"Hollywood not Brown Enough" Do Latinos Care?

That time of the year, the 90th Annual Academy Awards is about to happen again. There is also that usual annual conversation about Hollywood not broadening the circle of opportunities in the acting categories for minorities. So much for Hollywood being a bastion of liberalism.

There are those who argue that "competition" is not only in the best interest of the arts but said "competition" makes actors and actresses better.  Additionally, these defenders of the status quo assertively claim that "talent," not ethnicity should be the primary consideration in awarding Oscars. Furthermore, they claim that it is silly to protest about Hollywood lacking diversity. Hollywood is driven by money and it shouldn't engage in any exercise of affirmative action, they further argue.  They also stated that giving awards based on one's color of the skin will utterly destroy excellence.   Why professional basketball a sport where players are overwhelmingly male and black is not being called out? They ask.

Of course, the counter-argument for the opinion above is that diversity is profoundly important for the stability of any pluralistic society.   It is not only consequential for making democratic institutions stronger but diversity also validates said institutions. Pluralistic societies enjoy stability as people respect and feel more represented seeing people like them running institutions that serve them

When it comes to the acting categories, Latinos actors and actresses are overlooked in this town.  We should use our economic power to demand more opportunities for our talented actors and actresses.  Yes, 23% of the moviegoers are Latinos.  That is, almost in 1 in 4 of these filling those movie theaters is a Latino.

Comedian Chris Rock wrote an essay back in 2013 for the Hollywood Reporter, in which he courageously wrote: "Forget whether Hollywood is black enough. A better question: Is Hollywood Mexican enough? You're in L.A, you've got to try not to hire Mexicans." Yes, this is sadly true.  And when Latinos are hired they play characters usually reinforcing offensive stereotypes.

Those running Hollywood studios unbelievably think that having Penelope Cruz, Salma Hayek, and Sofia Vergara presenting at the Oscars is enough for Latinos. This is so offensive. Latinos, in this industry, desperately need more opportunities.  Sofia Vergara has literally humiliated Latinos with all her idiotic comments whenever she is on stage. This woman appears to sadly believe that the only way to survive in Hollywood is to humiliate herself and mocks our community {click here to watch her presenting on stage}.

Another attempt to give Latinos a false sense of representation in Hollywood was this recent film, "Coco."  Lee Unkrich, a movie director who came up with this well-through-out idea about an animated film on an important cultural day among Latinos: "El Dia de Los Muertos."  He knew, without Latinos, the studio was not going to be able to sell the film to Latinos.  Hence he recruited a Latino co-director, largely all voice Latino cast, and a whole bunch of sell-out Latino consultants.  It is not clear how animated characters can be equated with real Latino beings.  Yes, this movie about recognizing a Latino's story while laughing all the way to the bank.  What is truly needed is the recognition of our talented Latino actors and actresses by giving them more opportunities. Viola Davis got it right, "The only thing that separates people of color from anyone else is an opportunity.”

Some statistics here in order to get some perspective of what is the issue at hand; there are about 54 million Latinos here in the United States, approximately 18% of the US population.  Any study shows that Latinos have been making great strides in politics.  Yes, Latinos have accumulated some political powers.  And economically speaking, Latinos' purchasing power has gone up significantly.  We went from having a purchasing power of  $495 billion in 200o to almost $1,6 trillion last year. Have some strides been made? Yes. But in light of the 54 million Latinos living in this country, we are still grotesquely underrepresented in many institutions. A recent study done in the school of communication at USC shows that Latino characters in Hollywood is a meager 3.1% despite us being 18% of the population.  Whenever conversations take place about race in Hollywood, the substance of said conversations is usually about opportunities for African-Americans.  Deservedly so, African-Americans are more organized for filing grievances for black actors and actresses.  Unlike Latinos in this country, African-Americans have national leaders that coordinate protests throughout the nation.  Many times these protests have forced those in positions of power to come to the table and negotiate. Latinos need to borrow a page from this playbook and demand more opportunities from those who run studios in Hollywood.

According to the Census, the population of African-Americans is about 13.4 or approximately 39 million. And the number of Black characters in Hollywood is about 13.6.  Evidently, African-Americans have done a very good job of forcing the elites from Hollywood to provide more opportunities to blacks actors and actresses.  Latinos don't have national leaders that could unite the different factions among Latinos.  Indeed, Latinos neither have a Jessie Jackson, Cornel West, or Al Sharpton to mention a few nor Latinos have robust civil rights organizations to militantly ask the question justice.

In 2015 and 2016 African-Americans accused Hollywood of not being "Black enough."  Rightfully so, After two years of harsh and well-deserved criticism over "back-to-back slates of all-whites nominees" for the Oscars.  Things radically changed in 2017, this year was a year that people of color in Hollywood celebrated.  Seven minority actors got nominated and six of them were blacks.  Did that fall from the sky? Of course not. Leaders in the African-American community were successful in organizing and agitating their members in their community. They were in the streets protesting and calling out racist Hollywood.

There is that saying that we, Latinos, just care for immigration.  And that this is the only issue that we get us animated to hit the streets. Yes, it appears so.  We don't have movements such as "Brown lives matter," or "Hollywood is not brown enough." Even when many Latinos are killed yearly in the hands of law enforcement people and Hollywood utterly ignored brown people. There is so much need for agitating and organizing our community.  L.A. County, coroner's data shows that in the last eight years half of all people killed by police were Latinos.  In 2015, Gardena police department was forced by a judge to release a video where Ricardo Diaz Zeferino who was unarmed was killed by officers from this city.  The media covered it but there was literally no protest other than family members demanding justice.

The struggle is real, Latinos are very complex and difficult to unite. We are the fastest minority group growing in this country. And we are facing profound challenges dealing with poverty, education, housing and lack of opportunities in Hollywood. We clearly need to re-align our mainstream image that we just march and protest for immigration reform.  We have to do the hard work of organizing and agitating our community.  We have the economic and political power that can be utilized to advance a broader Latino agenda.

Thank you for reading.

Chamba Sanchez

Sources consulted.
Barnes. Brooks. "After #OscarsSoWhite, Hispanics Seek Their Hollywood Moment." New York Times 21 Jan. 2018. Web. 25 Jan. 2018.

Buckley, Cara. "The Oscars and Race: A Stir Over Rules to Change the Academy." New York Times 27 Jan. 2017. Web. 26 Jan. 2018.

Moreno, Carolina. "The Oscars Are Happy To Recognize Latino Stories, But Not Latino Actors." HuffPost-Latino Voices 18 Jan. 2018. Web. 1 Feb. 2018.

Santa Cruz, Nicole. Ruben Vives. Marisa Gerber. "Why the deaths of Latinos at the hands of police haven't drawn as much attention." Los Angeles Times 18 July 2015.  Web. 31 Jan.  2018.

Smith, Stacy L, Marc Choi, et al. "Inequality in 900 Popular Films: Examing Portrayals of Gender, Race,/Ethnicity, LGBT, and Disability from 2007-20016." USC School for Communication and Journalism July 2017. Web. 1 Feb. 2018.

Riley, Janelle.  "Oscars: Record Six Black Actors Nominated, Diversity Improves After Controversy." Variety 24 Jan. 2017. Web. 27 Jan. 27 2018.

Rock, Chris. "Chris Rock Pens Blistering Essay on Hollywood's Race Problem: "It's a White Industry." Hollywood Reporter 3 Dec. 2014. Web. 28 Jan. 2018.

Photo Credit:  Photos above came from Bigstock

Will weed take us to the promised land?

"We can't have a civil society if everyone is smoking pot." Governor Brown told a group of journalists last year.  The governor might have been somewhat sarcastic with that statement.  But it is worth to explore the complexities of legalizing this drug. The passage of Proposition 64 in 2016 made the growing and selling of marijuana legal for recreational purposes. California has been right, front and center trying to decriminalize marijuana for many years. It became the first state in the country to legalize medical marijuana in 1996.

