch, a co-sponsor of the act when it was originally introduced in 2001, has turned against it in recent months. Hatch skipped a December 2010 vote on the bill that he called “a cynical exercise in political charades” by the Senate’s Democratic leadership. (Roche). This non-action by Hatch came less than six months after he spoke in favor of the act at a July 7, 2010 town hall meeting in Layton, Utah. Hatch’s reversal can be directly traced to the fact that he faces a tough primary challenge from a Tea Party supported candidate in his battle for a seventh term as Roche points out.

There’s another issue that was addressed soon after the recent self-outing, if you will, of journalist Jose Antonio Vargas. Born in the Philippines and brought to America at the age of 12, Vargas writes about his situation after the most recent vote against the Act (Vargas). In this article, Vargas told about his journey to America and how he was raised by his grandparents in Northern California. However, there is one big difference between Vargas’ situation and most others brought here as minors: he had fake papers, including a green card and he knew it. As Mark Krikorian, the head of the Center for Immigration Studies and a columnist for National Review Online points out in his July 7, 2011 commentary, Vargas [wasn’t] “undocumented…he had illegal documents.” (Krikorian).

Situations such as that of Vargas are not addressed by the DREAM Act and should be addressed under current immigration law. There must be a consequence for someone like Vargas who came here under false pretenses and knowingly stayed long after reaching adulthood. And one of those consequences occurred on July 20 of this year, when the state of Washington revoked Vargas’ driver’s license because “he could not prove that he lived in the state when he obtained it, as required by law.” (Turnbull).

It is believed that there are approximately 825,000 who would meet all of the requirements set out in the Dream Act (Kollipara). If that number is even remotely close to being accurate, that’s a lot of potential doctors, lawyers, teachers, police officers, accountants, or any number of other careers that could lead to solid, tax-paying, family-raising legal residents. And, when you take a good hard look at the situation, isn’t that what it’s all about? Strengthening America through good, productive, law-abiding people is a positive thing, After all, we can’t deport everybody who came here illegally, can we?

Today, even with its myriad of problems and issues that divide us along political ideology and alliances, America remains the proverbial “shining city on a hill” to many around the world. The prevailing belief for so many who dream of a better life for themselves and their families is that with hard work, education, and a bit of luck, one can accomplish almost anything in this country stands as a monument to America’s greatness.

When it’s all said and done, the DREAM Act, while not perfect – no legislation is – remains the best vehicle for addressing a very serious problem and Congress should pass the bill and allow the president to sign it into law without any further delay.

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The DREAM Act – Six Years Later

September 4, 2017

The following is a paper (minus citations) that I wrote for a college English assignment six summers ago.

The more [some] things change, the more they remain the same.

In Support of The Dream Act

The controversial Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act legislation, commonly known as The DREAM Act, was first introduced in the U.S. Senate on August 1, 2001 and re-introduced on May 11, 2011 in the Senate (S-952) by Richard Durbin and in the House (HR 1842) by Howard Berman, Democrats from Illinois and California respectively. The Dream Act would:

provide a path to conditional legal residency for undocumented immigrant students if      he or she was 15 years old or younger when brought to the United States, has lived here    for at least five years before enactment of law, is of good moral character and has              earned a high school diploma or GED. Eligible students would have six years to earn          permanent residency status if they complete two of years of higher education, or two        years of military service with honorable discharge if discharged. (The DREAM Act).

Supporters of the bill believe that it’s a fair way of allowing eligible students to become legal residents and cite the “5 Reasons to Support the DREAM Act” to bolster their argument (America’s Voice) while opponents say its passage into law would serve as an incentive for others to enter the U.S. illegally (this argument is baseless due to the five-year residency requirement prior to the law’s enactment). As seems to be the case with everything in Washington, DC today, support for and opposition to the bill splits mainly along political party lines: Democrats for it, Republicans against it. However, when all is said and done, the DREAM Act should be voted into law.

A great deal of the opposition to this bill is based on the belief that no legal act should come from an illegal one. That tends to be the primary position of those who have voted against the bill in the past, especially on the Republican side. Representative Dana Rohrabacher of California went so far as to call it “affirmative action amnesty” when he urged colleagues to oppose it (Navarrette).

