How It Be In The D

February 28, 2008

Hell No, Kwame Must Go!

As of yesterday, the Michigan Supreme Court refused to hear the appeal to keep the text messages quiet. This is yet another obstacle in maintaining Kwame Kilpatrick’s futile attempt at hiding from the truth.

As a reluctant taxpayer (as somebody working in Detroit, I must pay city tax), I feel disgusted that he thinks that it’s business as usual. It is his business as usual that put him in his current situation and cost Detroit at least $9 million. People forget about the additional cost of his lawyers during the whistleblower trial, his lawyers during the trial to keep the text messages quiet and those of the media. For as much as naively supportive residents credit Kilpatrick for bringing in money and business to Detroit, he used it up during these avoidable lawsuits.

I’m pissed off at what Kilpatrick and other Detroiters mean when they say, “You don’t live here.” Well hell, neither do some of the City Council. These sheep make it sound like suburbanites are completely ignorant or don’t matter. Detroit sure as hell takes the suburbs’ money through the casinos as well as Tigers, Red Wings and Lions games. If these idiots say it, then mean it! Give the suburbanites their money back and see how the city functions. Let’s admit it-the average Detroiter doesn’t have the disposable income to engage in these pursuits. I would be interested to see statistics on how many suburbanites (percentages) at athletic events or at the casinos. I think that it’d be very interesting.

I think that it’s foolish to believe that business people will work with Kilpatrick. For me, it is still uncertain whether he will remain in power. It could honestly go either way. How can you make long-term plans with somebody that might not be around. In addition, I think that it’s fairly clear that he can’t handle his foolishness. If I were a business person, I wouldn’t want to work with somebody indiscreet and irresponsible. Lastly, why bring business to a city whose own mayor gave it a black eye? I hate to say it-until this whole thing is resolved (not blown over), I can’t imagine anybody wanting anything to do with Kilpatrick or the city.

Honestly, I’m very disturbed at his delusions. He thinks that this is a test from God. He thinks that this is just about his affair. He says that the white media is out to get a black mayor. He thinks that internal communications between staff is not protected though his should be. He thinks that this is just about forgiveness and not also about some potentially serious crimes that he can still be charged with. Kilpatrick is in denial, a liar or a fool.

As far as I’m concerned, this needs to end now! When Detroit is struggling to lose its reputation as the most dangerous city in the US, trying to get through one of its worst periods and trying to reclaim its former glory, it can have no distractions, which Kilpatrick is. Instead of trying to wipe up Kilpatrick’s shannigans, City Council and the Wayne County prosecutor needs to handle its real business: protecting the City of Detroit and Wayne County. Part of it includes removing one of this area’s liability: Kwame Kilpatrick.

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February 19, 2008

Mi Casa Es Su Casa?

Just a few days ago, I read a very fascinating interview with Jessica Alba in Latina. In it, she addressed many of the accusations and insinuations that she’s not latina enough. I admit that I was one of the people that were against her. I remember how Alba’s father said how he didn’t speak “Mexican.” At first, I thought that it was ignorance. However, after reading the article, I saw that the ignorance wasn’t her father’s but mine.

The gist of why Alba isn’t latina enough had to do with two things: her being multi-ethnic and not being raised around Spanish. At one time being a part of different worlds and yet never being completely accepted by any. Her story is that of many latinos in the United States.

The strange thing about the lack of acceptance is that it’s not just confined to those people that are multi-ethnic but even those that are 100%. I’ve had situations involving groups in SW Detroit where I haven’t been accepted despite being 100% Mexican, speaking the language pretty fluently (minored in Hispanic Studies) and having been back to Mexico a number of times. The fact that I don’t dress the part or that I speak with a different accent makes me an outsider. I have been punished for leaving the group.

I’m calling for everybody to get past their ignorance, respect everybody and listen to others’ stories. While we might have taken different journeys, we’re all going toward the same destination. All that we want is acceptance. If we can’t be accepted by our own, then how can we be accepted by others?

August 31, 2007

So what is “Hispanic?”

