Wednesday, April 26, 2017

When Was America Great? (For All Americans)

"Make America Great Again!" A very clever and dangerous campaign tactic from the far right. The phrase was most likely inspired by lessons learned from extreme right wing websites that post misnomers like this phrase all the time. Conservative websites have posted similar catch phrases about American culture that have been generally accepted by many including the infamous "All Lives Matter." A response to Black Lives Matter that again implied what is not true, that All Lives Matter, unless you are gay, lesbian, and transgendered. The same people who said All Lives Matter want to restrict their rights.

Why is Make American Great Again a mistruth that people generally accepted as the truth? Simply, it implies America was once great for all Americans. Ask yourself, when was this time in American History that America was great for everyone? The correct answer is never. American has always struggled with inequalities for many groups.

Its a common misconception. Ask a friend or relative, when was America Great? The answers will always be yes and reflect a time period that is special to them. For example, some may answer World War II, the "Greatest Generation Ever." Sure we won the war, and we did stop the spread of fascism. However was America great for all Americans during this time?  World War II was not so great for African Americans living in a segregated south fighting for Democracy. Nor was it great for Japanese Americans placed in internment camps on the west coast.

Some might suggest the Civil Rights Movement was another great time in
American History. Was it? Political assignations, Women's Rights and Pay Equality were examples of inequalities during this time period. (And Now) The South during this time experienced lynching's and church bombings. For many, this time was a terrifying time in American History.

The truth is America was never great for all Americans at any time in American History. It is ironic that since the phrase won the election for Trump, what have we witnessed legislation that is far from great. So far, we have seen executive orders or proposals to have more people go uninsured, the reversal of clean air and water legislation, and the complete cutting of the arts funding. Will this make America Great Again?

Make America Great Again demonstrates how na├»ve and foolish Americans are when it comes to our own plight. How can 62 million Americans believe in their mind that America was once great for all Americans without realizing such a time never existed? The truth is we have to help 62 million Americans understand they were duped by a very deliberate strategy from the far right. It is foolish to think we can convince all of them, however we have to reduce the number of Americans that fell prey to the manipulation by the far right. All the far right did was to tap into their patriotic feelings due to uncertainty in their minds that things are far from great. We can help American achieve greatness, but helping it understand that for some, America is not so great.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Does Rachel Maddow Really Care About Transparency?

This past week, Rachel Maddow's went after Donald Trump by focusing on leaked information regarding his 2005 tax return. Some may see her as a champion of progressive values and transparency, however I found the report to be hypocritical on many fronts.
  • Trump paid more in taxes than I would have imagined. In fact, there was no smoking gun. He produced thousands of jobs while paying a fair amount to the Federal Government in taxes. Yet, the reporting seemed to indicate a smoking gun. Trump made $150 million in 2005 and that he paid $38 million in taxes, which equaled about 25 percent of his income. In fact, Trump paid more in Federal taxes than previous Presidents.
  • Maddow risked counter arguments that poor people do not pay their fair share in taxes. Many people who perform a minimal amount of work and have children receive huge tax returns in lieu of not contributing their fair share of taxes. Her reporting actually validated stereotypes of the working poor.
  • Rachel Maddow works along side Al Sharpton who for years has owed millions in taxes to the Federal Government. She has never called her colleague to task for not paying his fair share of taxes. Why did Sharpton get a pass for not paying his taxes?

Maddow's reporting is symbolic of partisan politics. Transparency is important on both sides of the aisle. If Maddow wants to be credible, she needs to have the same standards for reporting whether you are a democrat or republican. Until then, she is exactly like her counterparts at Fox News.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Did James Franco and Seth Rogen Provide The Motivation For The Death Of Kim Jung-Nam?