This pot legalization has been introduced with great fanfare and many people optimistically expect to see the same success that took place in Colorado where millions were collected in taxes in the first year voters approved it. Evidently, there are many complex issues that need to be tackled.  But most conversations appear to solely be focused on the new revenues that will be collected.

Yes, conversations on the social costs as well as how communities will be impacted are literally non-existent. For starters, there are still no clear guidelines to be followed by those who provide public safety in cities on what to do when people drive high. And there is confusion as to how to define when one is impaired because he or she has smoked marijuana. Evidently, balancing of all interests and concerns has been a challenge in the legalization of marijuana.  It appears that those who want to see dispensaries at every street corner have a bigger microphone.  People voicing concerns as to how this process is evolving are quickly accused of fear-mongering or they're lumped together with crazy conservative people who want this drug to be criminalized.

It is being predicted that there will be a $5 to $6 billion cannabis market and taxes collected here in California might even surpass $1 billion in the first year. It will be the biggest legal pot market in the nation.  The legalization of pot is being sold as a cash cow to many municipalities.  There are concerns that the vast majority of these dispensaries will be opening in communities where the majority of people are African-Americans and Latinos.  These people fret seeing pot shops in shopping centers or at every other street corner.

Furthermore, those in the industry are working hard to realign the image of marijuana.  They want "Cannabis" as the term to be used when referencing marijuana. They  want smokers to stop using "pot," "grass," "blunt," "weed," and "dope." Since these terms are associated with the stigma of being stupid, with laziness and that those who smoke it are just puffing their productive lives away.

Many cities in California are working around the clock to meet the high demand for permits for those who want to open dispensaries.  All these cities want a piece of the pie.  They are also making claims that legal dispensaries will not only root out black markets from their cities but also the new revenue will be used to improve the quality of life of people living in these cities.  It is not clear how black markets will disappear if prices for legalized marijuana at dispensaries are ridiculously high. Indeed, high taxes both from the state and the cities might make it more complicated for the legalization to take root.  Those who buy marijuana will have to pay taxes anywhere from 22% to 25% that will include a state excise tax of 15%.  Those who grow and those who sell the plant will also have to pay taxes. Unable to pay these high prices many who smoke pot recreationally might have to go back to the black market.

In our very own city of Los Angeles, civic leaders will be using some sort of "social equity" as guidelines in deciding who will be licensed first with these pot dispensaries.  That is, those who were adversely affected by the "war on drugs" will be the first ones to get these licenses.  If one's life was destroyed by being charged with either smoking or selling marijuana, this individual will be given priority over all others.  It is sort of a wealth distribution mechanism being used by leaders in this city.  It is still somewhat unclear as to how this process will work.

Let's review some history about the criminalization of marijuana, it should have never been criminalized.  Tragically, marijuana was likened to heroin and both were criminalized heavily.  The "War on Drugs" was irrational and immoral.  It was tragic how many people's lives were utterly destroyed. This "War on Drugs" started in the Nixon Administration and continued well into the 1980s and 1990s. Voters who identified with the "public safety" mantra relentlessly lobbied Congress for tough policies for those who used drugs.  This "War on Drugs" policies were not only mean-spirited and short-sighted but they also disproportionately affected people of color.  It was Nixon the one who dubbed drug abuse "public enemy number one" in 1971.

Many people in the state are still puzzled after hearing recent reports that the Trump Administration through his Attorney General, Jeff Sessions might be targeting California.  The Attorney General is telegraphing that he might disrupt the operation of the cannabis industry that has been booming in the state. How can that be, they ask? We, the people, in the state of California, exercised our democratic rights and voted so we can legally buy pot for recreation and medical purposes. The federal government still designates marijuana as a "Schedule 1" drug.  Placing it here means that the drug is still considered extremely dangerous as heroin is and it repudiates claims that the drug helps sick individuals seeking medical benefits.  It is worth noting that according to these designations, cocaine is less harmful than Marijuana. Since cocaine is on Schedule 2. For some progressive states, this flew in the face of common sense.

As the usage of marijuana became democratized many Americans started supporting the movement for legalizing it.  A recent Gallup poll showed that "over 60% of voters supported legalization nationwide and among the law-and-order-Republican, the percentage is 51%. "  The profound lack of action from Congress in decriminalizing marijuana forced states to act hoping that eventually, Congress will react. Many states have started taking action, through their initiative process,  for the decriminalization of this drug. It is argued that these actions will eventually force the federal government to finally take action.

No one wants to go back and see marijuana being criminalized, It is great that marijuana is being legalized in many states and it is hoped that Congress takes action soon so a better-uniformed process can be implemented nationwide.  Although many questions still remain unanswered about all this pot legalization. High taxes might not make the black markets vanished, people are still being educated as to where they can light up, and whether or not they can drive high.

As the feds are scrapping all the accommodations the Obama Administration provided for this legalization to flourish. Most banks will not allow those running dispensaries to open bank accounts.   This means that most transactions will be in cash hence bundles of cash and pounds of pots will be laying around at shops and warehouses. That should be a source of concern for those of us who care for communities of color.

Thank you for reading

Chamba Sanchez


Sources consulted

Aiello, Chloe. "Jeff Sessions just made it even harder for California's legal marijuana businesses to find a place to put their cash." CNBC 10 Jan. 2018. Web. 14 Jan. 2018.

Gerber, Marisa.  "A new future for pot begins." Los Angeles Times 2nd Jan. 2018. Web. 9 Jan. 2018.

Lee, Kurtis. "Next up in pot debate:  Public use."  Los Angeles Times 13 Jan. 2018. Web. 14 Jan. 2018.

Ludwig, Mike. "What Jeff Sessions' Latest Attack Means for the Future of Legal Marijuana." Truthout 8 Jan. 2018. Web. 11 Jan. 2018

Smith, Aaron.  'California to tax pot as much as 45%." CCN Money 31 Oct. 2018. Web. 10th Jan. 2018.

Rahmani, Neama. "Get real about security at marijuana dispensaries." The Sun 27 Dec. 2017. Web. 23 Jan. 2018.

Robbins. Gary.  "Weeding out the slang pot terms." Los Angeles Times 21 Jan. 2018. Web. 22 Jan. 2018

If you smoke click on this link below for some responses to basic questions you might have.
Masunaga, Samantha.  "Recreational marijuana is legal in California but you still can't smoke it at work or in your car." Los Angeles Times 4 Jan. 2018. Web. 18 Jan. 2018. 


Photo Credit: Image used in this piece was purchased from Bigstock.

Yes, "Coco" is good but Disney/Pixar shouldn't be telling our story and Latino consultants need not to be selling out!

Disney-Pixar Animation Studios' new film "Coco" has been introduced with great fanfare on both sides of the border.  The movie has done well domestically. It made a little over $70 million on the Thanksgiving holiday weekend.  And it was an utter success in Mexico, and it made almost $50 million. Enough. I will leave to others to write more about how great this movie is.

I want to laser-focus on another story that has been utterly ignored.  Disney shouldn't be telling our story.  This corporation doesn't have a good history with Latinos in Calfornia, from refusing to pay its fair share in Anaheim, home in where the majority are Latinos,  to joining Pete Wilson back in the 1990s in attacking our communities. In the interest of full disclosure, I should say that I dislike Disney with a passion for the obvious reasons.

I dug up information, wanted to know how the Coco, the film was first conceived. It was in 2010 when a non-Latino filmmaker, Matthew Aldrich first thought about taking on this animated endeavor.  Most of the interviews and reviews that I have read give this director all the credit for the success of the film.  You wouldn't know that there is another Latino director there, Adrian Molina, unless it is a Latino network with a Latino audience.  It seems that most of the Latinos added to the crew are being used just to sell the movie to our community.

I also unearthed that Disney back in 2013 stupidly filed an application with the Patent and Trademark organization to have ownership of the phrase "Dia de Los Muertos." There is a lot that can be extrapolated about this stupidity, for starters it is clear that Latinos have yet to gain the needed power to protect their interest in this society.  No corporation will ever dare to do something like this against another group in this country.