Many people make seemingly valid arguments against the DREAM Act. But, should society really punish children whose parents simply wanted a better life for them? Can it hold them accountable for something totally beyond their control? What about a child, a legal citizen or resident, whose parents move from say, Tennessee to California, for employment reasons? That child has no say in where he or she lives and neither does an undocumented immigrant of the same age in a similar situation.

So, what is it that fuels those on both sides of the argument? Republican Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama, as conservative as they come, believes that “this bill is a law that at its fundamental core is a reward for illegal activity.” (Herszenhorn). However, in that same article, Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, a former Republican turned Independent, said:

I support the goal of the Dream Act which is to enable children who were brought to          the United States by their parents to earn citizenship through service in the armed            forces or pursuit of higher education. I do not believe that children are to blame for the    decision of their parents to enter or remain in the United States unlawfully. The reality    is that many of these children regard America as the only country they ever knew…          America should provide these young people with the opportunity to pursue the                  American dream. They have much to offer America if given the chance.

There in a nutshell is the dilemma of the DREAM Act: should the federal government give undocumented students assistance, financial and otherwise, in their quest to achieve the American dream? On July 25th of this year, California Governor Jerry Brown signed into law his state’s version of the federal bill. This law, also known as the California Dream Act, allows illegal immigrants to receive privately funded scholarships to attend California’s public colleges and universities. Expressing a position that many Democrats take on this subject, Brown said at the signing ceremony, “At the end of the day, if we’re going to continue as a powerful, equal-opportunity society, we’re going to have to invest in our people.” (Dobuzinskis). Ironically, California’s approach is exactly the one many who supports the concept of “states’ rights” – political powers reserved for the U.S. state governments rather than the federal government – would approve of in many other situations, but not this one.

Other Democratic leaders, including President Obama, support the DREAM Act and are very vocal about their support. In a recent address to the National Council of La Raza, the largest Hispanic advocacy organization in the country, he said:

Five years ago, 23 Republican senators supported comprehensive immigration reform      because they knew it was the right thing to do for the economy and it was the right            thing to do for America. Today, they’ve walked away. Republicans helped write the            DREAM Act because they knew it was the right thing to do for the country. Today,                they’ve walked away. Last year, we passed the DREAM Act through the House only to        see it blocked by Senate Republicans. It was heart- breaking to get so close and see              politics get in the way, particularly because some of the folks who walked away had          previously been sponsors of this…So, yes, feel free to keep the heat on me and keep the    heat on Democrats. But here’s the only thing you should know. The Democrats and your    President are with you. Are with you. Don’t get confused about that. Remember who it      is that we need to move in order to actually change the laws. (Cohen).

While there are some African-Americans who oppose the DREAM Act for reasons known only to themselves, many support its passage. In fact, Leslie Watson Malachi, director of African American Ministers in action, an alliance of progressive African-American clergy, issued a statement that called the bill a “common-sense solution” to the problem (Malachi).

The reality of the situation today is that as long as Republicans control the House and maintain their current level in the Senate, the federal DREAM Act doesn’t have a chance of being passed, let alone being signed into law. Opposition to the act runs deep among congressional Republicans and was recently crystallized by Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) who said that the Democrats’ push for the DREAM Act “had all of the hallmarks of a cynical effort to use the hopes and dreams of these young people as a political wedge in the run-up to the 2012 election.” (Sherry).

There are some Republicans, most of them not in the House or Senate, who believe their party’s opposition to the DREAM Act is not only misguided, but a crucial mistake for a party still trying to attract Latino voters. Conservative columnist Linda Chavez, a former White House senior staffer during Ronald Reagan’s second term, said in a December 2010 Boston Herald opinion piece that “The refusal of all but a tiny handful of Republicans to vote for the DREAM Act will become a future nightmare…It could well cost Republicans the White House in 2012 – the Democrats are betting on it.” (Chavez).

While few would argue with the position Chavez stakes out, the fear that many Republican elected officials and potential candidates have of offending the so-called Tea Party is a factor in the upcoming election cycle. Republican Senator Orrin Hatch, a co-sponsor of the act when it was originally introduced in 2001, has turned against it in recent months. Hatch skipped a December 2010 vote on the bill that he called “a cynical exercise in political charades” by the Senate’s Democratic leadership. (Roche). This non-action by Hatch came less than six months after he spoke in favor of the act at a July 7, 2010 town hall meeting in Layton, Utah. Hatch’s reversal can be directly traced to the fact that he faces a tough primary challenge from a Tea Party supported candidate in his battle for a seventh term as Roche points out.