While reading about Kim Jung-nam's death, I kept thinking to myself, this story line sounds familiar. It reminded me of the movie, The Interview starring Seth Rogen and James Franco. In case you did not follow the death of Kim Jung Nam, here is a recap of a what we know so far:

Two female assassins were sent to Malaysia to rub a nerve agent on Kim Jung Un's Brother. It went undetected. Kim died on the way to the hospital minutes after the attack with the nerve agent, which is tasteless, odorless, and kills by causing muscle spasms that ultimately prevent a victim from breathing.

The assassination is reminiscent of the movie the Interview. The James Franco-Seth Rogen film had as the major plot line an attempted assassination of Kim Jung Un by a nerve agent with similar abilities. Did Kim Jung Un attempt to send a message to Hollywood that the movie provide some inspiration for life imitating art? Was this his way of sending a message that he did not find the movie funny? The movie when released included many threats of revenge from the North Korean dictator.

This might sound a bit conspiratorial, however most political assassinations in North Korea are completed by line of fire. This was an unusual murder even by North Korean standards. It is plausible that this assassination had extended implications. This may have been an attempt by Kim Jung Un to let Hollywood, and the United States know that weapons of mass destruction can come in tiny packages, not just nuclear warheads. Some may think it was a coincidence, however the similarities to the movie are odd, and the message was clear. Be careful what you put out there Hollywood. Kim Jung Un is watching.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

The Irony Of Italian-Americans Who Fear Refugees

I am of Italian-American ancestry. I am proud of my heritage. I love the amazing stories from my father and mother regarding the adversity they faced as children regarding their immigrant roots. This was a cherished part of my life. I am the beneficiary of their struggles.
I grew up realizing that immigration changed the course of our lives. For my mom's side of the family, it literally was life saving. Our great Uncle was a judge in Sicily. My grandmother, who was 5 years old at the time was the survivor of a massacre at my great Uncle's wedding. She would come to America due to fear of the Sicilian mafia seeking revenge for a ruling my Uncle made against the mafia. This was not unusual at the turn of he 20th century. Many who immigrated from Italy wanted asylum to escape the mafia, fascism, and extreme poverty.
Knowing this, I would think that descendants of Italian-American immigrants would be welcoming of refuges. Right? Unfortunately, for descendants of such tyranny, this is not the case. In fact, the disturbing pattern emerges that is quite the opposite. Many Italian-Americans where quite xenophobic. Ironically, they are among the least welcoming people of refugees that I know. I would find myself asking, how could this happen?
Many I have questioned have been directly impacted by the media. My father, prior to his passing was a huge fan of Bill O'Reilly . I would ask him, "Dad, how could you share countless emails about banning immigrants with family and friends, when you yourself benefitted from immigration?" He would struggle to answer the question. Often times referring to quotes from Fox News as a resource. I learned that the power of the media on seniors is quite strong, often influence a strong reaction to anti-immigration rhetoric.
Before my father's passing he would listen, and eventually agree that there is no difference. In fact, today's refugees are far more peaceful than immigrants in the past. It took us awhile to come to terms with the facts versus the myths.
Another problem today that exists is that Italian-Immigrants often criticize today's refuges as violent Ironically, Italian-American immigrants were a murderous bunch. They were much more dangerous than today's refuges. They infiltrated law enforcement and supported gambling, bootlegging and the sale of drugs in the name of profit. They were so dangerous, our country had to enact RICO legislation to help overcome the violence and influence of the Italian mafia. In order for our country to right the wrongs of corruption, we had to knock out the influence of the Italian mafia. This is a fact that is well documented.

