Archive | June, 2010

A “Meal” for the Perverse

Posted on 08 June 2010 by John Rippo

That isn’t a bun made from bread. It’s two slabs of deep fried chicken breast that hold cheese, a mysterious orange sauce that comes from unlabelled bottles and fresh-nuked bacon. It’s called a Double Down and it’s the latest hideous manifestation of the particularly American addiction to fast food now offered by Kentucky Fried Chicken—Colonel Sanders’ KFC.
This obscenity will clog your arteries with 540 calories, 32 grams of fat and an astounding 1,380 grams of sodium—as in salt, as in the stuff you’re eating too much of already and enough in this sandwich to cover four days’ requirements for the human body’s sodium needs. The only thing that doesn’t come with the new Double Down filet o’ death sandwich is a defibrillator and kidney stone extractor.
One of ESPRESSO’s lesser intellects actually bought one of these and brought it to the office for an appraisal. By the time the sandwich came to the office from the nearby KFC outlet, the bag was wet with hot grease off the bird fragments and the mysterious orange sauce that reminded some of us of fire retardant had congealed at the bottom of the sandwich into a scary, semi-solid mass. Our staffer admitted that he’d seen the several strips of industrial strength bacon come out of the microwave all flabby, greasy and limp—but paid the five and a half bucks plus tax for the sandwich anyway and took it with him. We watched as he bit into it with trepidation; someone held a trash can ready for the fountain of barf he thought would surely follow.
“I like it,” the idiot said. There’s just no accounting for taste with some people. None.
The published numbers for the Double Down say that it has less fat than a Big Mac. This like saying that the Great Lakes have less water in them than the Pacific Ocean does. What is really a killer here is the salt—our taster said it was salty and four days worth of it is simply insane. KFC must have experimental tasters who were weaned on salt pork rinds for them to recommend this kind of thing.
As for the sauce, God knows what it is. Our staffer said it tasted a bit harsh, and hot, and he could feel it in his stomach later. Thinking of the natural outcome of such a disaster, we opened a couple of windows and started a fan—after twenty minutes, staffer was sent home early and told not to show up again until his Double Down was flushed down. We even gave him some alka seltzer. Maybe it helped.
This thing is merely the latest outcropping in the fast food nation of addicts to fat, salt and empty calories. Far be it from us to rage against some people’s tastes usually, but something this ridiculous calls for an intervention of some kind. At least the Eskimo, who eat a diet that largely consists of whale fat exercise a lot; the average American thinks exercise is something that happens in movies about satanism. The least someone can do who eats one of these things is run a marathon or two between meals.
Americans like to look down their noses at those who engage in dirty, disgusting, filthy habits like smoking, unsafe sex and drinking and we’re slowly bringing prohibition of tobacco and booze back without a Constitutional amendment. So why not the same with our fatal attraction to fat-filled fast food? Of course, Civil Libertarians will argue that no one ought to have the power to tell us what we can eat, but please, it’s not like we don’t have laws like these on the books already. You can’t buy dolphin meat, for example and in California, Paté de Foie Gras is banned because of animal cruelty to the geese it’s derived from. If we are going to legislate for the futures of geese, what’s to stop us from making the Double Down, the Big Mac, the Frappuccino and extra fries a felony?
Recently, researchers at Scripps figured out that fatty foods trigger the same parts of the brain that are affected by a hit of heroin or a jigger of scotch or a cigarette. The results are astounding; the more fatty food you eat, say the researchers, the more addicted to the stuff you become—right up to the day they drag your dead carcass to the morgue from a heart attack, aka final overdose. If this is true, then why don’t we do something to limit the damage? We had a war on drugs for seventy years, maybe we learned something from it.
Of course, the reality is that no government is ever going to limit access to this kind of fried garbage—agribusiness and the fast food industry are too rich and powerful for the mere government to successfully combat.  We’ll have to do it ourselves if we want to live out our normal threescore and ten. So before you pay five and a half bucks for two slabs of deep fried dead mystery bird, industrial strength pseudo-cheese, day-glo slick sauce and nuked fatty bacon strips with an oil slick on the side, ask yourself, “Is the joy I get from eating this sludge worth the health risk?” Grown ups might say no, and eat something else. Let’s hope they become a majority in the marketplace.