Lately, I have begun to think about this a lot. Maybe it’s because I read my girlfriend’s Latina. Maybe it’s from hanging out with my girlfriend’s crew-one pocket is comprised of a good number of Spanish speaking people. So whether it has to do with somebody speaking Spanish or their last name being a Spanish one I have to ask myself, “So what is ‘Hispanic?’ ”

When I visit Mexicantown in Southwest Detroit, I sometime feel like I’m a world apart from its residents, which is funny because many of my childhood’s fondest memories are tied to some of Mexicantown’s well known locations. Around fifth grade, I lose the think Spanish accent that I carried from kindergarten up until that point. I don’t have a low rider and don’t have any real interest in them. I don’t have a single tattoo. I don’t have a Mexican flag flying off of my car or anything with the Mexican flag on it. I still speak the language and can read it, although I can definitely say that English is my stronger language. I wonder, “Am I still Hispanic?”

I can honestly say that some in the Hispanic community would consider people like me “sell-outs”-something comparable to the Hispanic version of an Uncle Tom. The moment that I learned to impeccably speak and write in English and lost my connection to those images that some associate with being Hispanic was the moment that I lost my culture. The funny thing is that it wasn’t anything conscious or anything imposed on me by my parents. My parents weren’t the type of Mexican parents that prize assimilation so much that they rob their children of any ties to their culture and instead leave them with the homogenization that is American culture.

For the record, I don’t consider myself assimilated. I’d prefer to call myself integrated. I say this because, while I consider myself as American as the rock music that I listen to, I also have a strong sense of my Mexican roots. I am fortunate enough that I have been to Mexico numerous times. I know who my family is over there and communicate semi-regularly with them. I’m very familiar with the food and have a working knowledge of the customs. I am Mexican and American at the same time.

I think that the excessive worry about what our culture is stems from the conflict between a culture (American) that devours elements of other cultures and another (Hispanic) that has a distinct sense of what it is. You have the fear of American culture and the sometime blind stubbornness of the Hispanic one for not accepting the other as much as they themselves would wish. Hispanics should worry about losing sense of themselves and Americans shouldn’t wish Hispanics to lose their connections.

Before Hispanics can fully reconcile their Americanness, I feel that they should recognize the fact that the definition of what it is to be Hispanic has been changed. For me, there isn’t one definition. Hispanics are those that immigrated to the United States. Hispanics are those that are children of immigrants. Hispanics are also a mixture of various bloods flowing through their veins. Hispanics are light-complected or as dark as dark can be. Hispanics are all of these things.

January 23, 2007

Am I My Brother’s Keeper?

One of the things that I’ve noticed about our modernized, individualistic society is the lack of consideration for those around us. Look at cell phones. When those lovely Nextel phones came out with the “chirp” function and were cool…at first. I knew a few people that had one. However, they quickly became annoying when the owners set the volume too high, forcing us to listen to their innocuous conversations. How could we not? They never bothered to lower the volume.

In addition to people talking on their cell phones, there is also the matter of how they also drive at the same time. At present, I work out in Detroit’s East Side. As a suburbanite, I was used to people using their blinkers and obeying traffic lights. However, once that I started working at my current job, I started seeing people blowing red lights. People will drive around as theylook for a parking spot and talking on their cell phones. Effectively, making them clueless about their surroundings.

Unfortunately, these examples of inappropriate cell phone use bring up what I feel is our problem-society’s overemphasis on the individual. We must move away from the belief that the world revolves around us. Yes, turn that damned phone down because everybody hears your business. If you’re driving and talking on the phone, you’re most likely going to be distracted. You’re not half as good at doing both as you think. Also, try to stop on a red light. If you don’t, are you ready to face the potential consequences of doing so? Yes indeed. I am my brother’s keeper.

December 15, 2006

Detroit-A Rural City?

I once heard someone at a party say perhaps one of the most fascinating and profound statements that I think summarizes Detroit. He said that he almost thought of the City as a rural town. At first, his logic didn’t make sense though it became clearer as he went on. He said that if you look at Detroit that it depends heavily on the suburbs. Mornings welcome people to the image of the massive surge of people—those people going to work at the office. Evenings are slowed down by the mass exodus of people returning to their homes in the suburbs. The ability to purchase goods is practically non-existent. Many residents venture to the shopping centers in the suburbs. While there are some shops, they don’t address most of the needs of the City’s residents. Detroit can no longer sustain itself independently as if once could.

