December 12th: Dia de la Virgen de Guadalupe

Today is December 12th, a day in which the entire Spanish language world pays tribute to La Virgen de Guadalupe. Special masses were being said today in Buenos Aires, Madrid, and Mexico City. And, of course, in San Fernando, California, my hometown—and, nowadays, here in Seattle too.

December 12th was hard to overlook, when I was a boy, because we rose early in the morning, before dark, to attend “Las Mañanitas,” sung full throat by hundreds of Mexicans jammed into our Santa Rosa Church. We sang “Las Mañanitas” because it was her birthday. When I was in my 20s, mariachi musicians became accepted as part of the musical tributes, which had been entirely religious up to that point. I remember attending a December 12th mass in Tijuana in the early 1970s, when I was in a very emotional period, and feeling gratified and comforted by it. I’ve witnessed the overwhelmingly exotic December 12th festivities in the famous Basilica in Mexico City many times too.

There is a fascinating story that gave rise to the culto, or the sum total of devotional happenings, around La Virgen de Guadalupe. Legend has it that she appeared about 15 or so years after Hernan Cortes, in the company of his fellow Spaniards, conquered Tenochtitlan, the Aztec capital. It was a bloody conquest, of course, and a spiritual one too: it was Catholicism over Aztec paganism, which had included human sacrifice. Many people heralded the Spanish victory with mystical significance even though the winners were no more than a bunch of bawdy and rough-hewn Iberians who didn’t know what they were getting into.

The basic point here is that the legendary appearances, which form the core of the culto, served to solidify the conquest psychologically. Historical studies show that the subjugated Indians became more willing to abandon their ancient beliefs and begin to accept Spanish Christian ones, after word spread about the Guadalupe appearances.

There is a mountain of historical information about this, but suffice to say here that December 12th always tugs at my heart and soul even though my religious fervor cooled long ago. Nevertheless, I still remember and pine for those old feelings. They’re so comforting.

 

My Experience with Meniere’s Syndrome : Carlos B. Gil

I’ve had Meniere’s Syndrome for more than 30 years and I’ve learned to live with it because I had no choice. I call it my Dizzies. My family knows about it well; they too live with my Meniere’s. I won’t die from it but I will die with it.

What Meniere’s Syndrome is to me:

I began having disquieting vertigo in the 1980s which sent me to my doctors at Group Health (now Kaiser Permanente) who diagnosed it soon enough. For unknown reasons my left inner ear canal had become extra sensitive to its liquid filling, they said, and the reaction of the canal’s cilia to the pressure caused my vertigo, or dizziness, and lack of balance. (Meniere’s causes loss of hearing and so I’m half deaf in my left ear.) In order to be well I needed to reduce the pressure inside my inner ear.     What I had to do:

In order to lower the pressure I had to reduce my salt intake dramatically or undergo what I considered dubious surgery. Salt or sodium helps retain water or liquid therefore increases the pressure. In reducing my salt, or sodium intake (salt is mostly sodium chloride), the doctors told me to aim at consuming no more than 1500 milligrams of sodium per day. Just to give me an idea, they informed me that one teaspoon of salt contains 2,325 mgs of sodium and one piece of bacon contains about 900 mgs. The doctors also prescribed a water pill a day, minimum, because it would make me pee more than usual, thus reducing the liquid pressure in my body including my inner ear.

It took me a long time to discover how to keep my sodium intake at less than 1500 milligrams, and the doctors didn’t help me with the details. I had to learn on my own. I caught on after lots of dizzy episodes that usually turned into bouts of nausea and vomiting, in addition to the consequent loss of energy. It also took me a long time to begin to learn the rhythm that my body had to go through in these episodes: the dizziness, then the nausea followed by intense vomiting, then wanting to sleep, then the slow repair of my body accompanied by extremely carefully eating. Each episode included these stages. I call it “falling off the cliff.”       In my case, each episode took about four to 5 days to take its full course.

Where sodium resides: 

Slowly and painfully, I learned about sodium, and where it resides. I made enough lists and notes that I can tell you approximately how much sodium naturally resides in fish or meat, etc., without having to look it up. A lot of food contains sodium even before you cook it or season it. Most bottled or canned ingredients already contain sodium, and beware of baking powder and baking soda! Furthermore, sea salt is salt, pink salt is salt. Any kind of salt is salt; not for me.  I use substitute salt, a very important dietary aid. It is made of potassium chloride and I understand that overdoses or under doses can send you to the hospital. In my case, my water pill expels potassium so whatever salt substitute I add manually evens things out. I medically check my sodium and potassium twice a year.

For me, at least, limiting my sodium intake and taking a water pill a day has helped me stay on an even keel. If I take these measures, steadily, I can control my normality. I walk, I jog, I ride my bike, get on the roof if necessary, and so on.

How I adjusted my eating habits:

I learned soon enough that the safest eating for me was at home, and since I had already learned to cook, I took over the kitchen with greater intent.

However, I’m not a hermit. I may be retired, but I do have to go out every so often, and that means I have to eat out. In fact, I like to eat out, and that’s where the risks begin.

So, I learned to eat out with great care. I became more aware than ever about how restaurants in the U.S. prepare their food; that most do not prepare their fare from scratch; it comes into their kitchens through the back door, semi-prepared and duly salted already. Almost all franchise operations do this, from McDonalds and Burger Kings and IHOPs to Red Robins, Red Lobsters, Applebee’s, and Denny’s. I began making mental lists of eateries that can cook from scratch; they are usually more expensive, but they also serve better food. These non-franchise eateries don’t have crowds of waiting patrons, and their kitchens are more liable to respond to my requests.