Comments (0)

Legal Pot: A Boost for California’s Economy

Posted on 08 June 2010 by John Rippo

Of all the things swirling around the controversy about legalizing marijuana, one of the most consistent arguments against it is that legalization will kill the profits made by clandestine trade. That’s a lot of money, too: up to $3 billion in economic impact is admitted by the state, and no one knows how much higher the real figures may be. Legalization, it is said, may kill the goose that lays some very big golden eggs.
But that view is very shortsighted. The reason why is because legalization will bring new industry and jobs to California in an expanded cannabis trade that covers new products made from it. There are a lot of things that can be made from cannabis, and the industries that would make them would have an edge here that would allow them to dominate markets even if other states finally followed California’s lead and got pot back on the table.
One of the biggest industries that may come from legalization is paper. Hemp makes first class paper that doesn’t yellow, dry out or decay the way newsprint or low grade book stock does. It’s durable and can be used for every need that paper is used for. A well developed hemp paper industry wouldn’t just save trees, it would be easily renewable; ask any good pot farmer how fast the stuff can grow under optimal conditions and you can get an idea of the level of sustainability that hemp paper would offer to a resource-deficit world.
Textiles could be another cash cow for the Golden State. Hemp was once used to make everything from rope to tenting material, fine cloth and ticking for mattresses. These are made from cotton or  man-made fibers that depend on oil for their manufacture now. Besides fabric, hemp was once used for insulating material (goodbye, asbestos-contaminated insulation from China) fiberboard, cardboard and wallboard. The stuff is incredibly durable and easy to work with.
There’s even some food to be derived from cannabis, as well, including the oil, which is said to be higher in “good” fats than olive oil.
Some growers worry that legalization of pot will cut the prices for high grade toke; some of which is supposed to sell for around a thousand an ounce in some places. These concerns miss an important point; just like  Jamaica Blue Mountain coffee or Perique tobacco, the market is regulated in some sense by the limited growth of high-end crops; this keeps prices high. The profits from lower, industrial grades of marijuana sold in high volume to industry would be enormous.
It’s not enough to ask whether legalizing pot will affect the value of the product. Longer term views of what legal pot will do for the overall California economy are worth considering too. Among those are:
Land value. Even marginal farm land would be usable for the kind of cannabis that industry would want. This would sharply inflate the value of arable land here. Water costs would rise with it and perhaps bring enough tax revenue to finally repair the aging water infrastructure in California.
Taxes: Any new industry here will contribute sorely needed tax revenues. California could impose a severance tax on all hemp leaving the state and sales tax on the finished goods made here and these would ease the financial woes the state is now suffering.
Fuel: Imagine what sustainable cannabis could do for biofuels. The price impact this would have on California-grown auto, home and industrial power needs and the shift in prices would be enormous and echo throughout the state. Every other competing commodity would have to re-think its price point in the marketplace as a new, strong competitor entered the market and the downward pressure on the prices of building material, paper, textiles and other things would stimulate the economy by making competing products cheaper for the consumer in the long run.
Science and Industry: There would be a learning curve in the race to find new and better ways to use cannabis in a wider variety of applications. This would fuel R & D firms, universities and entrepreneurial efforts to squeeze more money out of that spleaf and would get more people back to work too.
All this would be a huge shot in the arm for California and eventually, the rest of the country and more than offset the worries of Humboldt County pot farmers who are concerned that their high priced gold will go down the drain. The reality is that high priced anything will always stay high and in the case of legal pot, the bottom of the market will grow as well. Legal pot will be an economic boon for us all.