One thing that I don’t like is when everybody slams Detroit. The suburbs are full of critics who know little if anything about the goings-on in the City. However, this gentleman was until recently a Detroit resident. Also, the more that I thought about what he said the more that he made sense. No matter what anybody says, Detroit is isolated and nothing without the suburbs.

During the course of traveling through Detroit for pleasure or for work, I have seen various segments of the City. Of course, I’ve seen some impoverished areas—houses with big holes in the roofs, burned out houses and streets littered with trash, discarded furniture and other remnants of things that people forgot about long ago. I have also seen rehabilitated areas that show promise. Nonetheless, I cannot yet say that the rehabilitated areas are representative of Detroit as a whole.

At the expense of simplifying Detroit’s troubles, I won’t provide answers—for the simple fact that I don’t have very many. While I am learning more about Detroit, I don’t know everything. I don’t think that anybody does. Also, one thing that I’ve learned about Detroit residents is that they don’t fit neatly into a box. The news would have you believe that Detroiters are muggers and murderers attacking anything and everything that walks the streets. This statement describes a portion of Detroit residents but not all. I don’t think that I could do justice to describing those residents that have stayed and are at the front lines in the struggle to bring Detroit back to its former majesty. I wish that I could say that I was one of them. However, my parents felt that they had no choice but to move in order to provide my brothers and me opportunities that we would not have had otherwise.

Whether we care to admit it, Detroit is isolated. Many of Detroit’s residents have left the City. Stores and business abandoned it. The media has condemned it. People come to work in Detroit but don’t live there. The sad reality is that the City is on life support. If we don’t do anything about it, then Detroit will continue to crumble until there is nothing left but the historical markers that designate the only places worth keeping. Detroit deserves more.

November 21, 2006

Like A Shepherd after the Sheep

To me, ideologies are strange things. You might look at them as a way of thinking that a particular group of people has in common—the bond uniting them and informs their course of action. You could also look at ideologies as a way of thinking that groups of fanatics have in common—coloring their perspective and preventing them from seeing anything than what they have been told to be true.

Ideologies were past fall 2006 elections. It was the first time in 27 years that I actually took an interest in the political process. Unfortunately, for much too long, I was the characteristic young person that was apathetic and didn’t realize the immense honor, privilege and power of voting. I was especially interested in the way that people would toss around labels: Republican, Democrat, liberal, conservative, right and left. It really wasn’t that surprising considering that we, human beings, thrive on categorizing everything that we encounter. For anything to make sense, it needs a label and a description. Those above mentioned labels and others were certainly not an exception.

For the record, I consider myself a moderate although leaning slightly conservative. There, I did it! I labeled myself. In all seriousness, I pride myself on the fact that I try to listen to what people say. I absorb what they say, analyze it according to what I know, believe and what makes sense, and then issue my interpretation. The issues and above all the proposals on the ballot are sometime difficult to interpret. Nonetheless, human beings make their very best efforts.

If you’re interested in labels, I’ll toss out another one: sheep. Sheep are what I call people that always vote straight Republican, Democrat or whatever their affiliation is. Sheep are the people that think Republicans are right and Democrats are liberals out to ruin the country or vice versa. Sheep are people who vote based on the party and not so much on the person’s qualification or ability to do their job. Sheep are loyal foot soldiers that follow group ideology without ever questioning. Questioned be damned. Nothing must disturb the status quo.

This critique is not directed against any one group of people except sheep in general. I have seen sheep that are Republican, Democrats, liberals, conservatives and right wing or left. It was amusing listening to sheep debate with other sheep or with open-minded people because they were right and everybody else was wrong.