Pushing back against Disney for trying to trademark our culture, Cartoonist Alcaraz published an iconic poster (the one below ).  It was widely published, and our community was agitated and forcefully demanded Disney to stop the stupidity in trying to have ownership of that phrase.  These disgusting corporate forces want to trademark “tu cultura,” he told all his followers who admire him and who are receptive to his messages display on his cartoons. Disney eventually realized its stupidity and withdrew the trademark application.

It was not the first time that Cartoonist Alcaraz sparred with Disney.  Back in the 1990s, when Disney supported Pete Wilson the most anti-Latinos/immigrants in California.  I vividly remember Mr. Alcaraz's "Migra Mouse" that he published to reject Disney's support for an anti-immigrant politician and governor for California,

After that fiasco, Disney/ Pixar wised up and wanted to avoid being accused of exploiting ethnic folklore out of willingly or unwillingly ignorance. So they started seeking Latino consultants who were willing to attach their names to the film and selling it to our community.

Now, I wish one could have told me to brace for this.  Disney reached out and asked Lalo Alcaraz, its biggest foe at one point to join the company for this Coco movie. Everyone extrapolated that Disney had no chance to persuade Mr. Alcaraz to join them in light of how ruthlessly disrespectful Disney had been toward Latinos. He couldn't resist and he joined them.

Everyone was speculating as to what Chicano writer in Orange County was going to say about this film and Alcaraz working for Disney.  It was common knowledge that both Arellano and Alcaraz are close and that both like to promote each other.  Gustavo Arellano finally wrote a piece (click here for link).  Arellano swung and missed. He pathetically ended up marketing the film for Disney. I was dumbfounded to read Arellano's piece.  Since Arellano knows firsthand how the happiest place on earth is bleeding dry the city of Anaheim.  Evidently, speaking truth to power to our oppressors is easy speaking truth to power to our friends requires strength

Really, how and why our community's artists and leaders have no qualms about selling out like that?  Alcaraz became the marketing mouth-piece for Disney/Pixar and he might have used his reputation to appease or silence other Chicanos who are usually skeptical of being too close to the corporate power.  The Chicano revolutionaries, anti-capitalism, and anti-corporate power are nowhere to be found.  Yes, how does one transform from being a firebrand Chicano activist fighting for the '"cause" with his art to become a servant to the plutocracy? This man should be a case study in the lecture halls at UC Santa Barbara's Chicano Studies Department.  A place that is known as the epicenter of Chicano/a Studies.

This was a major league sell-out.  It truly illuminates with startling clarity the status of our community.  Our leaders in non-profits, in elected offices and businesses they all appear to have a price.  A note on another sell-out, recently, Los Angeles Times published a piece in which highlighted all the greedy corporations that former mayor Antonio Villaraigosa works for (click here for link).  The former mayor is now a millionaire.  He consults for Herbalife, a corporation that bilks poor immigrants.  It has become the norm not the exception for our leaders to engage in this unethical and repulsive behavior.

It is vastly evident that corporate America is corrupting all ways of life in this society.  The Websters Dictionary defines Plutocracy as a government of the wealthy.  Indeed, It is difficult not to argue that for the last three decades this country has fallen into this system in which the levers of power have been hijacked by corporations.

Intellectuals and academics fret and warn us that our liberty is not sustainable when the captains of industry are in charge of our democratic institutions.   The abundance of resources that the corporate sectors enjoy gives them the power to control institutions of our democracy.  That control is vital for the protection of the corporate interest.  The game is rigged, and all those advocating for anything that would conflict with corporate power will have no chance. Our leaders are incapable of resisting to advance their economic interests and end up objectifying and commodifying our people's struggle.

There is that scene in It's a Wonderful Life where the film' protagonist, George Bailey rejects to be bought out by a  greedy pig banker who was continually seeking to enrich himself on the back of the poor in this town.  The aggressive slumlord and evil banker, Henry Porter failed to buy out the young idealist, George Bailey. The honest and dedicated family man who runs a small community bank from Bedford Falls, N.Y, refused to sell out.  Any individual who advocates for the masses must learn a thing or two from George Bailey.  Selling out must feel good in the short term but in the long run, it might not be sustainable.  Our community is hungry for more George Baileys with steely spines who reason that the collective interest should always exceed one's personal or financial interest.

Finally, I was surprised to learn that in the afterlife, as being presented in the 'Coco' film, it might very well be a class society.  Based on the images of the places shown in the movie, one might surmise that there is poverty there.  So, we now know why true progressives and socialists are in tears while watching this corporate film.  Or maybe our people cry because they are being forced to watch that stupid 21-minute Frozen short film at the beginning. Long live capitalism!

Thank you for reading.

Sources consulted.
Arellano, Gustavo. "How Disney Redeemed Itself With 'Coco' After the Dia De Los Muertos Trademark Fiasco." 16 Nov. 2017.  Web. Nov. 24 2017.
Crump, Andy.  "Why 'Coco' Feels Like an Act of Defiance."  The Hollywood Reporter 25 Nov. 2017. Web. 26 Nov. 2017.
De La Fuente, Anna Marie.  "Pixar's Coco Moves Morelia to Tears." Variety 21st Oct. 2017. Web. 26 Nov. 2017.
Garrity, Shaenon K. "Why Disney/Pixar Hired One of Its Biggest Critics to Work on Its New Movie. io9 gizmode 19 Aug. 2015. Web. 24 Nov. 2017.
It's a Wonderful Life. Dir. Frank Capra. Perf. James Stewart, Donna Reed, Lionel Barrymore. Liberty Films, 1947 Film.
McNary, Dave. "Box Office: 'Coco' Topping 'Justice League' With $70 Million Over Thanksgiving Weekend." Variety 22nd Nov. 2017.
Miller, Daniel. " Is Disney paying its share in Anaheim."  Los Angeles Times 24 Sept. 2017. Web. 23 Nov. 2017
"Plutocracy."  Entry 1. Merrian-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary. 9th ed. 1988. Print.
Robison, Joanna. "Pixar's Coco is a ' Love Letter to Mexico' in the Age of Trump." Vanity Fair 6th Dec. 2016. Web. Nov. 23, 2017.
Scannell, Herb.  "Neglecting the Latino Community Is Hollywood's Multibillion-dollar Missed Opportunity." Addweek-Voice 16 Nov. 2017. Web. 26 Nov. 2017. Spiegel, Josh. "What Disney Finally Gets Right With Coco."  Hollywood Reporter 23rd November 2017. Web. Nov. 25th, 2017.
Tagliani, Herna. "6 Reasons Corporate America Misses Out On Trillions of Hispanics Dollars." Entrepreneur 1 June 2017. Web. 26 Nov. 2017.
Ugwu, Reggie. "How Pixar Made Sure ‘Coco’ Was Culturally Conscious." New York Times 19 Nov. 2017. Web. 23 Nov. 2017.

Year One, We Survived Trump !

Most of us still remember Trump's grand escalator entrance at his Trump Towers lobby in New York when he first announced that he was running for the highest office in this land.  Latinos vividly remember that day, here are some of his remarks: “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”  The backlash was swift not only from Latino organizations but also from many progressive corners in this country.  People also laughed at him and everyone thought that before this man would become their commander in chief, hell would have to freeze over.

It has been a year since people around the world and people in this country were stunned by the election of Donald Trump as President of this nation. Editorial boards of many major newspapers have been gearing for this day. They will evaluate the President's policy failures, economic successes and his impact on the international stage. Others will solely focus on how his behavior has altered our institutions of democracy.

That night of Nov. 8th of 2016 will always be remembered by many Americans as one of those days when a major event took place.  It has been likened like the day when President  Kennedy was assassinated or when this country was attacked on September 11, 2001. As a candidate, Trump broke all the rules of America's political landscape and as President, he never pivoted. He doesn't care about the philosophical underpinnings this Republic was founded on.  And, he operates in a different dimension that generates a different "truth," one that might be in conflict with the collective truth.  And, he disturbingly talks about conspiracies theories that lead many to believe that he might actually believe in them.