What makes the history of Italian-American ancestry so complicated is that Hollywood made Italian-American mafia families out to be grandeur, albeit violent. This made it okay in some ways to be in the mafia. However, thanks to Hollywood and today's media, this lack of historical perception has negative impacted how we perceive today's refuges.
Nothing can be farther from the truth regarding how safe today's procedures are when it comes to entering our country. Today's refugees are vetted and less likely to be anywhere near as violent as Italian-American immigrants. Yet, the myth is that today's refuges are a danger to our existence. Today's refuges are more likely to be like my father's side of the family that came over from Italy. They are seeking asylum from poverty and extreme circumstances. We can not fully understand without actually learning from the refuges why they are here. Their story is one of survival from similar horrific experiences that my grandmother experienced as a child. In some cases even worse.
Many descendants of Italian-American immigrants oddly share the same values.
Today's descendants fear what they do not know. For this reason, I am sharing my story, to help people understand how fear works. It causes us to accept a reality about refuges that simply is not true. It is up to this generation to change those fears into hope. It will be difficult during the next four years, however many are up to the task. We need to tear down the walls of mistrust, and help everyone realize what unites us with today's refuges. The bond that ties us together is our hope for humanity, not mistrust and misinformation.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Why You Should Attend The Refugee Solidarity Rally In Utica NY

Next Friday, the city of Utica will host a Refugee Solidarity Rally in Oneida Square. The community has created the event to rally support for our local refugees. Refugees have come to the Mohawk Valley and assimilated into our communities with great success. They are an integral part of our community. The rally is in response to the 120 day ban executed by our current President. The ban has created fear and anxiety for refugees in our area, and the rest of the United States.

By attending the event, you help tear down the walls of intolerance. Too many people in the Mohawk Valley believe what they see on TV versus what we see in our communities regarding refugees coming to our country. Utica is a shining example of how refugees have assimilated into our society. They helped Utica rebound from years of population loss. They bought the absentee owner homes and returned them to single family ownership. They work hard, own business, and have helped revitalize Utica. Yet if you speak to some people in our community, they believe somehow refugees are a threat to our country.

Rallies like this can help reduce suspicions of refugees based on media bias. National newspapers and magazines have documented the Utica miracle. A rust belt city that has come alive with diversity and renewal. We need to share their story with our families, especially those who doubt that refugees should be allowed to enter our country. Education is the key to ending intolerance towards refugees.

Too many people forget that our ancestors were refugees facing similar plights. They went through similar examples of intolerance. Yet, they overcame huge obstacles and provided us with opportunities thanks to political asylum granted by our government. It was the previous generation that fought intolerance, and helped many in need become the leaders we have today in the Mohawk Valley. The same is true today. By supporting refugees, we support the future of the Mohawk Valley. It is now our turn to rally for refugees currently struggling with intolerance from our government.

The rally will be from 4-7pm in Oneida Square in Utica NY. If you would like more information, here is the link to the Facebook page:

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Mohawk Valley Refugee Resettlement Center Needs Your Help

If you were one of the people that strongly believed that President Trump's election was grossly exaggerated by Democrats, you may want to think again. He is quickly proving that his actions have been quick and decisive. He has signed executive orders that impacted water, air and land quality. We will begin to build the wall. All issues that will eventually impact our area, but may not be seen right away.

There is one possible executive order that will have an immediate impact on our area. According to reports from major newspapers, the Trump administration is considering executive orders that will directly impact the Mohawk Valley Refugee Center. While the details are not clear, the Trump administration has indicated it would suspend the refugee program nationwide for 120 days. He will most likely ask for revisions of entry laws, and possibly ban refugees from countries like Syria from entering at all.

His legislation goes beyond resettlement. He would also extend the Federal Government's outreach to visa programs from our Muslim and European allies. Some countries may follow suit with such a nationalistic policy shift.  With borders closing, this may lead to large scale crises around the world.

Locally, many have credited the revitalization of Utica NY to refugee resettlement. The impact can be seen all over the city. They buy decaying properties and redevelop them. They open new businesses and have become a positive part of the Utica cultural scene. Major media outlets have recognized Utica as a positive example of refugee resettlement. Unfortunately, Utica has been lumped into the misinformation during the election of sanctuary cities across the United States. While people in the Mohawk Valley voted for President Trump, did they realize how their vote would impact the local refugee resettlement center? This is an example how "Making America Great Again" has marginalized our area, and the rest of the country.

