Sunday, May 03, 2015


Recently I learned that several months ago, the Venezuelan rapper Canserbero killed his friend by knifing him and then jumped out of a ten story window to his own death. According to published reports, his mother passed away when he was 9, and his half brother was killed 5 years later. Death was a recurring theme in his music. I stopped paying attention for a while and one of the best narrators of dark tales, whose name refers to the canine guardian of the under world, did something as outrageous as this. While he was alive, he wrote what I consider to be one of the best songs to emerge from the Latin American rap movement. A song which reflects the revolutionary consciousness of Latin America and asks young people if they're willing to accept the challenge of changing the world. 

Labels: , , ,

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

As a Non-Religious Person...

As a non-religious person living in the U.S. who nonetheless respects religious traditions, I can publicly declare my belief that while all religions may express some aspect of the truth, no single religion contains the absolute truth, without fear of retribution from anyone. If this principle were to be adopted universally, it would allow all of us to get along, no one would have to abandon their religion or convert.

Based on books I've read by Muslim dissidents such as Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Irshad Manji regarding the modern practice of Islam, a Muslim cannot publicly declare the previously mentioned principle in Islamic countries such as Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and Iran, without exposing him or herself to the very real possibility of death, at the hands of other Muslims. To express such a principle would be to admit that Islam is not perfect and that the Koran is not infallible. 

It only takes reading a few pages of the Koran or the Bible to realize that neither of these sacred scriptures promote tolerance. While there may be peaceful and tolerant Muslims, Jews, and Christians, this has more to do with the influence of science and humanism than the religions themselves. In fact, religious people who are tolerant and accepting of others are likely to be those who have accepted the above principle, as well as recognized that the sacred scriptures which their religion is based on are not infallible.

Muslims in the west who bask in the freedom afforded to them by secular societies don't risk death by accepting and declaring such a principle, but this may be a difficult and uncomfortable step for them to take, particularly Muslim religious authorities.

If Pope John Paul II could declare that belief in the theory of evolution is not incompatible with belief in God, it demonstrates that religion can accommodate science, and subsequently values such as tolerance and acceptance of others which are fundamental to a 21st century world.

It should be obvious that Muslims are not the only ones who engage in religious chauvinism, otherwise Fox News anchors wouldn't pursue ridiculously hostile lines of questioning when interviewing authors such as Reza Aslan. 

Having said all this, I regard all of the wars and military actions which the U.S. has engaged in since 9/11, from Afghanistan to Iraq to Libya to Syria, as unjust, counterproductive, and a waste of resources.

Labels: , , ,

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

To Live and Love in L.A: Donald Sterling and Vanessa Stiviano

Every once in a while, the media delivers to us such a rich story involving people behaving badly, that not only reveals the weaknesses and shortcomings of the characters involved, but also reminds us of those of society, that one just can't help comment on it, delve into the lurid details, and laugh about it. Such is the case regarding the saga revolving around the racist sentiments attributed to 81 year billionaire Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling.

The first question that comes to my mind is how can a hot woman such as Vanessa Stiviano sleep with such a man? I realize that the answer is money, but what about the actual physical process? The body of a hot 31 year old woman, or 38 year old woman, whatever her age is, does not naturally gravitate towards the pudgy, wrinkled body of an 81 year old man. Can ol' Donald even get it up? Does he use Viagra? What is Vanessa Stiviano's psychological process at the moment of copulation?

Proceeding to the larger social issues, the vast ethnic diversity of Los Angeles county combined with its wealth(among the top twenty economies in the world in and of itself as of several years ago) make it a very unique place, with contradictions. I don't see how a hardcore racist could possibly live here. He or she would be driven absolutely crazy by observing vast and diverse communities of people living with and coexisting along side each other. The level of ethnic mixing, as in reproductive ethnic mixing, is phenomenal. And yet, most of us are aware of the regularity and casualness with which racist sentiments or ideas are expressed. Shortly after moving to Los Angeles, I was surprised when a woman of mixed heritage, she may have been part black or Hispanic, openly used the word "wetback" in a work environment in front of numerous Hispanics. Something which I would never imagine happening in a less ethnically diverse Northern California.

It's as if the very ethnic diversity that makes us organically more open minded, tolerant, and accepting, also presents greater opportunities for racist expressions to manifest themselves. For instance, if an Asian person were to nearly run you over and KILL you, would you get pissed off and pull on the edges of your eyes to make them almond shaped in mockery of him or her?