Evaluating President Trump's first year in office, one might look at two phases that people in this country have gone through.  First, people were in shocked and in a state of denial.  Immediately, many hit the streets and started marching with signs that read, "This man is not my president." Phase two, many Americans who voted against Trump finally came to grips with reality and reluctantly realized, that in light of all allegations, the man had been democratically elected.  And they were willing to give this man some room or at the very least recognize the legitimacy of his election.  And, they did that while screaming at top of their lungs that they would not recognize the legitimacy of his policies if said policies would attack minorities.

Pundits and other experts who engage in political analysis agree that Trump's success in winning the presidency was his ability to animate the uneducated white working-class who saw the political and economic system being rigged.  They also rejected multiculturism and saw the new economic order as a threat to their own beings.  They were the ones who totally disliked the political elites who control the major political parties.

Many thought that this country was not going to survive this man's "cruelness" and "grotesque" lack of civility. At every opportunity given either as a candidate or as this country's President, he disrupted party orthodoxy and norms of presidential behavior.  Yes, there are people still scratching their heads as to how a man who frequently displays misguided exceptionalism, greed for power, inability to show compassion, and constantly defiling the founding spirit of this country could have gotten elected.

This last year, America's society has been further polarized.  This polarization has not only been among Republicans against Democrats or Bernie's supporters against corporate Democrats.   But we also had ugly and bloody confrontations between the so-called "alt-right fascists" and  antics leftists that are also known as "Antifa."  It is not clear if all these divisions could be attributed to President Trump.  But, he certainly has done or said things that have enhanced these divisions.
But how did the Democrats lose the presidential election in 2016? This is a debate still raging in many progressive circles. Although it is widely known that leaders in the Democratic Party have been operating under the illusion that this party's problem was not about policies but rather about a message. This stupidity was on full display during the summer when congressional leaders called for a press conference and told the media that they finally came up with a strong message to start winning elections again. They called "A Better Deal."This encapsulated the very reason why Democrats have been losing working-class voters and other progressives who see Democrats being in bed with the masters of the universe from Wall Street.

As historians point out all the dark chapters in this country's history, one should feel optimistic that this country will soon correct itself.  These historians cite daunting challenges such as slavery and President Nixon in the 1970s. The Republic survived these challenges. However, this might not fall from the sky.  People in this country should endeavor to find opportunities in these trying times.  Indeed, they should somehow see this man's election as a moment of clarity and engage more in their communities and demand better leadership.  Nonetheless, if people just bitch about Trump all the time and utterly neglect local elections then they deserve this man as their president.  It was reported here in Los Angeles that the election for the  Assembly District 51 only one out of ten voters actually cast a vote. This was a disgrace.  This political maxim fits just right here, "we deserve the government we have."

It is difficult to predict what the future holds in politics.  But, it appears that President Trump might be facing legal challenges as some of his close advisors and campaign managers were recently indicted by the special counsel and former FBI director, Robert Muller.  As this piece was being posted, there was breaking news that Democrats had won both governor races in Virginia and New Jersey.  it is not clear how much effort came from Democrats in winning these two races, at the very least they should get credit for the victories in Virginia.  Voters in New Jersey had wanted to get rid of beleaguered Governor Chris Christie for a very long time. These Democratic victories have been the first ones since Trump was inaugurated and they might boost the Democrats' spirit or enthusiasm in the next year midterm elections.

Thank you for reading.

Chamba Sanchez


Sources cited.

Cotton, Rob. "A message to Democratss who still support Hillary Clinton." Inquisitor 3, Nov. 2017. Web. 7 Nov. 2017

"One year later: an accounting." Editorial.  Los Angeles Times 5 Nov.  2017. Web. 7 Nov. 2017




Gentrification and the Poor in Los Angeles !

Major developments started at Downtown and as land became scarce developers started looking for more land into other communities throughout Los Angeles.  Not long ago the "Reef Development" was approved in which developers just sailed through the process with no major obstacles. Even when some activists argued that this Reef development was going to displace at least 40,000 poor renters.  The Councilman and many other community-based organizations they all embraced said development.

Now, a new project called  Macarthur Park luxury development-"The Lake on Wilshire."  has started its process.  This ambitious development is near McArthur Park and Westlake area and it will build "a 41-story, 478-unit, luxury apartment tower, and a 220-room luxury hotel." The development has gotten the blessing of the councilperson who represents that area.  It has also gotten the green light from prominent non-profit organizations located in this neighborhood.  Some of them have written letters of support on behalf of the development and attended the public hearing held in City Hall.

This process on the surface appears to be open and inclusive in which community leaders truly engaged and scrutinized the benefits of such development.  Not so, community meetings were held just to project an illusion that a robust dialogue took place among different stakeholders. It was all merely a facade. It is a standard process in which the interest of developers usually tips the scale. Poor renters had no chance.

Advocates who truly represent renters in McArthur and Westlake's neighborhoods fear that the project above will in some way either directly or indirectly lead to evictions of poor renters.  These neighborhoods have a large percentage of renters, more than 80% living in these communities are renters. And the median income for a family of four is about $24,000. It truly is difficult to fathom as to how a non-profit organization in this area would support or even celebrate this development. These community organizations are conflicted and they are selling out the overall interest of these communities.  A leader with the basic ability to think critically could actually see no benefits from these developments going to the poor people whom they are supposed to represent.

Los Angeles is known as a bastion of social progressivism, one might think that poor renters would have been defended against the powerful economic interests that have been radically changing the physical landscape of the city. As developers tried to cash in the next project whether by building arenas, stadiums, theaters, museums, lofts or condominiums.  Poor renters in Los Angeles were being aggressively displaced and the so-called "liberal" or "progressive" politicians at city hall and many progressive organizations that included labor just looked the other way.

Los Angeles has really become a case study where social justice activists appeared to have turned against the very people who they supposed to protect.  Developers have a lot of resources and they effectively use them to influence politicians at city hall, community-based organizations, consultants and the poets and artists who constantly are looking for gigs to survive in this city.

Developers had it all figured out as to how they can successfully push for developments in Los Angeles.  Any developer who wants to build anything in LA, he or she will first have to see the councilperson who represents the area.  Usually, developers have developed a relationship with the councilmembers. It is rare a fundraising event that they don't attend.  They also hire consultants who guide them with community groups.  Then, the councilperson makes the case to these developers that the development must have support from the community organizations in the community.  They hint the developers that they need to identify the community groups and that they need to use their resources to have these non-profit people on board. These are starving non-profit organizations that are constantly struggling for funding.  They are too conflicted that they care less if they have to sell-out the very people who they are supposed to help.

These non-profit organizations are the ones that ultimately make the case that development is good for the overall interest of the community.  Some of these people who are behind these non-profits have no qualms in taking humble poor people to testify to city hall on behalf of these developments.   The house of labor is as guilty as these non-profit organizations, developers just raise the flag of jobs and offer unionized construction jobs and labor in LA just rollover. It has been difficult for activists who still lookout for the best interest of the poor to disrupt this corrosive process in which developers dictate whatever they want.

In addition, many evil landlords also concoct well-coordinated schemes to evict renters.  So, a different class of individuals with the ability to pay market rate's rents could move into their units. Displacement of poor renters in many cities here in California and the nation might really be the civil rights issue of our times.  It disproportionately affects poor Latinos and poor African Americans. It must be traumatizing for these poor renters being forced to leave a community where they had roots and where their children have been raised.

Los Angeles' landscape has radically changed-there has been this kind of physical renaissance in the city, the Staples Center, the Disney Concert Hall, LA Live, the Broad Museum, and all those luxurious lofts and condominiums have been built in the last two decades.  The promises made by civic leaders that these developments were going to increase civic participation, heal divisions along racial and ethnic lines and bridge the gap in wealth and income facing Angelenos never came to fruition.