There’s another issue that was addressed soon after the recent self-outing, if you will, of journalist Jose Antonio Vargas. Born in the Philippines and brought to America at the age of 12, Vargas writes about his situation after the most recent vote against the Act (Vargas). In this article, Vargas told about his journey to America and how he was raised by his grandparents in Northern California. However, there is one big difference between Vargas’ situation and most others brought here as minors: he had fake papers, including a green card and he knew it. As Mark Krikorian, the head of the Center for Immigration Studies and a columnist for National Review Online points out in his July 7, 2011 commentary, Vargas [wasn’t] “undocumented…he had illegal documents.” (Krikorian).

Situations such as that of Vargas are not addressed by the DREAM Act and should be addressed under current immigration law. There must be a consequence for someone like Vargas who came here under false pretenses and knowingly stayed long after reaching adulthood. And one of those consequences occurred on July 20 of this year, when the state of Washington revoked Vargas’ driver’s license because “he could not prove that he lived in the state when he obtained it, as required by law.” (Turnbull).

It is believed that there are approximately 825,000 who would meet all of the requirements set out in the Dream Act (Kollipara). If that number is even remotely close to being accurate, that’s a lot of potential doctors, lawyers, teachers, police officers, accountants, or any number of other careers that could lead to solid, tax-paying, family-raising legal residents. And, when you take a good hard look at the situation, isn’t that what it’s all about? Strengthening America through good, productive, law-abiding people is a positive thing, After all, we can’t deport everybody who came here illegally, can we?

Today, even with its myriad of problems and issues that divide us along political ideology
and alliances, America remains the proverbial “shining city on a hill” to many around the world. The prevailing belief for so many who dream of a better life for themselves and their families is that with hard work, education, and a bit of luck, one can accomplish almost anything in this country stands as a monument to America’s greatness.

When it’s all said and done, the DREAM Act, while not perfect – no legislation is – remains the best vehicle for addressing a very serious problem and Congress should pass the bill and allow the president to sign it into law without any further delay.

In Praise of Barack Obama

July 28, 2017
US-POLITICS-OBAMA-CORRESPONDENTS

“I am the B-A-R-A-C-K we are meant to be”

Fans of the Tony Award winning musical Hamilton will recognize the above lyric from the show’s “My Shot” in Act 1. I use it because just like Alexander Hamilton did over 200 years before, in 2008 Barack Hussein Obama took his shot when he ran for president. And like Hamilton, he didn’t waste his shot and ran on, among other things, a fervent promise to pass healthcare reform for all (I still believe it should have been called healthcare insurance reform but I digress). And with a sweeping mandate that gave Democrats control of the White House and both chambers of Congress, President Obama delivered on that promise when he signed the ACA into law on March 23, 2010 without a single Republican vote.

And early this morning, after over 50 fake repeal votes in the House, Supreme Court affirming decisions in June 2012 and June 2015 and a relentless and heartless attack by Republicans hell bent on stripping healthcare insurance from millions of Americans, including many of their own constituents, three brave GOP senators – Susan Collins of Maine, John McCain of Arizona and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska – joined all 48 Democratic senators in voting down the so-called skinny repeal of the ACA.

Barack Obama ran for and won election as POTUS twice, both times winning the popular AND Electoral College vote. He came into office on January 20, 2009 with the nation’s (and world’s) economy on the brink of an unprecedented global economic depression. His actions, along with Democrats in Congress, helped stabilize and save the auto, banking and housing industries. Over his two terms in office, the economy improved, unemployment went down drastically and because he kept his promise, millions more Americans have healthcare insurance today than they did eight years ago. And while Democrats lost their majorities in the House and Senate while Obama was president, they did so while ensuring more Americans would and will have access to healthcare for themselves and their families.

The fight is not over. We have someone in the Oval Office who’s as clueless about his job as can be imagined. Congress is controlled by Republicans fully determined to destroy the accomplishments and legacy of the Obama Administration. They are ruling with a combination of disdain and disregard for anything that doesn’t serve their corporate masters – the Koch brothers among them – and the 1% who already have more money than they will ever be able to spend. Their heartlessness, exemplified by Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan in the Senate and House respectively, continues unabated by last night’s defeat. They have no intention of working with their Democratic colleagues because they just don’t care about doing the right thing for ALL Americans.