Menieres seafood restaurant

I also discovered that chefs don’t always listen to their waiters or waitresses. You can tell your server, “no salt,” or “take it easy on the salt,” but cooks may dismiss his/her words. Often they’re too rushed. Sometimes they know nothing about what constitutes low sodium meals. Or, they can do little about it, especially if it’s a franchise kind of place.

I was raised on Mexican food but I learned to stay away from it when eating out, because they, and most ethnic restaurants, prepare almost everything ahead. No cooking from scratch there. Asian eateries rely on bottled or canned ingredients to add to their sauces (fish, shellfish, oyster, soy), and these are already teeming with sodium. I “paid” a lot to learn this. As much as I would enjoy Asian food, I stay away. I love food with distinctive seasoning, so you can imagine how hard it has been for me. Thank goodness, Indian fare relies on super complex herbs and spices which seem to require less salt, so I’m more willing to risk it there, from time to time (I love curries).

I travelled in the past and continue to do so, and so I’m known to travel with a “kitchen bag.” It contains a pot or two, a hot plate, extension cords, a knife, and a couple of dishware items. The idea is to allow me to cook if necessary. I’ve traveled with my kitchen bag in Europe, Asia, and Latin America. My usual eating plan when traveling is to try to eat out once a day, in order to taste the local stuff, and eat in safely as much as I can, in my hotel room, if necessary. This way I avoid gobbling a seasoned dish because I’m ravenous. Thank goodness, most restaurants outside of the United States still cook from scratch! Also, I drink wine with my food and so I am thankful it is free of sodium.

Listening to my body:

I have also learned to heed my own body signals. This may not apply to you, but I’m convinced I can tell when the sodium level in my body is getting high. People with Menieres usually have tinnitus: ringing, hissing, or buzzing. I get a hiss and I’ve learned to detect its differing levels. Louder or stronger means I’ve consumed too much sodium. I usually get a “spike” about 2-3 hours after a meal especially if I’ve eaten fish or meat. If my sodium level was low before eating, the spike will dissipate overnight. When I’ve been a bad boy, I’ll also see flashes inside my eyelids when I squint, in addition to the high hiss. If that happens, I know I’m in trouble, and am likely to get dizzy and expect the rhythm mentioned above sooner or later. My body doesn’t forgive; it’s like a machine set into motion and it doesn’t stop until it is finished. Regarding my body signals, when I share them with doctors they look at my quizzically.

I’m also convinced that when I travel to sunny and warm climates (I live in Seattle) my in-the-body sodium level makes adjustments. I hypothesize that in warm or hot climates I perspire, more than in Seattle, expelling sodium along with other body wastes. So, my balancing act (having too much or too little sodium) shifts. When I return to cool, or cold Seattle, I usually “fall off the cliff,” to some extent, because I’m out of balance. The “fall” is sometimes hard, sometimes not so hard. My doctors don’t appreciate my sunny climate hypothesis either.

Is there a silver lining?

Is there any good in any of this, I ask myself from time to time? Maladies are always comparable. Who is worse off than I am, I ask? You may not believe it, but at my age, I feel fortunate to be in good health, except for my Meniere’s and my Psoriasis (let’s not go there!). Still, is there a silver lining in the dreadful details above?

I think so. My Meniere’s diet keeps me disciplined. I really have no choice, because if I go off balance I pay dearly with 4 or 5 miserable days. So, I stay in line. Moreover, my food discipline, as outlined above, forces me to eat intelligently and healthily. And, vegetable-based food is relatively free of sodium, as are fruit, nuts and grains. And, this is what health gurus preach today, hence I’m already doing it! So, there you are! I’m eating according to the gurus and I’m not a guru guy. Eating this way might help me live longer, anyway (and enjoy my wine longer too!)

Final thoughts:

I’m aware that not everyone with Meniere’s goes through what I’ve gone through (and getting dizzy does not necessarily mean you have Meniere’s!). It’s worse for some, not so bad for others. And, I must confess, I haven’t seen my Meniere’s doctor in a long time because all he/she does is measure my hearing loss, so I stopped going. Also, there may be new findings about Meniere’s. I need to find out. In the meantime, I’ll follow my regime described above.

If you have some degree of Meniere’s I hope you can appreciate my experience. I can live with it and perhaps you might too.

A BOOK REVIEW ABOUT DONALD TRUMP

The Making of Donald Trump by David Cay Johnston (Brooklyn: Melville House, 2016), a book review by Carlos B. Gil

The author of this book is a widely recognized investigative crime reporter; I see him interviewed on television from time to time. In 2001, he won a Pulitzer Prize for Journalism for his work on tax dodges and loopholes. Because of the way he works, critics and admirers tagged him the “de facto chief tax enforcement officer of the United States.” I therefore consider his book as credit worthy. He wrote the book as a warning, as I explain below.

I took the time to read The Making of Donald Trump in an effort to comprehend our current president, hoping, in a way, that I might find something redeeming, but I did not. Johnston’s sleuthing and investigating failed to turn up any evidence contradicting the image that Donald Trump has carved out for himself in his first twelve months in office. His tweeting, and his speeches, if they may be called that, serve to confirm Johnston’s findings. Johnston helped me by tracing and explaining some of Trump’s ways of saying and doing things but the point is, that Trump hasn’t changed an iota since Johnston began investigating him.