Opinions are divided on whether gentrification is a sign of prosperity or a war on working-class people.  It is not difficult to see that all these investments that have gentrified this city having had some sort of a positive impact on the overall quality of life of Angelenos. Many L.A. neighborhoods that were infected with a crime in the 1990s have turned into more livable places.

Buildings, where the poor used to live in these neighborhoods, have been replaced by lofts, upscale newly built homes and condominiums surrounded by Starbucks, yoga studios, trendy restaurants, and bars.  Homeowners in these communities welcome the investments as they saw the fair market value of their homes skyrocketing.   Anyone who drives through Silverlake and Echo Park will see "well-heeled hipsters" as they are being called by those who are resentful as how their communities have been altered.

Our leaders in this city must internalize that the housing crisis must be a vital component of any policy decision or strategy that is taken on in this city.  One with a basic understanding of the needs, priorities, and resources of our city must have some sense that this housing crisis affects all communities in this city on all levels. For starters, this profound crisis affects the business community as employers struggle to find workers and people living in garages or in cars have adverse effects on public health safety.  Poor people unable to find housing they can afford in this city have moved to the dessert either in Palmdale or San Bernardino and have to commute every day to the city to work.  Think about that collective environmental and quality of life repercussions for LA of workers commuting for five hours daily.

Some activists have started pushing back with more militant direct actions.  And, they are targeting galleries and coffee places in Boyle Heights.  Some people including homeowners might not like these tactics being used by these activists. But they had forced a different conversation that might have included the needs of poor renters.

It is not clear how to measure success in this city.  Success shouldn't be measured by the number of state of the art arenas, theaters, museums, luxurious lofts and condominiums, and stadiums being built or by the Dodgers making it to the world series. Sucess, one fair-justice-minded individual would think,  should be measured by how well our children are doing in school and how we treat the poor.

Thank you for reading.

Sources used.
Khouri, Andrew.  "Southern California apartment rents will keep climbing, the report predicts." Los Angeles Times 11 Oct. 2017. Web. 22 Oct. 2017.

Lee, Frances. "Why I've Started to Fear My Fellow Social Justice Activists." www.yesmagazine.org 13 Oct. 2017. Web 20 Oct. 2017.

Novotny, Ben. "Persistent Gentrification in Long Beach Increases Student Homelessness and debt." www..kcet.org 11 OCT. 2017. Web. 19 Oct. 2017.

Photo Credit:  Took pics on this piece with an iPhone.

Politics, Football and Trump

What a difference a week makes, last Sunday, Sept. 24, 2017, might have been the biggest protest in the NFL.  Players, coaches, and even owners protested.  They protested because of the insensitive remarks made by President Trump Friday in Alabama.  There were also protests in baseball games and among basketball players. As usual, there were different reactions, those who dislike Trump were outraged but his supporters were gleeful.  And Facebook, Tweeter, and other social media sites lighted up like there was no tomorrow.  Many conversations have been held about players exercising their freedom of speech and disrespecting the national anthem or the flag. These were the exact remarks made by President Trump,“Get that son of a bitch off the field right now,” Out! He’s fired. He’s fired.”  Nonetheless, protests have started fading away as the President has taken on critics who are not happy with his administration's response to the calamities facing people in Puerto Rico.

Freedom of Speech is vital for free societies to function.  It is a tool used by citizens to file grievances against their government and hold their representatives accountable.  Although this citizen's right has limitations and usually just provides protection that is directly related to the government.  In other words, freedom of speech protection can't be given to employees working for a private company.  It is complicated and complex but employers can regulate speech that might jeopardize their economic interest. Companies argue that they exist for the purpose of selling a service or producing a product.  And when employees engage in political controversy during working hours, this will directly affect the company's bottom line. Therefore, this employee should be either stopped or be fired immediately.

Now, let's go back to players kneeling down in stadiums while the national anthem is being played.  It is always good for our democracy seeing a citizen taking a stand. In this instance, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick started kneeling down while the national anthem was being played.  He should be commended for his courage.  Mr. Kaepernick did it to protest police brutality against African Americans in many cities. However, citizens should also understand that positions that they take will not be embraced by everybody hence there might be some consequences for their actions.  That should be fair game and citizens should have no problems paying a price for their actions.  A point of contentious in this man's action among fans and civic engaged citizens: Should a player just play football for which he is being paid and practices his civil liberties on his own time? Owners and most business people with companies argue that this man should be fired and no team should hire him. They also added that no fan who pays to watch football should be exposed to someone's political point of view that they disagree with.

Throughout history, African American athletes have engaged in civil disobedience to protest discrimination and unfair treatment of their own community.  Countless acts of civil disobedience have been used by black athletes to force conversations of unjust policies or traditions in American society.   They have used their sports to take a stand against a social issue that was detrimental to their own communities. Yes, from John Carlos, 1968 Olympic U.S Medalist who raised his fists in silence in a Black Power salute during the national anthem to Mohammed Ali refused to enlist and engaged in a war he thought was a war of choice.

Political theorists tell us that this country can't be the land of the free if a citizen is not allowed to criticize it.  And this can be done by taking a knee while the national anthem is being played or even burning a symbol such as the flag.  These citizens' actions are within the bounds of democratic dialogue and should be protected by freedom of speech, these people argue.  Yes, it should be okay to burn those flags that might have been manufactured in China.  This is what free societies are all about.

We should always encourage people to speak up about our injustices, but many argue that athletes sometimes might exacerbate the problem and they might just overshadow the very problem they want to highlight.  Many people questioned whether it was easier to take a knee down rather than going into the community and do the hard work. Indeed, the work of mentoring young people and helping to create opportunities for his community.  And many drew comparisons of Mr. Kaepernick with Rosa Park or Boxing legend Mohammed Ali.  It is not entirely clear if these comparisons might be fair since these legends had a robust track record of doing hard work for their communities before they engaged in symbolic gestures. The struggle for police brutality might have taken a back seat, as many think, as some see these protests as being about Mr. Kaepernick not being hired by no NFL team. It was interesting seeing NFL teams' owners taking a knee with the player and yet as of today Mr. Kaepernick still unemployed.

One might ask, in light of the major problems dealing with poverty, inequality, opportunity and daunting challenges in the international arena, why would President Trump get involved with the current controversy going in the NFL?   This is the very reason why this president was elected, uneducated whites and others felt they could no longer say things they wanted to say.  Nobody would dare to call African American Players kneeling down while the national anthem is being played, "sons of bitches" for disrespecting the flag.  Whites can always count on this president to speak for them.  He clearly threw red meat to his supporters when he entered this controversy.

No surprise for many seeing this President getting involved in any controversy that relates to "nationalism."  It was at the core of everything candidate Trump did while running for the White House.  This strategy successfully targeted anxieties of whites who really thought that their country was rapidly changing in a way that was undermining their way of life.  Yes, these whites felt economically marginalized and culturally eclipsed. Trump's populism laced with nationalism was successfully sold to whites who desperately need a presidential candidate who could finally air their grievances.

Finally, it was recently revealed that former NFL player, Aaron Hernandez, who killed himself while serving time in prison had chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).  It was also disclosed that the NFL was fighting a lawsuit filed by this player. Maybe we shouldn't be fighting the NFL to hire athletes rather we should be doing whatever we can to put them out of business.  Since most players end up with brain disease resulting from repeated head trauma.

Thank you for reading.


Works cited.

American President. Dir. Rob Reiner. Perf. Michael Douglas, Annette Bening, Martin Sheen, Michael J. Fox. Warner Bros, 1995 Film.

Oppel Jr. A. Richard. "Steelers' Villanueva Takes a Stand, but Might Agree With Kaepernick's Mission." New York Times 25 Sept. 2017.  Web. 25 Sept. 2017

Skelton, George. "The more Trump trumpets and tweets, the more he turns people off." Los Angeles Times 28 Sept. 2017. Web. 1st Oct. 2017

"Shield and Brooks."  Newshour. Public Broadcasting Service 29 Sept. 2017. Television.