But today is a day to celebrate and remember that we recently had a president with intelligence, political experience and the heart and courage to do the right thing for all Americans, regardless of party, race, color, sexual identity or if they voted for him or not.

Barack Obama took his shot and America is a better place today because he did.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“The First”

April 15, 2017

JR signing

Jackie Robinson and Branch Rickey

I am an unabashed lifelong baseball and Dodgers fan. I LOVE baseball. It was the first sport I learned to play, it was the one I played best and it’s the one I still follow most passionately. And as far I’m concerned, any records and/or statistics before April 15, 1947 simply don’t matter. Because on that date, major league baseball’s color line changed and Jack Roosevelt Robinson became the first black American to play in the major leagues. Keep in mind, this was years before Brown vs Board of Education and the Civil Rights Act. Most of America was legally and socially segregated and would remain so for years.

Being first matters in life. Very seldom do we remember who came in second or who was second-best. The Rolling Stones have endured far longer than the Beatles but it’s the latter who are still considered the greatest band ever. The Sylvers were a fantastically talented family group but they ain’t the Jackson Five. And while Larry Doby joined the Cleveland Indians just a few short months after Robinson played his first game for the Dodgers (he and Satchel Paige were on the team’s 1948 World Series winning team) and endured much of the same vile treatment, very few remember this. Why? Because Doby was the second and Jackie was the first.

Jackie Robinson’s jersey number 42 is the only number in American professional sports that is retired across an entire league. It is displayed in every major league ballpark and the great former Yankee reliever Mariano Rivera was the last player to ever wear it. It is truly fitting that the last player to ever wear 42 in the major leagues exhibited the same on-field excellence and dignity and grace as Jackie Robinson did every game of his 10 year career with the Dodgers.

Today is the 70th anniversary of Jackie’s first game with the Brooklyn Dodgers. As they have since 2004, every player in the major leagues will wear 42 on their jersey and Robinson will be honored in every ball park across America. And in Los Angeles, the Dodgers will honor the most significant player in major league history with the unveiling of a statue of Robinson stealing home. His widow Rachel, daughter Sharon along with other family members and various dignitaries will attend the ceremonies. Also expected to be in attendance are Jackie’s former teammates Sandy Koufax, Don Newcombe and Tommy Lasorda.

When I was a kid in 1950’s and 60’s and even into the 70s, there were literally dozens of black Americans in the major leagues. I worshipped and adored Wiliie Mays, Hank Aaron, Willie Stargell, Willie McCovey, Bob Gibson and the player I tried to emulate, Frank Robinson, just to name a few. There were so many, Ebony magazine used to run an issue each season with photos of all black (and Latin) players on each team. Sadly, that’s no longer the case.

Jackie Robinson would no doubt be dismayed that on the day he’s being honored, the number of black Americans in the major leagues is at 6.7% and several teams don’t have a single one on their active roster. Ironically, it’s the team that was the last to add a black player, the Boston Red Sox that has the most today. To its credit, MLB has an ongoing effort to increase the number of blacks playing baseball through their Urban Baseball Academy program but it remains a daunting task.

But today is about honoring the accomplishments, deeds and legacy of the single most important figure in American professional sports, Jackie Robinson. What he endured and sacrificed will never be fully known or understood but, because he did, so many others have been able to have better lives. He may have played a game for a living but his influence across the entire spectrum of American life is his most important and lasting legacy.

“How Ya’ Like Me Now?”

March 26, 2017

US-POLITICS-OBAMA-CORRESPONDENTS

“How ya’ like me now?”

All America needs to know about the stark difference between the 44th and 45th presidents of these United States of America can be found in two accounts of how each man approached the very thorny issue of healthcare insurance in America.

One president, let’s call him Barack Hussein Obama II, took an educated, measured, well thought-out and executed approach that actually led to the ACA being voted into law. A law that an obviously disappointed and discouraged Paul Ryan on Friday conceded “is the law of the land. It is going to remain the law of the land.”

Conversely, Donald J. Trump took what can charitably be described as a “hands-off” approach that not only didn’t lead to the passage of the AHCA, but resulted in the bill being pulled last Friday without a floor vote in the House of Representatives. By all accounts, on both sides of the issue, the main thing that’s come out is how engaged and knowledgeable Obama was in the 13 months prior to the 2010 vote on the ACA and how disengaged and uninformed Trump was in the SEVENTEEN DAYS between the introduction of the ACHA and it’s being pulled.