Because the subject of this book is the President of the United States, I began taking extensive notes, something I do not do for other book reviews that I publish online. I append these notes below for your going-over, if you so wish. They provide more details.

Trump’s apparent “obsession with money,” is something he learned from his ancestors, according to Johnston. His father, Fred, appears to have taught him the tricks of the trade, including his worldview: money means everything, and looks are second in importance. There is no mention of Donald Trump’s mother, by the way.

Despite his silver spoon upbringing, the ways of the Bowry (one of New York’s rough and tumble wards) seem to have gotten stamped on Donald Trump. His closest friends turned out as shady characters, in some cases outright gangsters.

The best example is Roy Cohn, one of America’s most malicious figures, who served as Senator McCarthy’s right hand man, back in the 1950s. McCarthy took it upon himself to find Communists in the U.S. even when then there were not any, and ruined the lives of many people in the process. He quickly became a hated figure and ultimately resigned in disgrace, but Cohn, his lawyer, who looked like a gangster himself, egged him on with wicked malevolence. Cohn taught young Trump to smear anyone who was not friendly: confuse and disarm your critics by attacking them ten times as hard with foul words and false lawsuits. Indeed, we’ve seen this pattern many times, already. The two were close friends.

Johnston’s reasons for writing this book echo my own for reviewing his book and sharing it here. He wrote that he gathered “nearly half a century” of documents to bring them to the attention of American citizens. They “are most important for voters to ponder,” he explained, because they reveal much about “that person’s character. He adds that Donald Trump’s “obsession with money and the trappings of wealth…and his many comments about women, not as equals but objects,” tell us much about him. Moreover, “His vision is, in many ways, not that of a president but of a dictator.” (my emphasis)

Johnston’s deeply felt conclusion about our president is easy to see since Trump entered the White House. His one-sided immigration bans, insulting judges, even his own Attorney General, dismissing the importance of the FBI, and his constant flattering of Vladimir Putin, Russia’s dictator, come to mind immediately, alongside his out-and-out accusations of Hilary Clinton.

The crowning illustration of this tendency, for me, made the news recently when Trump shook hands with the President of the Phillipines, Rodrigo Duterte, who vowed to get rid of drug traffickers. Thousands of Filipinos have died at his command because he accused them of dealing drugs. They didn’t have to be arrested, they didn’t need a courtroom. Duterte’s accusatory finger was all that was needed. Duterte has blood on his hands and is proud of it. He boasted of killing people himself, even when he was a teen ager, “A human. I stabbed him because he starred at me.”

Trump was quoted as saying, “I just wanted to congratulate you because I am hearing of the unbelievable job on the drug problem…Many countries have the problem. We have the problem, but what a great job you are doing…” He may have also kept in mind that his business organization was in the process of building a Trump Tower in Manila.

I do not believe any American president, up to now, would have shaken hands with Duterte or even be seen with him on the same platform, not even the two Bushes, conservative as they may have been. Their moral standards would not have allowed them.

The editors of the New York Times wrote that Trump fawns and smiles, offering “effusive rhetoric” in the company of strongmen like Putin and Duterte. “Perhaps he sees in them a reflection of the person he would like to be.” Amen, to that.


Notes for a review by Carlos B. Gil of The Making of Donald Trump by David Cay Johnston (Brooklyn: Melville House, 2016).

–Johnston has been an investigative crime reporter since the 1980s. In 2001 he won a Pulitzer Prize for Journalism for exposing tax dodges and loopholes, he earned the nickname, the “de facto chief tax enforcement officer of the United States.” ( x). [words in quotations are taken directly from Johnston’s book and the page numbers are placed in parantheses]

–Trump followed the footsteps of his father (Fred) from whom he learned the ways of a landlord: own fancy apartment buildings for well-heeled whites and avoid Blacks and Puerto Ricans. Woody Guthrie rented an apartment in Beach Haven and when he discovered this pattern, he called it “bitch haven” and so he wrote a song about it:

Beach Haven ain’t my home! / No, I just can’t pay this rent! / My money  is down the drain, / And my soul is badly bent! / Beach Haven is Trump’s Tower / Where no Black folks come to roam / Old Beach Haven ain’t my home! (35).

–In gathering information, Johnston had lunch with Trump in 1990 (104)

Chapter 5 “Making Friends” is about Roy Cohn, who was “nearly a second father,” according to Trump himself (33). In the 1950s Cohn became infamous as Senator Joseph McCarthy’s lawyer and adviser; McCarthy was the disgraced legislator who hounded Americans as Communists.

–When the Department of Justice accused Donald Trump and his father for refusing to rent to people of color, Donald Trump sought Cohn’s advice and the two became close friends. Johnston informs us that Cohn served as a lawyer for “two of America’s most powerful Mafia figures” at the time. (39) Cohn taught Donald Trump a lesson that he took to heart: when someone threatens you, you attack that person harder: file a huge lawsuit and wear him or her out in the process (37).

–In a 1973 law suit filed against Donald Trump for racial discrimination in renting his apartments, Trump “folded and settled;” it was “a complete loss for Trump” (38), but he spoke about it as if he had won. He broadcast his own positive angle on the matter, a lesson learned from his father: spin the news in your favor; people won’t know the difference. “Offer a simple and quotable narrative” and then just move forward (38). Trump employed this strategy as a politician.