Turner-Lee, Nico. "Protest, patriotism, and the history of black athletes in America."  ttps://www.brookings.edu/podcast 29 Sept. 2017. Web. 1st Oct. 2017

Widener, E. Benjamin. The Frist Amendment "Playing Field": Regulating Speech in the Workplace." New Jersey Law Blog 28 Feb. 2014. Web. 26 Sept. 2017.

Photo Credit: Photo of Colin Kaepernick, Reuters photo: Jake Roth/USA Today Sports)
Drawing of Mr. Kaepernick and Rosa Park on the bus was a screenshot from a shirt being sold online.


The complex fight for immigration reform

Once it was known that the President had ended DACA, there were marches and rallies throughout the nation. Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions called for a press conference and spewed venom and screamed at top of his lungs outright lies about immigrants.  Yes, the usual venom used by nativists, i.e., "illegal aliens," and "these immigrants take jobs from Americans."  It truly was a mean-spirited press conference. He also mentioned legislation in Congress being supportive by anti-immigrant forces, the "RAISE Act," a bill in the Senate that will cut legal immigration in half.

Most rallies and marches solely centered on DACA and the dreamers.  I have always said that there was going to be a revolution in this country had this president attempted to kick out these productive immigrants who have contributed greatly to this nation. Indeed, it was clear that the majority of Americans support these immigrants.  And any attempt to deport them was going to be met with intense political pushback.

Although "Illegal immigration" was a signature issue for President Trump while campaigning for the White House. It has been reported that the President has cut a deal with congressional Democratic leaders in legalizing these young people. This is significant if we take into account how paralyzed Washington has been and for how long the immigration issue has been debated. We should all do whatever we can to make sure the Dreamers get legalized. Although we should also endeavor not to lose sight of the prize.

Democratic Congressional leaders vehemently denied that money to fund the wall was part of the deal. The following morning, after democratic congressional leaders dined in the White House,  the President tweeted that the path to citizenship for the dreamers was not part of the deal that yes "if there is no wall, we are doing nothing.  People are confused and all of us who care about undocumented immigrants in this country are just waiting to see the final compromise once it is written on paper.  Although I have to say it doesn't look good. For all the goodwill President Trump has displayed this week, one could easily argue that the only consistent thing about him is being inconsistent. Some of his most ardent supporters are scratching their heads.  Since Trump, while campaigning for the White House, gave that infamous speech in Arizona where he promised and vowed to reverse DACA and deport the Dreamers

Trump's decision to reach out to the Democrats has been dubbed as a "Nixon-China movement."   Details have not yet been revealed and it is being speculated that Trump is playing both Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer.  Pundits are still trying to figure out Trump's strategy.

Democratic congressional leaders may have a more difficult time trying to persuade their democratic base. Progressives don't want them to get too cozy with this President.  There are also immigrants' advocates out there who might be tempted to reject legalization for the dreamers and push for legalization for all the eleven million undocumented folks.  House Minority Leader Pelosi heard from them recently in her district in San Francisco. These activists are well-intentioned but they are totally disconnected from the facts on the political landscape.  Voltaire once told us, “Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of some progress." Yes, let's legalize the Dreamers and take on the fight on the other ten million undocumented immigrants in our communities.

Some progressives dislike seeing Pelosi and Schumer "normalizing" this president whom they see as unfit to serve as President. I have always said that these democratic leaders must make an effort to work with this president as much as they can without betraying some democratic core values.  However, if this is not feasible then they should go for an all-out-war with this man.  There will also be a predicament here, how do these democratic leaders work with this president and turn around and excite the Democratic base for next year's congressional elections and two years presidential elections?  This will require imagination, a robust strategy and a plan of action. Three things that usually escape these democratic leaders.

In the name of compromising, many Republicans are having a field day and see the opportunity to legalize the dreamers while injecting all kinds of anti-immigrant provisions to the bill.   Indeed, a border wall and more policies that mirror the RAISE Act, as well as mandatory participation in E-Verify, the electronic employment eligibility verification system they are all being considered part of legislation that will legalize the dreamers. Neither immigrant community leaders nor the Democratic leadership has the leverage to negotiate immigration policies that would advance the collective interest of our communities.  Most experts or pundits believed that the DACA's recipients were going to be in no danger since the majority of Republicans thought that these young immigrants were embedded in their own communities and they needed to be given a chance.  Even disgraced and anti-immigrant, Joe Arpaio thought it would be immoral to deport these young immigrants.

Finally, California has 55 members in Congress and is the home of Democratic Minority Leader Pelosi and the second-highest-ranking Republican in the House, Rep. McCarthy.  Yes, California has the largest delegation with 53 members in the House and 2 US Senators.  California delegation should lead this effort pushing for a version of the Dream Act that includes a path to citizenship.  California Rep. Kevin McCarthy should use the power of his position to push Speaker Ryan for generous legislation for the Dreamers.  Rep. McCarthy also represents a district in the Central Valley that is the home of many immigrants who need legalization. These Republican representatives here in California can no longer take an extreme position on immigration.  That would be politically suicidal. Democrats need 24 seats to win the House back next year.  They currently strategizing their focus on 14 Republicans located here in California. The demographics have radically changed in these fourteen districts being represented by Republicans.  They now have large minority voters.

Thank you for reading.


Sources consulted.

Bierman, Noah.  "A risky embrace."  Los Angeles Times 15 Sept. 2017. Web. 17 Sept. 2017

Finegan, Michael and Mark Z. Barabak.  "Trump's backers learning to be flexible." Los Angeles Times 16     Sept. 2017. Web. 17 Sept. 2017.

"Here's a solution to the DACA crisis: Pass a Dream Act. And soon." Editorial. Los Angeles Times 7  Sept. 2017. Web.2018.

Mascaro, Lisa, Briuan Bennett and David Lauter.  "Hope for resolutions to 'Dreamers' dispute." Los Angeles Times 15 Sept. 2017. Web. 17 Sept. 2017.

Politics. "President Trump, top Democrats reach agreement on young immigrants." ABC 7.com Sep 13 2017. Web. 16 Sept. 2017


Photos Credit:
Pelosi, Schumer and President Trump - (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
The picture with the man holding up the "SAVE DACA" sign I took it in one of the rallies that I attended

Can Democrats Bring the White Voters Back Without Selling out?

I still vividly remember the analyses in the last year's presidential elections. Pundits and editorial writers were writing obituaries on the Republican Party for heavily relying on old poor white voters. Now, the conversation about these very same “poor white voters” has radically made a 360-degree change. Yes, these pundits are now saying that Democrats are doomed and that they don’t have a chance to win the House of Representatives next year if they don't bring these white voters back to the party. Latinos and African Americans are voting blocks that Democrats can not always count on. These two constituents don’t constantly vote and that has empowered the poor white working-class voters who support the Republicans. There are 24 seats that Democrats need to win next year if they want to control the House of Representatives in Congress. Seven of these seats are here in California and one has a lot of potentials to be flipped. That one is Darrell Issa's seat, he was almost beaten in 2016. Congressman Issa and other six Republican Congressional Representatives from California who voted for the repeal of Obamacare have become a target in next year Congressional's elections.

The fact that almost 4 million people in California gained coverage through this act was not a factor in these seven  California Congressional Representatives' decision when they cast their votes.  Good representatives, they first see what is for the best interest of the state they represent.  Then, they look for the best interest of the district.  These seven representatives might have done neither.  Their decisions were ideologically driven.

That recent close vote in the House of Representatives, that repealed the Affordable Care Act, has pundits now taken a closer look at California for next year's congressional elections.  They all think California can actually lead the effort for Democrats to win back the House of Representatives.  These experts are also making the case for the Democratic leadership to reach out to white voters in "a major way."