One other fact that became widely known: Paul Ryan is no Nancy Pelosi. Speaker Pelosi worked tirelessly for well over a year to bring her Democratic caucus together with the White House and Harry Reid led Senate. She never gave up, never caved in and ultimately delivered the necessary votes for passage. On the other hand, Ryan, who had seven years to craft a plan to “repeal and replace Obamacare,” tried to ramrod a fatally flawed bill through the House in less than three weeks. He couldn’t convince his majority caucus to agree on anything until last Friday when he pulled the bill off legislative life-support.

From the moment he selected Joe Biden as his running mate in 2008 to January 20, 2017, Barack Obama led America with intelligence, class, dignity, grace, integrity and most importantly, compassion for ALL Americans.  Not one single indictment of an administration official occurred on Obama’s watch. No special prosecutors and no resignations because of scandal and/or illegal behavior. He sat in the Situation Room during the raid that led to the killing of Osama Bin Laden. Trump was somewhere in the White House residence, doing God knows what, during his first major military operation (the controversial raid in Sudan). Talk about “leading from behind.” SMH

Meanwhile, only 66 days into his first (and hopefully only) term, Trump has the lowest popularity rating of any president this early in his administration. Today there are numerous reports that his first national security advisor retired General Michael Flynn, who was forced into resigning over his alleged ties to Russia, may have cut a deal with the FBI to avoid prosecution. And Trump, who heavily and constantly criticized President Obama for playing golf instead of working on the nation’s problems, this weekend made his 12th trip to a golf course in only nine weeks in office. I’d call that hypocritical but don’t want to disparage honest hypocrites.

Once upon a time, America had true statesmen serving in the Oval Office. Today, we have a bloviating, con man devoted to lining the pockets of his family at the expense of hard-working Americans. And he doesn’t have an ounce of shame about doing so.

Barack Obama just keeps looking better and better with each passing day.

Why “Hidden Figures” Matters

January 8, 2017

hidden-figures-750x315_orig

“Mary Jackson”  “Katherine G. Johnson”  “Dorothy Vaughn”

Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson, and Dorothy Vaughan. Three American pioneers whose names you’ve probably have heard of nor do you know their pivotal roles as pioneers in the nascent days of this nation’s space program. But, with the release of the new feature film, Hidden Figures, there’s absolutely no reason for anyone to not know their names and their inspiring stories.

The juxtaposition of this film’s release with the impending departure of Barack Obama and the arrival of Donald Trump as president shouldn’t be downplayed or ignored. The story of these dignified, educated, proud and highly qualified women who had to fight for everything they got at a time and in an area that was legally segregated, is one that should be seen by all. These women have far more in common with Michelle Obama than the Real Housewives of Atlanta or any other trashy “reality” show where African-American women make fools of themselves.

Don’t get me wrong, both Fences and Moonlight are both great films full of inspired performances and I highly recommend seeing both. BUT, Hidden Figures is based on REAL-LIFE people and TRUE events. Without the work of Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughn and the rest of the “Colored Computers” who worked at NASA’s Langley, VA facilities, the American space program most likely would have never happened. And that’s a story for everyone.

Why I Kneel with Colin Kaepernick

September 9, 2016

kaepernick-kneeling

Once again, we’ve been shown, in two distinctly different situations, the differences between white and black people in America.
Imagine if you will, then-Senator Obama praising Putin during the 2008 presidential campaign. Can you imagine the outrage, justifiable in my mind, that the GOP and media would have evoked and exhibited towards him? Now, look at the relatively muted response from both towards Donald Trump today. They would have destroyed Barack Obama and called him everything but a child of God.
Add in the various responses to the recent actions and words of 49er QB Colin Kaepernick regarding the American flag. For the most part, whites have called him ungrateful and unpatriotic while most blacks, have said, “Yeah Kap, you get it. You see the hypocrisy of what’s going on today.”
You can say whatever you want about me but I support Colin Kaepernick’s stance 1000%! Black men have been killed by police for doing such things as selling loose cigarettes on a street corner or not getting out of the street when ordered to by a police officer. BUT, a white man shoots up a Colorado movie theater, killing TWELVE people and he’s taken into custody alive.
A white racist goes into a black CHURCH in Charleston, SC, kills NINE innocent people who were gathered to worship and praise God, and not only is he taken into custody without a single shot fired, the police stop by a Burger King on the way to the jail because he was hungry.
My family has a long and proud history of serving in uniform. My parents and uncles all served as did I (USAF 1973-77). They put themselves on the line for this country at a time when in many parts of it, they weren’t even treated as full citizens. The very same flag they served to protect and honor was used to deny them their full civil rights in the segregated Deep South.
I know this makes some white people, well-meaning and who don’t support any form of discrimination and police abuse, uncomfortable but, there are huge and significant differences between the way most black and white Americans view this country and its flag and what it’s supposed to mean. Kaepernick, in his own way, is giving voice and a face to those differences and I kneel with him all the way.