–When Donald Trump began the construction of the Trump Tower on the Atlantic City boardwalk, he was required to submit to an 18-month personal investigation by state authorities to make sure he was not connected with any gangsters. Trump used his connections, financial and political, to dodge it. As a result, his application to build the Tower was approved in a record 5 months’ time and his shady relationship with Mafioso union leaders was overlooked. He used union labor run by Mafia gangs to build his Trump Tower in record time. See “Trump’s Most Important Deals.” Chapter 6.

Chapter 7, “A Great Lawsuit.” In 1983 DONALD TRUMP invested into the New Jersey Generals, a football club associated with the USFL (US Football League), which was trying to compete with the NFL; he became part owner of the USFL this way. He thereupon devised a lawsuit against the NFL for monopoly practices arguing that the NFL had violated the Sherman Anti-Trust Act. He wanted to force the NFL to admit his team and the USFL and thereby share in the NFL’s money making capacity. Aided by his Mafia lawyer, Roy Cohn, he sued the NFL and the court agreed that the NFL had violated the Act; he won on the monopoly part of the lawsuit, but was awarded only one dollar for damages! An appeals court ruled that the NFL had indeed violated the Sherman Anti-Trust Act by maintaining “monopoly power in the market consisting of major league professional football in the US.” (55)

However, the one dollar damages award meant that the USFL and Donald Trump couldn’t break into the NFL because they had not done the slowly built legwork that the NFL accomplished over many years. Johnston views Trump’s actions as “seeking quick and easy riches from the lawsuit.” (55) Trump appealed to the Supreme Court and it declined to hear the case but required the NFL to send a check to the USFL for 76 cents as interest on the dollar (55). Trump’s strategy to get rich quick via the NFL failed. Years later, however, he issued his own fake news by calling it “a great lawsuit.” As he would do often, he blamed someone else for the loss, his USFL TV associate, calling him a “loser” in disgust. (57) The author emphasizes that DONALD TRUMP employed “a ruinous legal strategy” that “flouted conventional rules of conduct.” (58)

Chapter 8, “Showing Mercy,” has to do with Joe Weischelbaum, a drug trafficker and racketeer friend of President Trump whom he helped and nurtured whenever he got in trouble, even let him live in the Trump Tower after serving time in prison for drug trafficking and tax evasion. Weischelbaum offered Trump helicopter services, confirming the President’s friendliness with shady characters. Johnston suggests that Trump was receiving as yet unnamed services, in addition to piloting the helicopter, but he doesn’t clarify this allegation.

Chapter 9, “Polish Brigade,” looks at Trump’s willingness to cheat and lie in order to get his way, and make money at the same time. In order to build his Trump Tower, on 5th Avenue, New York City, Donald Trump had to tear down the BonWit Teller Department Store. He did so by hiring hundreds of Polish undocumented workers to do the job, all non-union, with no safety standards of any kind, all using sledge hammers! No hard hats, no goggles, no power tools, no face masks, no nothing! In addition, he promised to pay them $4 an hour, and then reneged so that some of the workers went to the extent of threatening the life of the superintendent. Trump had asked Roy Cohn to help him get workers and the Mafia lawyer made it possible by hiring nonunion workers in a pro-union state thanks to his contacts with Mafia-ridden union officials. One worker, Harry Diduck, sued Trump for cheating on the workers and the judge agreed, finding Trump guilty of violating his fiduciary duty to the workers and to the union. Donald Trump settled secretly.

Chapter 10, “Feelings and Net Worth,” reveals Donald Trump’s consistent hiding his net worth in a court room, and out of it. The author writes that Trump lies about it under oath and insists on deliberate ambiguity. In a 2005 lawsuit, he charged an author for undervaluing his net worth. The author’s lawyer asked him under oath what his net worth was and Trump answered, “it varies,” according to how he feels, Johnston added. The judge dismissed the case. (79) The author further remarked that Trump’s ego is imperative. He presents his net worth in high values to bankers, investors, and the public, but low for tax authorities, contractors, or vendors. (95)

Another example regarding net worth involves Mar-a-Lago, his estate in Palm Beach FL. It was originally owned by the heiress of Post Cereal who gave it to the US government for use as a presidential winter home, but the government put it on the market. Donald Trump boasted that he bought it for “cash” in 1985, but this was a lie. He borrowed from Chase Manhattan based on a non-recorded mortgage, guaranteed by his signature, agreeing to pay the loan back on time.

Chapter 11, “Government Rescues Trump,” examines Donald Trump’s mismanagement of his Atlantic City casinos, the Trump Castle and the Trump Plaza, between 1986 and 1990. He drained the cash out of them to the tune of $375 million. (87) As a result, in 1990, he could not pay his bills. Consequently, his creditors took over the casinos to try to make sense of the financial mess and discovered that Trump had borrowed from 70 banks at once, owing them all money and with no way to pay them. The bottom line of this story is that the New Jersey Gaming Commission overseeing the economic functioning of Atlantic City decided Trump was too big to fail and ultimately agreed to rescue him at a great loss to the State of New Jersey. In the spring of 2016, during his campaign, he admitted that he borrowed “knowing you can pay back with discounts. And, I’ve done very well with debt. Now, [I know that] I was swashbuckling, and it did well for me…” (93)

Chapter 12, “Golf and Taxes” describes Donald Trump’s managing property taxes to his advantage by finding a way to devaluate his property. His Trump National Golf Club Westchester, 30 miles from the New York Trump Tower, is an example. He bought a failed golf course there in the 1990s, fixed it up by adding a clubhouse, and so on. Members paid $300,000 initiation fees (including Bill Clinton). Boasting that the value of the course now rose to $50 million he declared the tax value as $1.4 million. When news reports publicized this unusual devaluation, Trump upped the declared value to $9 million. A local legislator complained bitterly that the local county was subsidizing a billionaire “so he can enjoy even more profits at that property.”