Comments (1)

Heard in the Houses

Posted on 08 June 2010 by John Rippo

On a Saturday morning, the parking lot at D.Z. Akins disgorged a squadron of Austin Healey roadsters and a single Bugeye Sprite. The Ancient British sports cars belonged to a club that occasionally infests the deli on weekends. They made a great show; nothing sounds like a big Healey….
A SDPD parking cop stuck his head into a coffeehouse door and yelled that anyone at a dead meter had one minute to put in a nickel before he started writing tickets. This was an astonishingly humane thing to do and is so unique that YT has refrained from naming the cafe involved so as to safeguard the man’s job from the bureaucrats who’d doubtless can him for passing up a chance to skim more money for the city.
Outside Rebecca’s early one morning, there sat a man waiting for a bus, trying to wake up with a cup of coffee. A woman came by and reminded him that he needed a shave, whereupon man pulled out an electric razor and began trimming his face, at a bench, in the early morning, with a cup of coffee, outside Rebecca’s, while waiting for bus.
She dances at Peet’s in Point Loma with her four hula hoops at around 5AM when the coffeehouse opens. It’s a great place to hang and it’s completely safe, too.
Early morning at Newbreak: Barista preps for opening, walks out the door, locks it behind her, goes to next door doughnut shop for breakfast and coffee and returns a few minutes later to open the shop.
At Spacebar, you can get coffee in the morning and attend a yoga class, too.
If you’re going to be injured, this is the place to do it: At the Mercy Hospital coffee cart, a small kid climbed on a chair while his mom was occupied in registering someone in the emergency room. Kid fell off the chair and landed on its head and was immediately attended to by a couple of interns, a security guard, a barista and a patron of the cart who happened to be a cardiologist in need of coffee.
Pair of 1-L’s (baby law school students) quiz each other about Contracts class at Bassam’s one afternoon and display a marked lack of understanding about the course material. This irks a retired judge and two attorneys at a nearby table so much that the ancient jurists jaunt outside to continue their discussion, leaving the blind to lead the blind inside.
Pizza is very good at the Café Mundo in Middletown. Only pizzeria coffeehouse in SD.
Girl goes to Pannikin La Jolla to get rid of some excess kittens. She carries a very rambunctious little kitten in her hands that tries to get away from her while she tries to convince a man to take the unwanted varmint off her hands. The man offers to pet the kitten and the girl drops it on his chest. After a few seconds spent reassorting itself in his shirt, the kitten goes to sleep. “I guess it’s yours now,” the girl says, running off to get another cat.  Man asks for the girl’s name—as a name for the kitten.
Seen at the Santa Fe station café: Guy waits for an early morning train; gets coffee, goes onto platform, lights up, breaks out a roll and a sack of jerky from his pocket—and is tersely informed by a huffy security apparatus that he can’t smoke, can’t eat and can’t drink there.
Same guy, same day, Solana Beach Coaster Station—gets off train, goes to Caffé Boca, gets coffee, goes outside, lights up, unpockets roll and jerky and finally enjoys breakfast.
Guy goes to Cafe Opera, buys a bag of macaroons and attempts to impress his date by tossing macaroons high into the air and catching them in his mouth. Though his performance was flawless, his date  –who unlike him was obviously not some hillbilly  untermensch–was embarassed and hid behind her hair—no doubt longing for a ride home with someone else.
World’s Oldest Cafe Patron took a trolley one morning to Market Street, and from there he clambered into a pedicab that deposited him at Java Jones at 9th and Market. The WOCP even paid the cabbie for an hour and bought him coffee, and at the end of the hour got back in his pedicab for a ride back to the trolley, and home.