Labor Day 2016

September 5, 2016

Like some of you, I’m “seasoned” enough to remember when Labor Day meant the unofficial end of summer and the start of school the next day. Today, kids go back to school in August and Labor Day seems like just another Monday holiday.

Since Ronald Reagan fired the air traffic controllers en masse – to be fair, they knew they were legally barred from striking and had been warned that Reagan would fire them – we’ve seen a steady reduction in the numbers and influence of unions and their members. Many states, particularly in Southern states, have enacted “right-to-work” laws and regulations which have led to reduced earnings and benefits.

The GOP has been virulently anti-union and its elected officials from the local level to the White House have done everything within their power to heed the desires of their corporate bosses and donors. They see unions and their members as greedy, lazy, unproductive workers who don’t want to work hard, but just want to be protected and coddled. In my opinion, nothing could be further from the truth.

I’ve dealt with unions for almost 40 years now both as a member when a part of labor and management when I’ve held executive positions. I respect and honor the primary goals of unions – good wages, benefits and job protection – for those they represent. Currently, I am a proud employee of the State of California and an equally proud member of SEIU and both entities have been good to and for me.

On this Labor Day, I salute the past, present and future of labor unions and their members. Unions have been at the forefront of ensuring a middle class in America and must be supported in trying to keep that dream alive and obtainable for as many as possible.

May God Bless and Keep You All and please, vote on Election Day!

Why Trump Is Losing

August 13, 2016

I’ve always believed that the seeds of Trump’s running were sown at the 2011 White House Correspondents Dinner when he was absolutely roasted by both Obama and Seth Meyers (then of SNL). But, he was smart enough to realize that Obama would destroy him (if he happened to win the GOP nomination) so he went back to the big money of “The Apprentice” and his sundry other endeavors and waited until the ’16 cycle. He figured that HRC would run and knowing that she’s the only Democrat more hated by Republicans than Obama, figured he at least had a chance against her. And lo and behold, because of his fame and almost 100% name recognition, along with the total collapse of his collective opponents (Jeb Bush’s arrogance in thinking America has forgotten what his brother did to this country is breathtaking and mystifying to this writer), he was able to bloviate, bluff and bluster his way into the nomination.

But, now it’s time for the general election and this is where being a professional politician pays off in spades. Your base is pretty much locked in so the difference between winning and losing is message discipline, platform/policies, money, ground game/structure, attracting the undecideds and getting out the vote on Election Day. One has to have a reasonably thick skin, the ability to not take things personal and most of all, be able to avoid saying stupid stuff.

Political views aside, the one advantage HRC has over DJT is that she’s a professional politician through and through. Very little that happens during a campaign will catch her off-guard and even when it does, she dusts herself off and gets right back on the bucking bronco that is a presidential campaign. Case in point: look at the candidates’ very different responses to being attacked by a Gold Star parent at their respective conventions. When HRC was personally blamed by a grieving mother for the death of her son at Benghazi, she said, “I don’t hold any ill feeling for someone who in that moment may not fully recall everything that was or wasn’t said.” We all know how DJT chose to respond to the Khans.

Trump, like many powerful men who’ve never run for office before – it takes ego to run for any office but imagine the ego it takes to make your very first campaign one for the White House – doesn’t know or care about conventional wisdom when it comes to actually running for office. He’s used to telling people what to do and when that doesn’t work, he knows how to throw enough money at a problem until it goes away.