When a big storm hit the area and water run off flooded the municipal swimming pool near the golf club, obligating the city to spend money to clean it up, Trump refused to cooperate. It was the city’s fault, he insisted. The suit was unresolved when Trump began his presidential campaign. Johnston added that other golf courses owned by Donald Trump reveal similar chicanery on his part.

Chapter 13, “Income Taxes,” lets the author explain why Donald Trump can boast he can pay little or no incomes taxes: Congress allows real estate professionals to take “unlimited tax deductions against their other income.” Therefore, in 1992 and 1993, Donald Trump “had no income tax obligations” because “he had losses so large that he could apply them to future tax seasons.” (108)

Chapter 14, “Empty Boxes” is about Donald Trump buying expense jewelry worth $15,000 and mailing it out of state to save on the sales tax. When New York auditors discovered this, he avoided prosecution by cooperating and settling with them to avoid back taxes.

Chapter 15, “Better than Harvard” takes a look at Trump University in New York, an outright fraud. In 2005, Donald Trump announced to people interested in signing up that, “We’re going to have professors and adjunct professors that are absolutely terrific—terrific people, terrific brains, successful! We’re going to have the best of the best.” (118) We’re going to teach you better than business schools can teach you.” (118) These were all lies.

When the State of California sued Donald Trump for civil fraud about it, in 2012, the California Attorney General, Rachel Jensen, asked him to identify any one person in the faculty. He could not. He couldn’t remember even one. They were not real professors. They were real estate agents posing as faculty, “one managed a fast food joint.” (118)

The State of Texas investigated his Trump University seminars and discovered they were subterfuges for selling “Gold Elite” packages for $35,000.

The bottom line is that “the desperate and the gullible” paid Trump about $40 million dollars for what turned out to be the outcome of high-pressure salesmanship.

Chapter 16, “Trump Charities.” Johnston writes, “These day Donald Trump calls himself “an ardent philanthropist” but there is almost no public record that he has made much in the way of charitable gifts, and certainly not gifts in line with his claimed wealth of more than $10 billion. (132)

Chapter 17, “Imaginary Friends.” In this chapter, Johnston shows that in the 1980s Donald Trump made it a practice to impersonate a public relations officer for himself, often using the name John Baron, and feed reporters information that made him look like he was closing a lucrative business deal, or how “this or that woman was in awe of him.” (135) Libby Handro’s unflattering film, Trump: What’s the Deal, illustrates this allegation and it remains on YouTube even though Trump threatened Handro with a lawsuit if she went public with it. (138)

In Chapter 18, “Imaginary Loves,” the author writes that Trump also used this mode of deception to boast about his male prowess. Johnston describes how “beautiful” women often looked for him or called him.

Chapter 19, “Myth Maintenance” reviews two core strategies that Trump has employed to manage his public image, one he has “spent decades creating, polishing, and selling.”

  1. A) “He exploits a common weakness in news reporting” which is an avoidance by reporters to analyze and insert themselves, so they try to stick to the facts. Trump’s objective is to strike fear in his critics by threatening to sue, even when he knows he is going to lose. This was the case with Tim O’Brien and his 2005 book, Trump Nation (78-79). O’Brien reported that Donald Trump was inflating his self-worth. Johnston quotes Trump as saying, “I spent a couple of bucks on legal fees, and they spent a whole lot more. I did it to make his life miserable, which I’m happy about.” The court dismissed Trump’s lawsuit but O’Brien’s publisher had to pay legal fees. (147)

(B) The second strategy is that he “distorts information, contradicts himself, and blocks inquiries into his conduct by journalists, law enforcement, business regulators and other people’s lawyers.” (140) Trump’s track record in public office amply demonstrates this.

David Cay Johnston identifies Trump’s friends as shady people. One is Joseph Cinque, a drug mobster, also known as Joe No Socks, who claimed attending Trump’s New Year’s parties. Another of his friends is Felix H. Satter, a “convicted stock swindler.” (162).

Why JOHNSTON wrote this book: He writes that he collected “nearly half a century” of documents regarding Trump’s conduct. He believes these documents “are most important for voters to ponder” about. Then he added if you examine someone’s conduct “you gain a better understanding of that person’s character. Donald Trump’s “obsession with money and the trappings of wealth…and his many comments about women not as equals but objects” tell us much about him (206). “His vision is, in many ways, not that of a president but of a dictator.” (209)

 

My Reactions to “The Vietnam War,” a film.     In Two Parts.

My Reactions to The Vietnam War, a film.     In Two Parts.

By Carlos B. Gil

Part I

PBS broadcast The Vietnam War, a documentary by Ken Burns, during the month of September 2017. The 10-part series received a lot of publicity, so I spent numerous hours watching it because the war itself had a strong impact on me. You may have seen it too, or heard about it. I know it affected most Americans of my generation. You may have known someone stirred by it, perhaps more than stirred.

I was a young Foreign Service Officer working for the State Department when we really got involved in Vietnam (“we,” the U.S.), first in Honduras (1963 to 1965), then in Chile (1965 to 1968). I was in my early 30’s and served as an Assistant Cultural Affairs Officer assigned to work in the Binational Center Program organized by the United States Information Agency. This is one reason I did not serve in Vietnam: I was already serving the government. Another is that I already possessed a discharge from the Air Force Reserve; and thirdly, I was married with children.