Since Bill Clinton became President and Governor Wilson ruthlessly went after immigrants in the 1990s,  for good or ill California became the most progressive and democratic state in the nation.  Both political parties have utterly ignored California in presidential elections ever since.  They don't spend a dime campaigning here.  They see California as an ATM machine. Hence most candidates running for federal government's offices just come to California to get some cash and get the hell out.

Experts have sliced and diced the presidential election last year and they are still puzzled as to how Trump was able to replace the coalition used by Obama when he won the last two presidential elections.  Poor white voters enthusiastically embraced Trump's nationalistic message of "American First."  It might be true that Democrats need to somehow reach out to poor white working-class voters if they want to be part of the process of governing.  But leaders within the Democratic leadership might be misreading these voters.  These leaders see this as a problem with messaging.  These white voters want more than just changing the substance of the messages.  They want the party to re-adjust their positions in the political landscape.

It truly begs the question as to why these poor whites voters have abandoned the democratic party and have to support a man who has enriched himself exploiting them. Granted, the Democrats have failed to address their issues and have been mired in the cultural wars that at times scapegoated them. Supporting Trump in protest for rejecting what they call  'left-wing politics' might be counterproductive.  Yes, how can these billionaires who have taken over Washington could ease the pain that these non-educated white voters might be feeling?  These white voters are clearly victims of this thing known as the “winner takes all” capitalism. Trump and the Republicans leading Congress in no way could help these poor white voters.

Whites working class and poor voters have been abruptly abandoning Democrats in the last two decades.  Even when they are consciously aware that embracing the Republican Party's platform might mean to sacrifice their own economic interests. All those Democratic so-called "firewalls" in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania were all blown up by Trump. These working-class white voters badly wanted to give the finger to the Democrats and voted for Trump.

Regaining the support from uneducated poor whites voters might, for the Democrats, mean to engage in some sort of soul searching as to what positions they will be re-adjusting. That is, their long-standing positions on abortion, guns and support the LGBT community are some of the issues that they might have to modify. Interesting enough, Bernie Sander not long ago supported a pro-life Democrat. Yes, Bernie Sander, the former presidential candidate who is hardly viewed as a centrist. Hey, if Bernie could do it then there is no reason why Democratic leaders can't, right?

It is important to highlight that Democrats don't appear to be strategizing to seize the future.  For starters, they elected Nanci Pelosi to lead them in the House and Senator Schumer to lead them in the Senate.  Both leaders have been major players in the Democratic party that has handed all branches of government to the Republicans. New voices and new visions are not emerging to take this party into a path for success.

The problems of vision and strategies are compounded by internal destructive in-fights between very destructive factions.  Bernie Sander's supporters want more purity and want true progressive policies and while centrist Democrats are calling for more time and more conversations.  There is nothing that Democrats can do if there is no compromise between these fractions.  Also, the progressive wing wants to have a more clearly defined direction other than just pushing back to Trump.  Indeed, at this point, there hasn't been a major change in strategy.  There is still no message for those who are not motivated by a distaste for him.  Although those who dislike Trump with a passion are unified.

Last presidential elections elicited profound dissatisfactions of constituents for both political parties.  It is being said that both parties have abandoned their ideological roots. Most people thought the Republicans were doomed. But it turned out to be that Democrats were the ones who appeared to have felt this dissatisfaction in a more profound way. They are no longer part of the process of governing. All branches of government are being controlled by the GOP.

One thing is crystal clear here, Democrats have their work cut out in getting back in the game and at the very least they should try to win the House of Representatives next year.  And they should do it by sticking to the politics of convictions not the politics of convenience.  Yes, bring those working-class white voters but without destroying the progressive foundation.

Thank you for reading.

Chamba Sanchez

Sources consulted.

Brownstein, Ronald. "Democrats Need These California Seats to Win Back, the House."  Atlantic 25 May 2017. Web. 2 June 20217

Griffin, Robert, John Halpin and Rui Texieira.  "Democrats Need to Be the Party of and for Working People of All Races: And  they can't take Congress unless they win over more white workers." American Prospect 1, June 2017. Web. 6 June 2017.

Scanlon, Kate.  "Sanders Responds to Backlash for Campaigning with Democratic Candidate who once backed pro-life bills."  the blaze.com 21 April 2017. Web. 3 June 2017.

The Editors. "The White Working Class:  An American, and a Democratic, dillemma."  American Prospect 1, June 2017.  Web. 4 June 2017.
Photos credit: Photos used in this piece was purchased from iStock website.

Commencement Speeches, What Would You Say ?

Graduation season rolled in again a couple of weeks ago.  It is that time of the year when we hear all these commencement speeches.  Speakers are supposed to encourage the new graduates to go out and defy the gods. Many people wonder how one prepares for these speeches and what makes one qualified to give one.

Graduates this year are facing immense challenges economically, politically, and socially.  Their democracy is on life support, and the new "gig" economy does not produce good-paying jobs for them. It is all about surviving as opportunities are scarce for the new college graduates.  Moreover, socially, the country is divided into unending cultural wars.

I have heard many commencement speeches throughout the years.  However, the best speeches I have heard were delivered by Steve Jobs and David Foster Wallace.  Both of them were given in 2005.  Steve Jobs gave his speech at Stanford University, and Wallace addressed students at Kenyon College.  Both men offered some basics as to how students could directly deal with some of the challenges that they would face after finishing college.  These two men went beyond the flattery and the banal platitudes that characterized the substance of these speeches.

Steve Jobs's speech was funny, profoundly witty, and filled with compelling personal stories that appeared to have been taken out from the pages of a book about Greek mythology. Ironically, Steve Jobs was a college dropout.  He explained to students that he did not see the value of staying in college; hence, he dropped out.  That might have been tough for those students graduating that year.  They have made great sacrifices, and a college dropout is telling them that college education might not be worthwhile.

Three themes ran through Steve Jobs' speech: "Connecting the dots, love, and loss, and stay hungry-stay foolish." There was so much wisdom in this speech. "Having setbacks are good for the soul, things that you do in life might not make sense to you in the short-term, but later in life, you will connect the dots,"  Steve Jobs told students. Moreover, what I thought was the best line in his speech, "life is a change agent; it clears out the old to make way for the new.  Right now the new is you, but someday not too long from now; you will gradually become the old."

On the other hand, David Foster Wallace's speech given in May 2005 at Kenyon College was somewhat more abstract but immensely useful for students to engage. Wallace was a writer and a university instructor of English who taught creative writing. He published a novel Infinite Jest and it was considered one of the best English-language novels written in the last one hundred years. Tragically, David Foster Wallace hanged himself in September 2008.  Wallace started his commencement speech with this didactic little parable.  This speech became widely known as "This is water."

Wallace went on to explain to students that sometimes it is unexplainably challenging to see the most obvious things.  Yes, those things that are in our faces that we somehow are not consciously aware that they are there. Most of us can relate to this, sometimes the solutions to the problems we are facing might just be before us, but we somehow cannot see them.  Either by choice, as one might argue, we just avoid seeing the elephant in the room.

Wallace let students have it.  He told them point-blank that real education was not about accumulating knowledge.  It was about developing the skill of what to choose to think about the options we have in front of us.  Students were asked to take a look at their "default settings"; that is, the way how we are all have been wired and how those settings dictate our choices. He made the case that it is possible to alter this "default settings" and that students can develop that skill.  Furthermore, that they could start looking at things differently.  He also asked them to embrace the struggle of choosing and not letting their "default settings" dictate their choices.  That was what Wallace called "real freedom."  He wrapped up his speeches with this, "this is water, this is water." A genuinely brilliant commencement speech.

It would be tough to give a commencement speech in these times of economic and daunting political challenges facing this country. Yes, how does one tell students graduating this year that civility matters, that tolerance is good for our community and that social graces are vital for civil society?  Yes, how does an individual do this?  We have a president who was elected last year, who succeeded by breaking all the social norms of decency and that he continues doing it as President.

I have been in many graduation ceremonies, two of them as a student.  If I were to give one of these speeches, it would be the shortest one ever.