However, this is HRC’s fourth campaign – 2 NY Senate runs and her second one for the presidency – and she’s also been in politics and running for office ever since she and Bill started out in Arkansas. She’s the wily veteran boxer who’s seen it all. There’s nothing she’s going to get surprised by on the campaign trail. Debates? She is going to wipe the floor with DJT’s own words and stunning lack of knowledge of both domestic and foreign affairs. HRC knows the world, its leaders and can even pronounce their names properly. DJT knows this and that’s why he’s already hedging on committing to the three scheduled debates and saying the “election’s rigged, folks!” He’s building his excuses now so that on Election Night, he can say, “See, I told you she was going to steal this election.”

Whatever else DJT is, he’s not stupid. Just like John McCain will never publicly admit that selecting Sarah Palin as a running mate was a huge mistake, Trump will never confess to being in over his head now. But deep down inside, when it’s just him and his thoughts, I’ll bet you dollars to donuts that he thinks, “What in the world have I gotten myself into?”

Ali & Me

June 5, 2016

The Greatest.jpg-large

I had two personal interactions with “The Greatest,” Muhammad Ali. The first when I was a teenager in San Diego, CA and the second when he lived in the gated community Fremont Place here in Los Angeles (the same house “Rocky Balboa” owned in Rocky II).

If you recall, Ali fought Ken Norton in San Diego in March 1973 – I was a senior in high school – at the Sports Arena. A few days before the fight, I read in the morning newspaper that Ali would be working out at the city-owned Golden Hall. My mother was a long-time city employee in City Hall and I knew my way around the various buildings. In fact, I knew the security guard and how to sneak into the place with or without his assistance. So, and for some reason I don’t remember who went with me, a couple of buddies and I decided to ditch class and go see “The Greatest” work out.

We got in – unlike today, there was ZERO security – and found ourselves some seats. We’d all grown up knowing about and admiring this man and right there in front of us, Muhammad Ali was sparring. His hands were a blur, creating rifle-shot like sounds on the pads and yes, he did the famous “Ali Shuffle.” I guess we made some noise because all of a sudden, a couple of his crew looked over and one of them said, “Who the hell are you?” Ali heard the commotion, turned around, looked at us and said, “You boys working for Ken Norton?” No sir was our response. Then he said, “You working for [President] Nixon or the FBI?” Again, we gave a negative response. He then said, “Leave those boys alone” and waved us over.

We shook hands with him – he’d had his gloves cut off – and told him how much we admired him. Ali asked why we weren’t in school, we told why we’d come down, and he told us that he was glad to see us but we needed to get “your butts back in class right now.” We nodded and took our leave. (Today, we’d have a few selfies as proof but back then, all we could get were some cherished memories).

My second encounter took place several years later in the early 1980s. I’d moved to LA after the Air Force and one Sunday morning, I took a long bike ride from the Crenshaw District to the tony Hancock Park area. Somehow, I found an open walkway gate into Fremont Place and was slowly riding through the wide streets admiring the stately and opulent homes. As I passed one driveway, I saw a black man who appeared to be in his mid-to-late 30’s and we exchanged the “Black man nod.” I said, “Hey man, you’ve got a beautiful house.” He laughed and said that it wasn’t his but he worked for the man who owned and asked if I’d like to meet him. I said sure, why not and got off my bike.

Turns out the man was James Anderson (father of former NFL running back Jamal) and he was one of Ali’s bodyguards. To this day, after several decades of working in and around the celebrity/entertainment industry, I’ll never understand why he took me, a total stranger, inside to meet Ali but he did and for that act of kindness, I’m eternally grateful.

I ended up spending about an hour with Ali in his office – he claimed to remember our previous meeting when I mentioned it but I think he was just saying that to make me feel good – and just sat there utterly enthralled. He did a few corny magic tricks, threw some fake punches at me (God, his hands were HUGE) and at one point, took a phone call from someone who apparently needed some financial assistance because, after he hung up the phone, Ali reached into a drawer and pulled out a big checkbook/ledger.

As he wrote out a check, he looked at me and said, “Hey, how do you spell hundred?” I was floored; was this another of Ali’s tricks or did he really not know how to spell hundred? Either way, I spelled it for him and James Anderson said it was time for me to go.

He escorted me to my bike and I thanked him profusely for the opportunity to spend some time with Ali. He said, “You’re welcome. Just don’t tell anybody about this; I could lose my job.” I don’t know who I could have told, but I never did…until now.

May Allah bless the eternal soul of Muhammad Ali, THE G.O.A.T. of all GOATS.