Some of the young Hondurans I worked with began asking me about the war and why the United States was sending soldiers there. I didn’t have a good answer, even as local newspapers reported our increasing involvement. The Burns film reminded me that the number of our troops rose to about 3,500 the year I finished my duties in Honduras, 1965, and got transferred to Chile. While in Honduras, I tried to obtain information but didn’t get too far. There was no Internet, of course. I remember that our induction training in Washington D.C., in 1963, included “counter insurgency programs” which we were applying in Vietnam but I think it was too early to provide us with a more solid rationale. None of us working for the United States Embassy in Honduras really had a good answer, outside of the pro-forma “communist menace,” that North Vietnam was supposed to have represented. This explanation was satisfactory in the beginning but it began to weaken in my mind. In any case, we didn’t have “canned” answers, and my recently obtained Master’s Degree in Latin American Studies from Georgetown University, helped little.

Burns’s film reminds us that the Cold War became the only way we Americans came to understand our presence in Vietnam. It was America vs. the “communists.” That made it easy, if you didn’t think about it too much. The film emphasized the fact that the Vietnamese people saw it both as a civil war, between the North Vietnam and the South Vietnam, and a colonial war. We represented the colonial power they wanted to get rid of because our soldiers were physically on their land killing their people and destroying their farms and cities. The film reveals this in a horrifying way. It also stresses how our involvement in the war was the result of complex political factors. A war is always a political act. We place our soldiers in harm’s way for political reasons, casting a shadow of ambiguity on patriotism.

I felt the impact of the war more in Chile than in Honduras. One reason was that our involvement in Vietnam became more intense and controversial while I was working in Chile. The bloody Tet Offensive, which served as a watershed event, took place in 1968. That was my final year in that South American country, when the number of our soldiers fighting there rose to 53,000, and I put my growing family on a plane to return home. All hell was breaking loose at home too because of the war.

There is another reason why I write this article. The Cold War, along with the Vietnam War, took on a special meaning for me in Chile because Chile became the locus of a diplomatic tug of war between the United States and forces on the Left, including Communists. The country where my son, Carlos, was born, served like a playing field between “us,” the Americans, and “them,” the Leftists. Moreover, I became personally involved, as I was the only U.S. representative in my district. Please note that I am the first to admit that my role was peripheral and microscopic for the reason that I was just an Assistant Cultural Attache, a minor figure; however, it cast an imprint on me so I’m writing about it for the first time. (End of Part I)

What Trump’s pardon of Joe Arpaio means for Latinos: “We mean little to President Trump.”

President Trump’s pardoning of Joe Arpaio, the former Sheriff of Maricopa County, Arizona, represents a slap in the face to the Latinos of the United States, clear and simple. Everything indicates that our president did this with total impunity and without a trace of shame or regret. We, Latinos, mean little to him so he shoved us aside when he cancelled the criminal contempt case against Arpaio, as widely reported. That he did it early in his administration, an exceptional occurrence as many commentators have noted, simply underscores my observation: we mean little or nothing to him. (His ending of the DACA program on September 5, 2017–Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals–illustrates this quite clearly: he didn’t take a lead on it, he passed the fate of these young culturally assimilated Americans on to Congress. No one can call that leadership.

Why is Arpaio an issue?

Everyone in Arizona knows that as sheriff of Arizona’s most important county, Joe Arpaio brazenly went out of his way to tear every shred of dignity from the Latin Americans, mostly Mexican, he accused of entering the country illegally, men, women and children. It seems he enjoyed doing it, according to reports. It is apparent that like his protector in the White House, he considers all migrants, who cross the border without permission, as sub-humans and criminals. According to The New Yorker, up to 2009 only, his department cost the State of Arizona more than forty three million dollars for settling lawsuits that alleged mistreatment of the lowly migrants, and even their wrongful deaths. He mocked them by putting them in gaudy colored uniforms, fed them two meals a day that cost less than fifty cents each, and even marched them publicly in chain gangs, women too. His deliberate scare-‘em Gestapo tactics generated more than twenty two hundred court cases, exceeding the worst raids of undocumented workers in the 1950s, some of which I witnessed.

All this is against the moral standards we Americans have always considered fitting and proper, but Mr. Trump turned a blind eye, insisted Arpaio was a “good man”, and pardoned him.

Clearly, the Trump administration is anti-Mexican, anti-Latino, and anti-immigrant. And, the 30% of Americans who continue to support him are too, apparently.

Should we worry about this?

Should we, Latinos of the United States, who don’t have to worry about getting picked up and deported care about this? Of course, we should, if for no other reason than the fact that the hapless deportees look like our ancestors, they look like us. They speak as our descendants spoke, they eat what they ate, they worship as they did. They are as we were. In addition, you and I know that most of them crossed the border to find work, keep their heads down, and send a few pennies back home.

To call them “criminals” is repulsive and immoral. They may have broken a law to get into the U.S. but that does not give any American official license to diminish their humanity. Arpaio swaggers about it according to reports. His tactics, his demeanor, and his penchant for publicity remind us of the black-booted Nazis persecuting Jews in the 1940s (he would have made a good Sturmmann or Storm Trooper).

What can we do?

We can speak up. We can make known our contempt to our friends personally, and through Facebook, Twitter and other social media. We can ask our pastors to help raise awareness in our communities.