Los Angeles is one of the few places in the United States in which a black man can work for a Korean establishment as a door man, and not only violate the civil rights of his own people, but also violate the civil rights of white people, by denying them entry into the establishment solely based on their race.

Then there are the horrific problems of violence and racial hostility that exist within Los Angeles county jail, as well as among gangs composed of different races in some parts of L.A. county. The inhumane conditions within L.A. county jail cannot be blamed on the inmates, they are attributable to the administration of the jail as well as the society, which should provoke the question, how can an enlightened society allow inhumane conditions to exist within its jails?

Los Angeles has the largest homeless population in the entire country. I used to live within several blocks of the heart of skidrow, which is in a general area under rapid gentrification. There is one square block in particular, bounded by San Julian, 5th, Wall, and 6th, which is regarded as the busiest drug block on the entire west coast, which is ironically located right next to the heavily fortified and windowless central division of the Los Angeles police department. The vast majority of the people who mill around this area, about 85%, are black. I used to walk through there periodically. There are numerous aggressive drug dealers usually in the area. By aggressive, I mean, they'll approach one and pitch their product or offer their services. After the initial culture shock wore off, I realized that it was a reasonably safe area to walk through, albeit not pleasant. Most residents of Los Angeles will never walk through there and see the reality that our society creates, in fact, most people are afraid to walk through there, and I always hear people express their disgust with the area.

Then, there's the Los Angeles chapter of the NAACP. According to the L.A. Times and the Daily Mail, the Los Angeles chapter of the NAACP was about to honor Donald Sterling with a lifetime achievement award. For what? Has he been involved in civil rights? Has he donated millions of dollars to the NAACP, in which case, does this mitigate his behavior? Is he being honored for making hundreds of millions of dollars based on black labor, and in the process creating a few black millionaires?

Does the NAACP not investigate the background of people it honors? According to the Daily Mail, Donald Sterling has twice been sued by the federal government for refusing to rent to people based on race. Once for refusing to rent to non-Koreans regarding a property in Koreatown and another time for refusing to rent to African-Americans in Beverly Hills. The federal government does not go around suing people regarding civil rights unless it has good cause.

While the immensely hypocritical sentiment of a man who has made hundreds of millions of dollars off of the labor of black athletes, yet does not want his girlfriend to take pictures with blacks or bring them to his team's games is condemnable, is it not both hilariously and tragically ironic that if it were not for Ms. Stiviano, who according to the Daily Mail received a ferrari, two bentleys and a $1.4 million dollar apartment from Donald Sterling, the Los Angeles chapter of the NAACP within a few days would be honoring the man that everyone is now condemning as a racist with a lifetime achievement award?

Wednesday, March 06, 2013


I am happy for everything he accomplished in life. What I will most miss about him are his colorful speeches. He was a brilliant speaker who could deliver a two hour speech without even glancing at notes. As an American I was fascinated to see a Latin American leader speak about the empire and the history of Latin America. He spoke in an illuminating manner about issues which American media outlets rarely discussed.

Contrary to how he may be depicted in the vast majority of the American media outlets, Hugo Chavez was not anti-American. One of the most quotable things he ever said was, "The U.S. is a great country, and it will always be a great country, but there will come a day when it will no longer be an empire, and the driving force of a hegemonic project. "

To refer to Latin American leaders such as Hugo Chavez, Evo Morales, and Rafael Correa who assert their countries' soveriegnty as anti-American is like referring to black people who assert their civil rights as anti-white.

Among his accomplishments was to assert Venezuelan control over Venezuelan oil resources, an important achievement for any country, to control its own resources. He also diversified the client base for Venezuelan oil. Apart from this, unlike his American detractors who are obsessed with perpetuating their radical oil dependence, he was aware that an oil rich country cannot transform itself without diversifying its economy. He invested in education and provided free healthcare to all of Venezuela's citizens. He also made a commitment to achieving nutritional self-sufficiency within his country.

Yet, perhaps his greatest accomplishment is not any of the foregoing, but the fact that like other men who came before him such as Jesus, Buddha, Ghandi, King, X, Cesar Chavez, etc., he changed the consciousness of the world he lived in. He demonstrated that it is possible to create revolution and challenge the Anglo-Saxon hegemonists of the North American continent.

Labels: , , , , , ,

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Do The Harlem Shake...Con Los Terroristas!

This is a compilation video which traces the evolution of the meme and features some of the best Harlem Shake videos. This meme has become an immense viral phenomenon, with some people loving it, some people hating it, and many others left bewildered.