While I do have my positions and stick by them, I’m also willing to hear out other people. I believe that everybody has something worth hearing and give them the benefit of the doubt to do so. I can remember times when I might not have agreed with somebody before hearing them and then switching over to their side. Am I a traitor for doing so? I don’t think so. A valid position worth believing is precisely that. Whatever my party affiliation or ideology is always subject to change because I know that I do not have all the answers. I think that once people can admit that no one ideology holds all the answers and that the other side might possibly be able to make better sense than they can will sheep cease to exist. Remember that sheep are creatures that are led by a man with a long curved walking stick. I don’t know about any of you but I am happy guiding myself. I don’t need anybody’s walking stick to tell me what I believe.

November 8, 2006

Smarter minds have prevailed

I was very happy to hear that Dick DeVos will not be our governor. The state of Michigan has spoken and enough people have decided to give Gov. Granholm an other chance to lead our state

I will reiterate something that I have said often in public. While I think that there might have been things that Granholm could have done, I don ‘t think that she failed in enough things to as DeVos would say to remove her from her job. For those people that vote straight Republican regardless of who the best candidate is and those that will not listen to anybody that isn’t a Republican, they seemed to forget that Granholm inherited John Engler’s legacy of a huge deficit. As I would say, when somebody has horrendous credit because of past actions, it isn’t fixed overnight. It takes a long period of time and will probably mean bumps along the way. It is the same thing with Michigan. We are experiencing some significant ones on our way to recovery.

I do believe in Gov. Granholm’s platform. Diversifying jobs is the best way to go. For way too long, Michigan has put its eggs all in one basket-meaning manufacturing, particularly the automobile industry. I am not suggesting that we abandon the auto industry. My father was employed by GM and I owe my life to GM. Having said that, the Big 3 are no longer the big dogs. They have competition left and right from companies that didn’t exist 30 years ago or from countries that we never could have imagined manufacturing cars.

Also, we need better education for our workers. The days of dropping out of school and getting a good job in a plant or working on the line are long gone. Not only do many of our workers require at least a high school diploma or GED, they in reality need at least a bacherlor’s degree. It is the new GED.

I can only hope that my optimism isn’t misplaced. We had only two viable candidates. I wasn’t about to vote for someone (DeVos) whose primary strategy and statements preying on Michigan’s discontent and attacking Gov. Granholm. Take that away and he had nothing. Enough smarter minds prevailed that they made the best, possible choice.

October 31, 2006

Who’s the Vos?

Like many in Michigan, I recognize our desperation. It is during these times that politicians as gubernatorial hopeful, Dick DeVos, present themselves as messiahs—someone coming out of nowhere to rescue us and restore.

Our present situation reminds me of Nicolo Machiavelli’s The Prince, where he says, “for men change their rulers willingly, hoping to better themselves and this hope induces them to take up arms against him who rules: wherein they are deceived, because they afterwards find by experience they have gone from bad to worse.” DeVos is this type of politician trying to play off dissatisfaction. I question whether he has a viable alternative to offer Michigan.

If the debates were an indication of his competency, then DeVos is not our man. Through the three debates, he seemed stiff and unprepared. Without his scripted commercials, DeVos could not think on his feet. His answers consisted of attacking Governor Granholm and offered nothing that I could grasp onto. I thought that maybe in his eagerness, DeVos forgot that debates are about candidates answering questions to demonstrate their platform, which he has failed to do.

Besides the attacks, DeVos made some unreasonable statements. One of the worst was during the Tuesday, October 10th debate. Following Gov. Granholm expressing her interest to provide affordable health care, DeVos said that people could obtain it by working. Granholm retorted that there are plenty of working people that are unable to do so. She followed up by accusing DeVos of contracting temporary workers at Amway so that he wouldn’t have to pay them insurance. His weak, poorly thought statement left his jugular open to Gov. Granholm.

I was surprised by DeVos’ failure to capitalize on Michigander’s unhappiness. The brunt of his earlier commercials was directed toward Gov. Granholm’s failure to “do her job.” His assertion that her failure to bring us out of these difficult times and his being the leading gubernatorial challenger should make him governor is unconvincing. Besides stating the obvious, I don’t feel that DeVos said new. So Gov. Granholm might have failed us, why should I vote for him? What will he do to not fail us? The allegation that she hasn’t done enough isn’t reason enough for me to vote for DeVos.