Comments (1)

Cycling Against the Odds

Posted on 08 June 2010 by John Rippo

by Ioana Patringenaru, UCSD News Service

James Stout is part of an elite racing team that promotes Type 1 diabetes education and is made up of riders that all suffer from that condition.
James Stout, a UC San Diego graduate student in history, is only 22. But he already has ridden his bike on four continents and in about half a dozen countries. All the while, he has been battling Type 1 diabetes, a chronic disease that is more severe than Type 2 diabetes and disproportionately strikes children and the young.
Last year, Stout joined Team Type 1, a top cycling squad whose members all have the disease. The team has won the grueling cross-country relay Race Across America twice—in record-breaking time. Team members now hope to take part in the Tour de France by 2012. They not only race, but also take part in public outreach events, including visits to schools and conferences.
Type 1 diabetes is a particularly challenging condition for top athletes, because exercise can cause their blood sugar levels to drop dramatically. Asked why he keeps biking, Stout cites inspiration from his teammates.
“I used to use diabetes as an excuse for doing badly,” he said. “Now, it’s a motivation for doing well.”
Being part of a team where everyone struggles with the condition helps, he added. Teammates watch out for each other. If one says their blood sugar level is dropping, they’re quick to offer that person sports drinks and snacks, and invite them to rest in the team’s car.
Stout joined the team last year after a chance meeting at the Tour of California. He was helping out during the race, when he noticed Type 1’s tent. Because his diabetes was considered a pre-existing condition, getting medical coverage—and care— here in the United States was a struggle. Team Type 1 members immediately took him in, offering advice about managing his diabetes while competing.
He now knows that to keep his blood sugar under control during a race, he needs to take in about 400 calories an hour. So he makes sure he has plenty of sports drinks and snacks when he sets out. And he can always count on his teammates for additional help, he said.
In addition to joining Team Type 1, Stout also is a member of UCSD Cycling, a collegiate team that includes undergraduate and graduate students. “It’s a good way to meet people and make friends,” he said.
Stout went to a cycling trade show and came back with sponsorship for the team’s gear, including clothing, wheels and saddles, said Tammy Wildgoose, the team’s president and a senior majoring in neuroscience. He now acts as the team’s coordinator of sponsorships.
Stout also has done a great job taking new riders under his wing and talking to them about training and good nutrition, Wildgoose said.
“He’s supercool because he really cares about getting new people into the sport,” she said.
UCSD Cycling competes in the Western Collegiate Cycling Conference against other University of California campuses, including UC Berkeley, as well as Stanford and California State University campuses. UCSD’s team ranks sixth in the conference.
Stout is one of about 25 riders on the team who take part in races. He figures he trains about 20 to 30 hours a week. He also works as a teaching assistant, which takes up another 20 hours. “There’s not much time for messing around,” he laughs.