We can ask our community organizations to help spread the word about Trump’s anti-immigration stance. There are groups like CHIRLA (Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles), and the NCLR (National Council for La Raza).

Get their address and send them a note with $5 or $10. You surely must know a DACA youngster (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, also known as “The Dreamers”), the ones who were brought to the U.S. from Mexico without documentation; they are being persecuted by Mr. Trump and his ilk (all this sounds so Nazi like). Talk to the young Dreamer; ask how you can support their cause. To have them deported is immeasurably immoral, a stain on America!

Most importantly, YOU CAN REGISTER TO VOTE. NEXT TIME MAKE SURE YOU GO OUT AND VOTE! OUR ONLY LINE OF DEFENSE IS POLITICAL! We can vote. Let us stand up against Mr. Trump and the Joe Arpaio’s who support him.

¡Si se puede!

HERE IS A STUNNING AND HISTORIC REBUKE OF OUR PRESIDENT

Today the editors of The New York Times published a spectacular rebuke of President Donald J. Trump that I believe has no historical precedent and you should know about it, if only for that reason. You may read the full editorial in the attachment below but here are the highlights:

  • “With each day, President Trump offers fresh proof that he is failing the office that Americans entrusted to him…This, in essence, is where we are now: a nation led by a prince of discord who seems divorced from decency and common sense.[my emphasis]”
  • As only one example of his “failing the office” he holds, the editors properly called his penchant for twittering as “twitter bursts of anti-historical nonsense.” I would say twitters that betray his infantile mind. The latest one cites General John Pershing stopping Islamic terrorists in the Philippines a hundred years ago by killing them with “bullets dipped in pig’s blood,” suggesting our soldiers should imitate him. Only an undeveloped intellect, a man who is still a child, would make such a claim publicly—and he is our president!
  • As a measure of our national “despair,” the editors write, “we find “ourselves strangely comforted” by his inability to carry out his half-baked ideas, like “destroying the Affordable Care Act [Obamacare],” or fully implementing his “demonstrably cruel deportation policy,” and, I would add, building his border wall, and scuttling plans against global warming.
  • “Here is yet another oddity,” the editors remind us (and I am glad they did because otherwise it would fly past us without our giving it a second thought). As Americans we are proud of our democratic civilian society, free of military dictators, yet Mr. Trump appointed three military men as top aides (John Kelly, the new White House chief of staff; H. R. McMaster, the national security adviser; and Jim Mattis, the secretary of defense). Why does he willy-nilly violate our important political tradition by having three generals help run our country? The answer is, “to stop Mr. Trump from going completely off the rails.” (God succor us, right?).
  • In my young-man-hood, I proudly served in the State Department helping to press for our nation’s interests diplomatically, but under Mr. Trump the State Department “has been robbed of expertise and traditional diplomacy [and it] has been marginalized,” which many of us consider a gigantic mistake.
  • Lastly, the editors find comfort with “signs that our democratic system is working to contain Mr. Trump” but what are we to think or make of the Americans (a small minority) who blindly support him? “The deeper question…is..[a] moral [one]…will they continue to follow a standard-bearer who is alienating most of the country by embracing extremists” including white supremacists? What’s the answer?
  • In closing, the editors refer to Mr. Trump’s statements about Charlottsville: “He chose to summon not America’s better angels, but its demons.” I agree.

Again I say: how low we have come! How can we regain what we’ve lost!?

Donald Trump’s Administration is “On The Rocks”

In just the fifth month of Donald Trump’s presidency his administration is beginning to go under, like a ship striking rocks underwater. He is the captain and he is both angry and confused.

This slow motion catastrophe is an amazing thing to witness.

  • He insisted his real estate business experience was more than sufficient to command the White House and the nation, but disorder rules the day;
  • He thought he could apply intimidation to national and international politics, but he’s only propagated confusion;
  • He didn’t have the right kind of team to help him refine his political agenda in order to drive it forward, so he’s had to rely on family members and old business buddies whose decisions are breaking the rulebook and alienating American citizens;
  • Not endowed with careful reasoning and unable to take advice, he’s stepped over the line of right and wrong repeatedly, and
  • His uncontrolled ego articulated in the form of thoughtless statements poured mostly into his Twitter account will now be used against him.

As a result of these and other flaws, his presidency is sinking because Mr. Trump now stands on the brink of being charged for a variety of illegal acts including criminal charges. One of them is obstructing justice because he asked James Comey, the former FBI director, to disregard evidence that his advisors were getting involved with Russian agents, “that this Russia thing…is a made up story,” he stated on television. This is an example of Trump’s careless thinking and offhand speaking with perilous consequences.

Other blunders and transgressions are being investigated.

What’s also amazing is that more than 60 million Americans voted for Mr. Trump which means that they failed to see he was unfit to run the ship of state properly.

Trump is between a rock and a hard place.

This is a short political note:

If you’ve been watching the news you’ll agree with me that President Trump is between a rock and a hard place. During the presidential campaign last year I shared my view with many of you that he would become the most inept and inappropriate person to ever serve in the White House. Unfortunately, my prediction was right on.

  • He is only in his 4th month in office and the word “impeachment” is beginning to swirl in the air.
  • And, a special attorney has already been named to investigate him (see his photo).
  • And, for starters, the investigation is about his connections with the Russians and those of the people working for him.
  • And, it seems that the entanglements of Trump’s people with our sworn enemies are only beginning to come to the surface.