This is what I would say; I will start by talking about the humanity of their degrees. That is, talking about the usual suspects, the responsibilities of citizenship, global affairs, and the beautiful struggle of connecting with something bigger than oneself. In light of the new economic order in this country, I will also talk about their degrees as an economic payoff.  After all, these students have invested heavily in their education.

I will touch upon the following three themes: Flexibility.  I will tell students that they should know what they want in life and do whatever they can to reach that goal. But at the same time, they should be flexible enough and accept what life has in store for you.  This can also be applied in the political system we have in place.  They should defend their political positions.

Nevertheless, they must make an effort to make adjustments if things or circumstances changed or if they have been presented with a fact-driven persuasive argument.  In light of the corrosive partisanship in Washington, this will serve their country well.  I will also tell them that they should try to create their opportunities as good-paying jobs are no longer a reality in this country

Second,  I will make a case for them to develop a thick skin.  If you endeavor to avoid those who disagree with you, you will be excluding 99% of the people in this world, I will tell them.   Granted, some people might hate you, but the great majority of them might just disagree with your positions or ideas.  Always give people the benefits of the doubt unless they prove themselves otherwise.  You should know that in a free society, we let people say whatever they want in the name of liberty.  So, do not be a sensitive soul and smile even when people talk about your mom.  Rather than advocating for safe spaces where people have to act in a political corrected way, you should not care what people think of you and engage them whenever is possible.

Finally, I will tell students  to develop a strong foundation and have the courage and strength to say "No." This is tough.  Life is a road paved with many temptations. We should all pray for wisdom so we can identify those moments when all the stars appear to have been aligned, and the natural thing to do is to say "yes." Resist.

Thank you for reading.

References used.

David Foster Wallace Transcript of 2005 Kenyon College Commencement Address. May 21, 2005. faculty.winthrop.edu. 21 May 2005. Web. 24 May 2017.

Krajeski, Jenna. "This is Water."New Yorker 19 Sept. 2008.  Web. 28 May 2017.

"You have got to find what you love,  Jobs says." News.Stanford.edu. 14 Jun 2005. Web. 24 May 2017.Weber

Weber, Bruce. "David Foster Wallace, Influential Writer, Dies at 46."  New York Times. 14 Sept. 2008. Web. 28 May 2017

Photos credit: Photos were downloaded from paid websites with password-protected from one of the colleges where I teach.

Herbalife Targeting Immigrants with its Pyramid Scheme !

I was researching for new documentaries a week ago and came across this one, Betting on Zero,  aA documentary about Herbalife. I watched it. I knew that this company was being scrutinized for its business model, but I didn't know they were preying on Latino immigrants. In light of how this company is aggressively targeting humble immigrants, I was somewhat puzzled that Herbalife's business and how its strategies have been under the radar of many major Spanish speaking news organization.  This documentary profiles a group of immigrants in Chicago who have been victimized by Herbalife's ruthless marketing strategies.  These immigrants were easily deceived and lied to by recruiting their family members and close friends. Newspapers reported that 60% of the money that Herbalife makes come from Latinos in the US.

I was shocked witnessing how Herbalife with such an unethical business model has risen and done well.  They have persisted even when it has been exposed many times by major newspapers as to how they have defrauded people.  Any rational being who looks at this company from any angle will conclude that this company truly is fraudulent.

Any federal regulatory agency that monitors these companies would say that if a business entity and those who participate in the organization make money primarily from recruiting people instead of selling goods or services to consumers, this business organization is deemed to be operating a "pyramid scheme."  Now, how did they get away with this?  Herbalife is annually audited by powerhouse Pricewaterhouse-Cooper one of the most credible and prestigious accounting firms in the world. These accounting firms make sure that everything in these companies is real, legal and ethical so investors and consumers can be protected.

Herbalife has very strong PR and Law departments. This company also hires celebrities and well-known people in political circles. They have hired a soccer player, David Beckham and the big-time soccer player Ronaldo who plays in Europe. They also recruit politicians with a lot of credibilities to promote their products. Former Secretary of State under President Bill Clinton, Madeline Albright, and our very own former Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa to mention some.  These two have consulted or are currently consulting for Herbalife and see no problem with Herbalife defrauding people.

Former Mayor Villaraigosa comes up in this documentary.  He seems indifferent that this company is causing so much pain in our community. He consults for the company, and the company uses him to appease those in our community who question this company's legitimacy.  Any immigrant knows who this man is, and these poor immigrants feel more comfortable dealing with this company when they see this man working for Herbalife.  It is not hard to see that the man is selling out.  It was disgusting seeing him in this film making the case as to how good it is for our community that this company sells its products to us.

The former mayor argues in this film that our community has an obesity problem and that Herbalife has the solutions for said problem. We might have this obesity problem but what Herbalife does will not do anything to stop it. He conveniently ignored the fact that Herbalife is scamming these poor humble immigrants out of their savings.  Mayor Villaraigosa recently converted himself as a staunch defender of Latinos again.  Of course, he is seeking to become governor of California next year.

Herbalife is a well-established company and is being alleged that it has made this pyramid scheme legal. Yes, this company has everything a legitimate business has, its corporate headquarters are right here in Los Angels and is being led by a CEO, Michael O. Johnson who came from the Disney Company.  In 2011, he was the highest-paid CEO in America.  Mr. Johnson made almost 100 million dollars running this company. Herbalife is also a public company currently being traded on the New York Stock Exchange.
Betting on Zero” is a fascinating documentary in which one of the masters of the universe from Wall Street, Bill Ackman uses his power and resources as a hedge fund manager to bet on Herbalife. In this documentary, a journalist who writes in the financial pages for Bloomberg joined forces with Mr. Ackman to expose this lie to the world.  The former is trying to exercise her journalistic responsibilities while the latter is in it to make a buck.  Not sure what to make of this but it can be argued that at the very least they are trying to get rid of a fraudulent company that has caused so much pain.  At the end of the documentary, the Federal Trade Commission in 2016 came down hard on Herbalife and formally "charged this company with four of unfair, false, and deceptive business practices." The company was fined with $2oo million and was asked to make major changes to its business model. The company is still operating as nothing happened.

There is no such thing as corporate citizenship any longer. Corporate citizenship is the idea that corporations have a social responsibility to society as a whole. The existence of a company must make the quality of life in communities better.  Better as they have to make principled centered decisions. Their business endeavors must somehow make society better, and that includes a corporation's investors.

It seems that we are reliving the era of the gilded age when the captains of industries were robber barons who had utter disregard for the welfare of society. Yes, Corporations don’t care about workers and see them as liabilities and subjects of exploitation. We are currently living in a society where very few individuals control obscene amounts of wealth; we have stunning low wage disparity and grinding poverty.  It is hard not to argue that America is not a "government of corporations, by the corporations, and for corporations.  From MCI WorldCom to Enron both of these companies engaged in massive fraud and caused so much damage to their employees, consumers, and investors.

It is easy to cave in to the forces of cynicism when you see people who govern us lying very casually and prominent players in our economic system making money by building companies that cheat people.  But we shouldn't.

Thank you for reading.


Works used. 

Betting on Zero. Dir. Theodore Braun. Biltmore Films, 2017.

Brenner, Michael. "Plutocracy in America."  Huffington Post April 1 2013.  Web. 1st May 2017

Derber. Charles. Corporate Nation:  How Corporations are taking over our lives and what we can do about it. New York:  St. Martin Press, 1998.

Devos, Rich.  Compassionate Capitalism:  People helping people help themselves. New York: Penguin Group, 1993.

Pfeifer, Stuart. "Herbalife hires former L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa as an advisor." Los Angeles Times 5 Sept. 2013. Web. 3rd May 2017.

Pfeifer, Stuart. "Latinos crucial to Herbalife's financial health." Los Angeles Times 15 Feb. 2013. Web. 3rd May 2017.


Photos credits:  Photos above were screenshots taken from the documentary listed on the works cited above.