Cycling appears to always have been a part of Stout’s life. He first rode a bike as a little boy in his native England, more precisely in the small village of Murcot, in the country’s Midlands. He started riding on the road around age 16 or 17. But at age 18, he was diagnosed with diabetes. His condition, called MODY diabetes, is more complex than typical Type 1 diabetes. His body produces insulin on and off, which means his blood sugar levels, and his condition, vary widely. He jokingly calls the disease “Type 1 ½ diabetes.”
Treatment includes diet, exercise and fast-acting insulin. He was recently fitted with a continuous blood sugar monitor that rests on the skin and eliminates the need to draw blood. Exercise, including riding, can be tricky, Stout said. It can lower blood sugar levels. But stress related to competing can also make sugar levels spike, the UCSD student said.
“You’re never really in control of it,” he said. “You manage it. It’s a beast.”
Asked what he loves about cycling, Stout, who studied modern history and politics at Oxford as an undergraduate, cites the sport’s intellectual nature.  It’s not about brute force, but about strategy, he said. “It’s like chess at 50 miles per hour,” he said. Cycling also has other appeals. “I like going fast,” Stout admitted.
Stout has taken his bike all over the world. After high school, he lived in Kenya, where he helped build a house on a sanctuary for the endangered Rothschild giraffe. He didn’t have electricity and water was heated by the sun. Adventures in that country including water-skiing while hippos and crocodiles looked on.  “It was fantastic,” Stout said.
In summer 2006, he lived in Caracas, Venezuela’s capital, where he taught children English, math and physical education. He also took part in races, with his students cheering him on. He came in third in the country’s championships. “So many kids were excited for me to get there,” he recalls.
While at Oxford, Stout also raced all over Europe, including in the United Kingdom, Belgium and France. One of his favorite spots is the Catalonia region of Spain. That area also has become the focus of his academic work.
He is investigating how members of the working class were expressing their Catalan identity through street art, food and, of course, cycling during Spain’s civil war and the dictatorship of General Francisco Franco. Spain is home to one of cycling’s best-known races, the Tour of Spain, also known as “la Vuelta.”  The race has become an arena for political struggles between Castilians, Catalans and Basques. One of the first terrorist acts perpetrated by the Basque separatist movement ETA took place during la Vuelta. Today, the competition avoids Basque country, Stout said.
Stout started biking on the road around age 17.
He wrote his first academic paper at UCSD on la Vuelta for a first-year graduate seminar taught by Robert Edelman, himself an expert in the history of sports and author of “Spartak Moscow: A History of the People’s Team in the Workers’ State.”
Stout is smart and lively and knows how to tell a good story, Edelman said, but he needs to hone his writing skills. “He can be a great teacher, no question about that,” the professor said. “He knows where the bodies are buried in terms of sources in Spain. He can do innovative research.”
Stout was admitted to Stanford and the London School of Economics. But he chose to come to UCSD. He said he was looking for an area different from England and was attracted by the university’s top-notch history department, the structure of UCSD’s doctoral program, which allows for research, and by funding. He also is committed to teaching at a publically funded university. But there was more to it than that.
“It’s a great place to ride your bike,” Stouts said of San Diego. “And I like the beach.”