Keep an eye on the newspapers!

P.S. Robert Mueller, the Special Counsel appointed to investigate Mr. Trump (see the photo), represents in my mind the kind of dedicated official that our government relies on to do its job, despite the ineptitude of the politicians at the top, in a crisis and when there is none. I worked for the feds and I came to know folks like him. The ones I knew impressed me a lot because they always tried to do their job right. It’s one of the reasons why I don’t “buy” the Republican chant that raises suspicion on our government. I’m glad people like him are there and I hope the wrong-headed incapacity of Trump’s confederates doesn’t scare them away.

May 19, 2017

MEXICAN CARDINAL CONDEMNS TRUMP’S BORDER WALL AS IMMORAL AND BIGOTED

The head of the Mexican Catholic Church condemned President Trump’s proposed border wall in the harshest words I’ve seen so far. He also blasted any Mexican company willing to help build the wall, and he also threw a strong jab at Mexican government officials for not speaking more forcefully on the matter.

A March 26, 2017 article in a leading Mexico City daily printed the hard-hitting words of Norberto Rivera Carrera, Cardinal and Archbishop of Mexico, condemning President Trump’s wall project as “immoral” and “bigoted.” He said that “Trump’s wall can only nurture discrimination and serve to subjugate millions of people.”

The article in El Universal referred, first, to President Trump allotting 2 billion dollars to build the wall, and, second, to Mexican contractors announcing their interest in bidding for it. Archbishop Rivera condemned the move by Mexican entrepreneurs in no uncertain terms: “It would be immoral for any [Mexican] company intending to invest in the wall of that zealot Trump, but more than anything else, the shareholders and owners ought to be considered traitors of the nation.” These are strong words indeed!

El Universal quoted from an editorial entitled “The Betrayal of the Nation,” printed in a church weekly by the name of Desde la Fe, issued on the same date.

The Cardinal added that the companies justifying their actions as “job producing” was nothing more than bogus; what they want, he stated, is to profit from the “shameful wall.” He lamented businessmen in Mexico who would collaborate in such a bigoted enterprise. “Taking part in a project that affronts human dignity is to shoot yourself in the foot.”

He also lambasted the government’s pussy-footing about it by parroting that the United States may do whatever it wants on its side of the border. But, “it is the usual short-sighted people who cannot see that the wall represents a threat that can only weaken the relations between the two countries and endanger peace.”

Referring to President Trump’s drive to deport undocumented workers from the United States, the church leader considered it “showing off the power to terrorize, by deporting people who have not committed a crime or faulted a regulation, according to law.”

Regarding the wall, he also declared that it “represents a monument to intimidation and silencing, it symbolizes xenophobic hate that seeks to drown out the voices of ill paid and ill-treated workers, of families who lack protection and of people who are violated.”

The idea of a wall represents “a departure from the noblest desires of mankind[; it is a retreat] which has brought much shedding of blood; it is a prelude to the destruction of democratic values and social rights.” He also added, “The wall represents the power of a country that is considered good, [yet endowed] with a manifest destiny to overwhelm a nation that it considers perverted and corrupt: Mexico.”

–Carlos B. Gil

 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: July 1, 2016

VOTED “BEST BIOGRAPHY”

AUTHOR TELLS OF THE HARD RESOLVE

HIS MEXICAN IMMIGRANT FAMILY NEEDED

TO SETTLE AND THRIVE IN AMERICA

 KENMORE, WA.  We Became Mexican American narrates the story of a family emigrating from Mexico to the United States in the 1920s. Author and family member, Carlos B. Gil, tells how his folks settled against all odds to pursue the American Dream in southern California. This award-winning book offers you the following:

      It reviews what the Latino immigration experience represented for the author’s family,

            It explores the cultural shock of arriving in the U.S. for the first time,

                        including the difficulties of raising children in a new culture,

            It unveils the cultural conflicts inside the family as the children began growing up in America,

            It describes living in a Mexican barrio near Los Angeles, California, and it

            It discusses the personal process of slowly becoming Mexican American. 

We Became Mexican American was awarded “BEST BIOGRAPHY” in two book competitions in the United States in 2013. And, in 2015 it won an “HONORABLE MENTION in Biography/Autobiography” at the 2015 Book Festival in Amsterdam (The Netherlands). The 2013 honors came from The 15th Annual International Latino Book Award ceremony held at the Cervantes Institute in New York City, May 30, 2013: 1) Best Biography in English and 2) Best Latino Focused Work. On March 8th his book also won Best Biography at the 2012-2013 cycle of the Los Angeles Book Festival for independent authors and publishers. As a result, his book “sits” at “The Table of Honor,” digitally speaking, which you can visit at: http://tableofhonor.com/?product_cat=biographyautobiography ).

For more information see http://www.facebook.com/WeBecameMexicanAmerican.

To obtain your own copy, go to:

barnesandnoble.com, amazon.com, or special ordering through your neighborhood bookstore.

For review copies or ordering multiple copies go to:

http://diversitycentral.com/diversity_store/books.php,

or send an email to orders@diversitycentral.com

The author is an Emeritus Professor at the University of Washington.

We Became Mexican American: How Our Immigrant Family Survived to Pursue the American Dream

was published in 2012 and revised in 2015.

Trade Paperback; $18.99; 422 pages; ISBN 978-0-9899519-1-3

Trade Hardback; $26.99; 422 pages; ISBN 978-0-9899519-06

E-book, $3.99: ISBN 978-0-9899519-2-0