Perhaps several lines from the Herman Hesse novel, Steppenwolf, can help explain the appeal of what appears to be a collective catharsis or a trance in which the music takes over the mind and the body and everybody joins together in uninhibited expression and lets go. Hesse wrote about "the intoxication of a general festivity, the mysterious merging of the personality in the mass, the mystic union of joy," as well as, "I myself breathed the sweet intoxication of a common dream and of music and rhythm."

For me, the most astonishing aspect of the viral phenomenon is the phrase which is blurted out in a high pitched voice at the very outset of the song and repeated within the first thirty seconds, "Con los terroristas!" As well as the fact that while there has been much discussion about the Harlem Shake phenomenon, very little of it has been about this phrase or its meaning. Among the most prominent search results regarding this meme, Know Your Meme, The Huffington Post, and CBS news don't even mention it. The Fader has a very brief discussion regarding it, but does not discuss its meaning. Baauer is apparently not discussing it either.

Is the monolingualism of Americans so bad that dozens of millions of people have viewed these videos, and thousands have particpated in the making of them, including universities, large companies such as Pepsi, media organizations such as Facebook, Anderson Live, The Jimmy Fallon Show, as well as the army, navy, and marines, without realizing the meaning of the expression, "Con los terroristas?"

Is it not highly ironic that American military personnel who are engaged in a "war on terrorism" are frolicking about with wild abandon to a song which prominently features the expression, "Con los terroristas?" Does it not contradict their stated objective of combatting terrorism and undermine the image of the armed forces which top military commanders, including the President himself, would like to project?

Is it not ironic that media outlets who sold Americans on the logic of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars as a means to combat and prevent terrorism completely overlook this phrase in their discussions of the meme?

Out of the hundreds of thousands of words in the Spanish language, and millions of words in other languages, Baauer chose to use a sample which when translated to English means, "With the terrorists!" To further consider how subversive the use of this sample is, imagine a club full of people who when this song comes on, cheer and chant the phrase, "Con los terroristas!" then proceed to dance their brains and asses off. Or a free outdoor festival which features djs in which this song gets played, and a chorus of thousands of people bellows out, "Con los terroristas!" after which the crowd goes crazy.

While Americans may be limited by their monolingualism, the rest of the world is less so. Millions of Americans may not know what the meaning of the phrase is, but people throughout the rest of the world may find themselves reveling in a symbolic yet conscious act of subversion and defiance against the policies of the United States, and its President, who for many is barely distinguishable from the terrorists which he claims to be combatting and freeing the world of, due to his authorization of drone strikes which kill innocent civilians including women, children, and first responders who were merely assisting victims of the initial strike.

Some people may suggest that the words are meaningless. Yet a google search for "Which artist did Baauer sample on the Harlem Shake," demonstrates that people in fact attribute a lot of importance to words. The search turns up numerous discussions and links regarding the line, "Do the Harlem Shake, " attributed to Jayson Musson, which is delivered in a low, nearly imperceptible tone, whereas the line, "Con los terroristas" is high pitched and nearly impossible to miss. Some of these discussions go so far as to suggest that the Baauer song is about graffitti or that Jayson Musson himself, is the reason why people are dancing to The Harlem Shake.

I believe in, and have observed on occassion, the subconscious expression of sexual desire, and similarly believe in the subconscious expression of rebellion. I find it an intriguing possibility that the Harlem Shake viral phenomenon is a manifestation of a massive subconscious rebellion against the so called war on terrorism as articulated, constructed, and executed by the American government, which has led to wars in Afghanistan and Iraq that have cost hundreds of thousands of lives, trilliions of dollars, and have led the American government to legally justify physical torture and the extrajudicial execution of American citizens.

In an article titled, The Massacre of the Afghan 17 and the Obama Cover-Up, whose topic was selected as the 23rd most censored story by Project Censored for 2012, author James Petras discusses the implausibility of the official U.S. government story that a single deranged gunmen, Robert Bales, acted alone in the massacre of 17 Afghan villagers in Kandahar province on March 11, 2012, and the possibility that Barack Obama has conspired with the US military command to cover up the facts and hide the true nature of the war in Afghanistan.

Regarding the American troops, Petras writes, "They are engaged in a long, losing war where every dead US soldier is accompanied by scores who are maimed, blinded and mentally traumatized. In Obama's war, the wounded are patched up and recycled back into the same meat grinder in an increasingly hostile environment."