Comments (0)

Re-Thinking Pedicabs as an Antidote to SD Traffic

Posted on 08 June 2010 by John Rippo

Pity the pedicabs:  A few months ago, San Diego enacted laws that limit the use and range of the three-wheeled, pedal-powered tricycles that scuttle around downtown and other neighborhoods. The reason for this was said to derive from a fatal accident caused in part by an untrained driver whose drunken passenger missed a step, fell against the curb and died. Another reason was that the taxicab companies in San Diego hate them like the plague and used every bit of their leverage to blow the trikers into the weeds when the opportunity presented itself. True to their loyal calling, the city council piously curtailed the peds and congratulated themselves on a job well done.

The only ones who continue to suffer are of course the people who might benefit from another way to beat traffic in the congested core of the city. In case you didn’t know, driving in the downtown area is a waste of time since traffic, one way streets, blocked left turning lanes and lousy parking opportunities take all the advantages out of having a speedy set of wheels. Once in the maw of downtown, you’re lucky to find any parking anywhere, and then you get to walk where you need to go or perhaps take the trolley. Trolleys still leave a lot of room for walking once you get to any of the stops; a trip downtown soon becomes an exercise in exhaustion and patience.

It shouldn’t be this way. As one who lived and worked downtown for years, I can truthfully tell that a bike is by far the best way to navigate the mean streets from the waterfront to I-5 cut through East Village. Pedal power coupled with a trolley offers a lot of convenience; with pedicabs, it’s the way to go.
Imagine a squadron of the pedicabs near each stop on the trolley line, ready to carry passengers where they need to go. Short hauls wouldn’t take long and allow drivers to hurry back to catch other fares. The time it takes to get from A to B would often be less than with a car when the hell of parking is factored in and once people trusted the service and compared the cost in money and time, this could mean a lot of cars left off the roads, off the parking grid and more people able to breathe cleaner air with less congestion in the city core. It would make the trolley a more attractive form of transit for all classes of people, too.
Downtown businesses might gain more traffic from people who discover them while scouting from the sedate rumbleseats of the pedicab and the curbside service without the exhaust and noise would add much to the ambiance of the outdoor eateries. They would even be their own kind of tourist attraction—to the natives as well as the many who flock here.