While Gov. Granholm might not have done everything possible, she has at least talked a good game. While DeVos maintained that people can get insurance through employment, Granholm mentioned MI First, her proposed plan modeled after one in Massachusetts, where lower-income people and other uninnsured could have access. Furthermore, she said that she would work to assist business in providing health care, since we are one of the few industrialized countries where manufacturers are obligated to cover their workers and not the government; thus, raising the prices on many goods—especially automobiles. Lastly, one of Granholm’s priorities is diversifying Michigan’s economy by focusing on four industries: life sciences, homeland security, advanced manufacturing and alternative fuel manufacturing. Toward this goal, community colleges and MI Works offices would work to certify workers and to further educate them. Also, she said that she looks to institute tax cuts for industries that would stay in Michigan.

All in all, DeVos has failed to live up to his potential as someone that I would voted for. I don’t buy into the propaganda that Gov. Granholm has failed. Michigan seems to forget that when gas prices rose, she held gas stations accountable for price gouging. Additionally, Granholm inherited a monstrous budget deficit from her predecessor, John Engler. Her budget cuts coupled with disappearing jobs resulted in a ripple effect. If nothing else, we are learning that manufacturing alone cannot be our sole salvation. DeVos’ commercials attacking Gov. Granholm has not addressed the issues, serving to illustrate how he does not truly understand Michigan’s problems. This above everything else shows me that he cannot be governor.

October 20, 2006

Na, na, na, na…Hey, hey, hey goodbye

There were few people in the Detroit area not succumbing to the collective elation at the Tiger’s sweeping the Oakland Athletics, which has now taken them to the World Series. However, the Tigers’ miraculous turnaround during the 2005-2006 baseball season was due to some of the most basic, overlooked elements of the game: teamwork and chemistry. Their battle against the Yankees is an example of this statement.

For much of the last 10 years during which they had a resurgence, the New York Yankees have endured the public’s dislike. Their perception as being one bought by George Steinbrenner is due to them having one of the highest payrolls (around $194 million). This payroll has allowed them to snap up free agents and star players from other teams such as pitchers David Wells, Roger Clemens and Randy Johnson; sluggers Jason Giambi and Alex Rodriguez; and, former Boston Red Sox centerfielder Johnny Damon. While Steinbrenner has been successful at recruiting players long enough to win championships (his sole intention), he has not kept them together in a cohesive unit. What is missing is commitment to the idea of being part of something bigger than themselves.

On the polar opposite are the Detroit Tigers. They differ from superstar teams in several ways. Except for maybe (catcher) Ivan “Pudge” Rodríguez, the Tigers didn’t acquire known superstars. At the beginning of 2005-2006 season, most of the key players on the team were relative unknowns or people written off by other teams. Every one of the Tigers acquisitions or trades was made with the intention of adding to a puzzle. While superstar teams’ strategy has been to acquire superstars and overwhelm opposing teams, the Tigers were about acquiring great players who, in the context of a team, became greater.

Another huge difference was manager Jim Leyland. His importance cannot be underestimated. Leyland started off as a Tigers catcher and spent six seasons as a minor leaguer until acquiring his first minor league coaching position in 1970. From then on, Leyland coached in the Tigers’ minor league system until 1982 and leaving to become Tony LaRussa’s third base coach (1982-1985) for the Chicago White Sox. Subsequently, he managed the Pittsburgh Pirates (1986-1996), became Manager of the Year (1990, 1992) and took them to the National League Championship Series (1990-1992) though losing all three times. In 1997, Leyland was hired to manage the Florida Marlins, leading them to their first championship though they were only around for five years. He stayed on until 1998 and left to coach the Colorado Rockies (1999). Leyland didn’t have another coaching position until being rehired into the Tigers’ organization in 2005 as manager. Many people, including the Tigers’ commentators have attributed his tough, no-nonsense coaching style to his 11 years as a minor league coach, which taught him the coaching fundamentals that other coaches learn along the way once reaching the major league level. While Leyland had successful with Pittsburgh and Colorado, it wasn’t recognized until he rejoined the Tigers