What can you do to support the Mohawk Valley Refugee Center?
  1. If you live in New Yorks 22nd Congressional District, please contact Representative Claudia Tenney's office at 202.225.3665
  2. Chuck Schumer can be reached at (518)- 431-4070. Fax: (518) 431-4076
  3. Sign the petition:
  4. Or:

Friday, January 6, 2017

Maximum Wage Laws - Spread The News.....

Before I started to write this article, I reflected upon the reality that exists where I live in which is Upstate New York. From Albany to Buffa
lo, economic disparities have led to massive urban decay. Cities in the rust belt have millions living in poverty. This poverty is surrounded by rural communities that the rich escape the harsh realities of the city. They build large mansions and benefit from property tax inequalities that exist in Upstate New York. Many smaller hamlets have extreme poverty. W
ithin these communities you will find staunch advocates of Donald Trump and neo conservative policies. While they are poor and living check to check, they advocate to "drain the swamp" without any realization they live in the swamp. The basis of all of this poverty is systemic. One of the basic problems is income inequality. They drive by the mansions admiring the rich, without realizing that the problem is right in front of them.

What would happen if people asked themselves some basic questions about how rich, is too rich? For example, how many mansions should one have in a lifetime? How about luxury cars and boats? It seems that luxuries never come to mind when it come to the question, how much is too much? In fact, look at our new President. He has residences all around the world. Some he may never step in for years. Each home has gardeners, and housekeepers. All low wage earners, ensuring his lifestyle is well taken care of. Yet no one thinks this is odd.

In the United States, as in many countries with wealth disparities, the possibilities are endless. We have millions living paycheck to paycheck, while less than one percent of the population enjoys massive amounts of wealth. This use to be a formula for revolution. Instead, what was once a rallying cry for change, is now a rallying cry to run for President. The rich deserve to be rich. It is un-American to advocate for fair wages, or income redistribution.

Don't believe me? Want to call me a crazy left winger? Before you do, the facts are as follows:

Since 1995. the wealth inequality gap in the U.S. has been steadily widening. Ultra-wealthy Americans, the 0.01%, accounting for about 16,000 families control about 11.2% of the total wealth in the U.S. That's up from 5% in 1995.

Meanwhile home ownership for the middle class and poor has reached it'
s lowest levels. This is the American economy of the 21st century. Yet we think this is normal.

Our economy strongly relies on the minimum wage in order to support those with a maximum wage's lifestyle. Over the past 20 years, we have seen the slowest growth of wages in our nation's history. Yet, the rich continue to get richer. There is no cap on what one can earn, yet there is a cap on what should be paid regarding general labor.

Could the United States benefit from maximum wage laws? By capping the wages on our highest earners, this would allow for lower income wages to improve. The problem is that this kind of legislation is not even on the radar of our legislators. Is it even possible for our society to place a cap on income? Could we limit wealth?

We have to create a platform of discussion. People need to ask themselves, what good comes from excessive or inherited wealth? How does this benefit me? They will realize it does not. Instead, people believe in trickle down theories. Somehow, we benefit from the rich getting richer. Yet all the data concludes quite the opposite.

The truth is that wages are impacted by extreme wealth. For example, the Walton family of Wal Mart fame have built an empire from low wage jobs. Most decedents of Sam Wal Mart are billionaires. Mostly by inherited wealth. How does this benefit anyone including the Waltons? They live a life of buying and consuming for the sake of tax shelters. Not exactly the best use of resources.

It is not just the Waltons, the same can be found in many corporate models ruled by dynastic rule. Yet, for the most part, it goes unchallenged in our society. 

The time has come for a discussion about extreme wealth in our country. Especially now. Our new President's cabinet will be representative of dynastic families. Social policies will continue to benefit the super rich. As the extremes become more apparent, and wealthy communities become more gated and secure from our observations, we have to reach out to non-believers and ask them to consider that an alternate reality exists when it comes to income inequality. We also have to ask people to examine their own realities and the perceptions that led us as a nation to allow such disparities to  exist.

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