The key to their success is regulation, just as it is for the taxicabs. Drivers would have to show some proficiency and know the rules of the road. They would post fixed fares so the passengers can’t be gouged, and they would have to be licensed, preferably by the county so they could operate everywhere the trolleys—and buses—run. That way, they can operate throughout all of San Diego County. Imagine the beach areas freed from the nightmares of parking; the fears of DUI’s; the accidents and costs that loose cannons behind the wheel commonly cause. Think of how much easier it would be to navigate through most of Mission Valley with fewer cars to clutter up the inadequate roads. People might even get to see the river when they go by…

Comments (0)

SB1070: Epic Fail, Arizona

Posted on 08 June 2010 by John Rippo

Let’s get started on a kind note with regard to the recent anti-illegal immigrant law (SB1070) that Arizona passed recently: Their legislature and governor were unusually brave in passing the new law that effectively equates presumed ethnic or race characteristics with criminal activity. Arizona threw the gauntlet at the feds who have dithered for decades on illegal migrants, preferring to give agribusiness, manufacturing and construction industries the cheap, docile labor they need to stay solvent. The new law is, at best, a demand for new and improved federal action where Mexican migrant labor and border security is concerned. It’s likely that those in Washington aren’t going to be able to continue to ignore the issue, and this is a good thing. In this sense, Arizona did the other 49 states and Mexico a favor.
But with the blunt and shortsighted outlook typical of the state’s blunt and shortsighted political majority, Arizona has single-handedly excited the worst aspects of American racism and nativism since the same kinds of knuckleheads in California passed Prop. 187 a decade ago.
Arizona Governor Jan Brewer’s facile comments notwithstanding, SB 1070 is an inherently racist law: It focuses law enforcement scrutiny on anyone with any presumed aspect of foreign nationality. It demands that law enforcement exert unusual scrutiny toward anyone who may be presumed to be foreign absent any other cause for suspicion.  And it especially targets Mexicans and those who appear to be of hispanic heritage.
What that means is that anyone who looks like a foreigner to an Arizona cop will have to prove—on demand—that he or she is in the country legally. A foreigner will have to show a visa, green card or other suitable ID to any cop, officer of a court or state, or city bureaucrat who demands their papers, please. Unfortunately, many of those who appear foreign aren’t. They’re Americans; some naturalized, some the sons of immigrant parents who speak with traces of accents learned from their immigrant parents. This class of people will now be treated as criminal suspects—as though they are illegal aliens—and will have to prove to any cop who questions them that they are as American as an Arizona cop is.
If your heritage is Mexican, or hispanic, or Italian, or Greek, or Jewish, or Arabic, or Asian, or African, you could find yourself suddenly having to prove the American end of your hyphen to any Uniform that wants to make you sweat. SB 1070 demands critical enforcement; it can’t be helped, and cops can be sued by Arizona residents if they don’t enforce the law. They’re damned if they do and damned if they don’t and millions of Americans will suddenly find that they’re damned in any case once they’re in Arizona.
This is reminiscent of South African apartheid, or of the racial laws of the old Confederacy, or of the United States before the Civil War when free blacks had to carry their manumission papers on them at all times to prove they weren’t someone’s stolen property. In Arizona, sixth-generation American citizens of Mexican heritage who have names like Young will be stopped on the streets and be forced to produce their ID to the curious cop on the beat. The “probable cause” that those curious cops will use to stop people can be anything; driving down a “known corridor of human trafficking” like a freeway, for example, or sitting in a car having a smoke while listening to norteño music—and having dark skin, eyes and hair while you do it, even if your name turns out to be Al Smith. It doesn’t take much to come under scrutiny legally, but that scrutiny is going to make Arizona law enforcement work double time to do half the job it’s doing now, since the wild goose-chases the law mandates will result in a lot of missed calls, bruised feelings, bad arrests and no end of lawsuits against the state.
The belligerent folk who harp on the “invasion” by illegals and who want to “take their country back” from the foreign-born hordes show little empathy for their fellow Americans who may be caught in this dragnet—their hysteria against Mexicans prevents them from understanding just how loathsome this law is to millions of their fellow citizens—let alone foreigners. Of late, reactionaries, skinheads, neo-nazis, minute men and others for whom the different have no rights worthy of respect have had a field day marshalling their forces, claiming they will once again be the master race in their own land. But they’re  wrong of course. Arizona has changed even as America has changed.
Like it or not, the US is a melting pot and cultural and ethnic divides aren’t as clear cut as they once were. People who think that white anglo-saxon protestants are a majority are mistaken. The last half of the 20th Century was a blending of race, culture, ethnicity and class that has expanded the base of our people’s human foundation. It is the vilest kind of wrong to attempt to inflict some sort of Hitlerian racial profile onto the people of any state and say that any who don’t follow it are suspect. Yet this is exactly what Arizona will now do.
The better people of this country should put Arizona in a long timeout through every kind of boycott possible until the residents of that state understand what their actions mean to millions of our own people. We’ve done it before; in 1972, Arizona prohibited farm workers from unionizing—and pressure from the feds and other states forced them to change their odious law. They also refused to honor Martin Luther King, an American hero, and only relented when the feds threatened to cut off their federal money across the board. Arizona may be a holdout of some old thinking in the American psyche, but it should learn from the rest of us that you can’t solve a human problem by making it worse for your fellow man.