As to Obama's motivations for participating in the cover-up, Petras writes, "Obama has to conspire with the Pentagon in covering up this mass murder, defending the officers in charge of these 'pacified' villages, because there are no alternatives, no back-ups, no new recruits eager to engage in the 12th year of war in Afghanistan.There are only the re-cycled killers, willing to pursue their career in 'Special Forces' involving 'kill and destroy' operations...President Obama cannot allow an entire garrison, including their commanding officer to be put on trial for the war crimes in this massacre. Holding anyone, besides the hapless Sgt. Bales accountable for the massacre would incite a general rebellion within the armed forces."

Petras ends the article by writing, "Clearly prolonged colonial wars cannot be sustained through the consent of the citizens and such wars cannot be prosecuted according to military manuals and the Geneva Conventions. At this point, only Presidential 'rule by decree' can secure compliance of the citizens at home and only massacres and cover-ups can sustain the colonial occupations abroad. But these are desperate and temporary: When the extreme measures have run their course there will be nothing to fall back on and nothing can save the president of a collapsing empire from the revolt of its citizens and soldiers."

Since September 11th, 2001, I have been of the conviction that war as a response to terrorism is illogical and unjustifiable. It is a point of view that is rarely expressed in traditional media outlets. I believe it is a conclusion which Americans must collectively arrive at if we are to ascend above the military, economic, and moral quagmire we find ourselves in.

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Thursday, June 07, 2012

Salvemos A Mexico

Politicians have the ability to speak positively and confidently about anything, even if the situation is dire. Recently, I watched the Mexican presidential debate on, which roughly translates to, and the candidate for the party(PAN) which has turned Mexico into the decapitation capital of the world spoke about creating, security, peace, and economic prosperity. Do such people deserve reelection? 

According to UNESCO statistics, 28% of Mexicans of high school age, actually attend high school. Do the people(PAN and PRI) who have allowed this situation to persist for generations deserve reelection? Is it not farcical for a country to pretend to make strides towards becoming a developed country if 72% of its high school age population does not attend high school? Mexico also has the lowest economic growth in Latin America. 

The leftist candidate, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, aka AMLO, who can make a credible claim to actually having won the election of 2006, told a story-drawing a parallel to how the PRI candidate, Enrique Peña Nieto, is backed by television giant Televisa-about how after Mexico lost half of its territory to the U.S., Santa Ana fled to Colombia, yet the Mexican elites brought him back and installed him as President. They told him, "Don't worry. We own all the newspapers in Mexico City. We control public opinion."

Numerous countries in Latin America have elected leftist presidents who have given real hope to their populations, created real change, and asserted their country's sovereignty. It will be sad to see Mexico stay behind this wave of change for another six years with a government subservient to the U.S. , if either the PAN or PRI candidate wins.

Unfortunately, AMLO is a horrible debater in my estimation; half the time he barely answers the question and returns to his overall message about how Mexico is ruled by elites, and that Mexico must opt for real change. Perhaps the core of his success lies with his campaigning and not debating. He is surging in the polls. 

Hopefully, the wave of change that has swept Latin America will reach Mexico in 2012, the year of the Mayan prophecy. Otherwise, to echo the sentiments of the webpage creator, "Estamos de la chingada!" 

The next debate is June 10th, 2012.

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Thursday, May 03, 2012

May 1st, 2012

I live in dtla and have a good sense of what normal foot and vehicular traffic is like for any given time. On May 1st, foot traffic was very light. It's as if people purposely avoided working or shopping in dtla. The first march down Broadway I would estimate at no more than 4 thousand people. The second march down Broadway I would estimate at no more than 3 thousand people. The people gathered at Pershing Square at no more than 2 thousand people.

Yet there appeared to be just as many street closures and police officers, maybe even more, as there were in 2006 when I saw 500,000 people march down Broadway. It prompts a rational person to ask, what does the power structure fear?

In 2006, undocumented people were not questioning the system, merely asking for a just solution for their situation. Whereas the Occupy movement is asking for more equitable distribution and control of wealth, which may or may not be radical depending on one's perspective.

I spoke to an activist who informed me that the LAPD works with Homeland Security and other federal agencies. I had a vague notion of this, and it prompts an interesting question: How much influence and control does the federal government have over the LAPD versus how much control do local authorities have, and how does this shape how the LAPD responds to Occupy L.A?

Labels: , , , ,