His strong relationship with the players allowed him to nurture many of the younger ones into confident athletes able to stare down much more recognized teams and removed their egos from the team equation and utilize the older players’ experience. Leyland was as able to chastise players not performing to his level of high excellence as to leave a troubled pitcher to extricate himself. To summarize up how the players regard him, Brandon Inge (third baseman) was quoted in the ESPN biography on Leyland, regarding his commenting on Kirby Puckett’s death, “This guy [Leyland] right here didn’t even know Kirby Puckett very well and is going to break down over him because he meant so much to the game. Then, you know he’s gonna care about every one of us in the clubhouse. That right there was the moment everybody in the clubhouse was like ‘Wow, we’ll play to our death for this guy.’ ” Players grew to know that Leyland always knew what he was doing and never questioned his decisions. The decisions as well as his and the players’ arrivals were part of bigger picture—achieving big success through building upon small ones.

While Tigers’ long-suffering fans might owe their team’s victory to a “miracle,” it was anything but that. The Tigers reaching the World Series was due to the fundamentals of sportsmanship: putting the team above the individual. When Sean Casey (first baseman) was on the disabled list because of a torn calf, Pudge Rodriguez volunteered to replace him. Leyland, though grateful for the gesture, told him that he would be much better as catcher. I cannot think of any such incident in recent sports memory.

Also, Leyland and his players finally came into their own. He found a group of players that were ripe with potential though it was not able to fully develop. Leyland’s gruff honesty yet quiet nurturing allowed his players to feel motivated enough to give nothing less than their best, complete effort and last and not least to just have fun. Hard work hardly seems worthwhile without enjoying its benefits.

It might have taken 22 years for the Tigers to reach the pinnacle but long overdue. Their victory can serve as nothing less but a lesson to managers on how to lead players and players to follow their manager’s direction. Teams not superstars achieve consistent victory. It cannot be prima donna players that call the shots but strong, competent management. If players and management forget these lessons, then they will find themselves in the seemingly bottomless pit of mediocrity and unable to get out of it unless they remember these lessons and hold them central to what they do.

September 29, 2006

Whatever Happened to Ellis Island?

For 62 years, Ellis Island, the first federal immigration station, served as a beacon drawing newly arrived immigrants to the United States. Second to the Statue of Liberty, it was one of the most recognized icons for immigrants.

Ellis Island helped to regulate the flow of immigrants through its screening process. First of all, immigrants needed to have the required papers in order. Then, they would go to the Registry Room, where they would submit to a medical inspection, as administered through doctors with the US Public Health Service. Their ship’s manifest would include their name as well as their answers to 29 questions. This information served to help the agents cross examine the immigrants. Only people that passed the health standards or demonstrated that they would not be a burden to the public or be an illegal laborer could pass through as US citizens. From this point forward, each incoming immigrant’s history would detail their point of origin and their subsequent date of entry.

So why is it now so complicated to track people coming into the country? Even after all of these years, there are numbers of Americans that can trace their ancestry to at least one person entering through Ellis Island. Can the same thing still be said about people coming into the United States? Do we still have that same ability to track them back to their specific point of entry and point of origin? Ellis Island helped to establish the paper trail, which began their new identity as Americans.

One of the major problems that the United States has is its inability to track everybody arriving in the United States, which includes those that would do harm. One of the things that the 9/11 attacks and other terrorist activities has shown is that not all of the terrorists entered here illegally. For example, Mohammed Atta (United Airlines 11-NYC) and Marwan Alshedhi (United Airlines 175-NYC) entered legally using visitor visas. After it became public that some of the terrorists entered with visas, then local, state and federal authorities started rounding up people who had overstayed their visas. It took 9/11 to motivate the government to start working on tracking people using visas to enter the United States.

Before anything else is done regarding immigration, policy changes start with regulating the flow of traffic. Whether the United States decides on deportation or amnesty, there is no way to do either without first of all cutting back on the people entering to allow us time to figure out what to do with current illegal immigrants. If they are to be deported, then the people that overstayed their visas or otherwise illegally entered must be located.

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