Comments (0)

Re-Inventing the Status of Mexican Migrants in the US

Posted on 08 June 2010 by John Rippo

One thing the anti-illegal immigrant crowd gets right is that those who are here in violation of the law are de facto criminals. This isn’t a good way to start off a relationship with what many of these people hope will become their new homeland. Much needs to change in US law with regard to immigration and this short essay is a small attempt to foster some discussion and other ideas toward a better solution to this problem. It seems the rest of the American people better get on the ball instead of those in Arizona or talk radio if we’re to get anywhere on the issue.
Between 1942 and 1964, the US and Mexico operated a Bracero Program that imported needed Mexican labor into the US, mainly to work in agriculture. It was a guest worker program that offered relatively high wages to Mexican campesinos who hoped to work in El Norte for awhile and go home with money in their pockets for a better life at home. While the program was a good idea, it was riddled with corruption that cheated Mexican laborers out of their pay. That notwithstanding, a revitalization of some kind of guest worker program is long overdue here. Agriculture jobs aren’t done by Americans and even in a depression, poor people aren’t going to move from cities to pick peaches for the pittances paid to farm workers.
Another element in need of re-thinking is status of illegal migrants already here. The extreme of amnesty and legalization is troubling since these folk have gotten off on a bad foot by violating our laws by showing up here, while the current non-documented status is a continuing disaster. A better approach would be to deport those who have committed any crime whatsoever. Those left could be given a new kind of status—a green card with probation  that allows them to live and work, with the caveat that if they violate a lifetime probation, they’re gone. They should also pay a fee which should be treated as a security to keep the peace. If convicted of a crime, the fee is forfeit. If they don’t, it’s to be paid back with interest to their heirs or designates here or abroad. This should be mandatory for all “long-term migrants” intending to marry in the US and every state marriage license should be granted only on payment of this fee. A fee could be made in installments but would have an iron-clad deadline.
Beyond that, immigrants who show that they are directly contributing to the economy of the US should get bumped up a notch in the citizenship line. If they start a business, teach a trade, earn letters of recommendation from employers grateful for their skill and attention, they should be rewarded. America is a nation that respects sweat equity and if these folks are willing to roll up their sleeves and go to work—especially in jobs that aren’t done by Yankees anymore, they—and especially their American-born children should benefit.
As for children, American born or not, their immigrant parent’s status could ride to some extent on how well the young-’uns do in school. Some families without a tradition of education in their crowd don’t value education enough and this needs to change for many people, including  immigrants and their kids. They need to be taught about the promise of America and reminded that to have a shot at achieving the American dream takes brains, not just muscles or a pretty face.
Beyond that, if we were smarter, we’d breathe life into American labor unions again and more Americans would belong to them. Membership in an American labor union should be limited to citizens or those with legal status intending to become American citizens. This would do much to screen out illegal workers from industry—without the intrusive hand of Uncle giving permission for a job as now occurs with E-verify. Unions might give American workers better bargaining rights and a greater say over their economic futures, too.
The feds must lean on Mexico’s government to limit migration from their side. This may take the form of an annual quota, or by levying fines against the families of those found to be in the US illegally, but since it’s obvious that we can’t solve the problem alone, it makes sense to ask the neighbors for help. The incentive for Mexico would be to save face—it does nothing for the Mexican government to have to swallow the insult Arizona recently threw at it and perhaps they would be willing to do something more progressive in the future. Ultimately, loosening the strictures against Americans’ living, working and owning property in Mexico need to be re-thought, too.
We could just lock the border, of course— put soldiers on the line with barbed wire and guns. This would make our hardcases happy. But fool moves like this would only make Mexico a pressure cooker of repression and poverty that would soon explode into some version of a Red revolution with Cuba, Venezuela and China lending support and munitions. That’s a scenario that no American wants to see, but it could become likely if the kind of imbecility we have in high places keeps on keeping on. In the end, our neighbor’s troubles are our own and solving them won’t be done by hate-filled hotheads or craven bureaucrats. Surely, we’re better than that.

Comments (0)

Scant Notes on the Death of an INS Detainee

Posted on 08 June 2010 by John Rippo

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial “outside agitator” idea. Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider anywhere within its bounds.”
— Martin Luther King Jr., Letter from Birmingham Jail

Marcos da Silva came to the United States on a student visa in 2001. He had a desire to learn English and continue his exploration of music; a passion of his. Marcos connected with like-minded people in San Diego and formed a band that made the rounds and usual precarious living common to musicians everywhere. He had no criminal record and as far as can be determined, lived a peaceful life with numerous friends.

On Saturday, March 27,  Marcos da Silva’s band left San Diego for Lake Havasu, where they planned to play as part of a music benefit for a hospice. After crossing the Arizona border  just outside of Yuma along I-8, Marcos discovered that his student visa had expired. He was now an illegal alien in the United States; he had exactly 15 days left to live.

Marcos was quickly arrested at the first checkpoint east of Yuma by the Border Patrol, who immediately zeroed in on the foreign man. Pulling him aside from the others, they grilled him on his university studies, his student loans and other activities related to education prior to his arrest. His American companions were separated and asked similar questions about him. As is usual in any arrest, suspicious items are taken away from the prisoner; among the items on da Silva was a bottle of pills needed to treat a heart ailment; these were an experimental medication prescribed by UCSD Medical Center. Though he and his friends told the arresting agents that those pills were critical to Marcos’ health, and that da Silva wore a pacemaker to regulate his heartbeat and that his heart worked at perhaps 20 percent of normal capacity unaided by medication, the agents responded that they weren’t doctors and knew nothing about—and were not required to care for—medical conditions. One salient comment stuck with the driver, a man named Ken Deaumont, who recalled an agent pointing at da Silva and saying, “People like him bankrupt the system.” Their pleas fell on deaf ears; the bottle of pills was separated from the prisoner. There was nothing any of da Silva’s friends could do to change that, either.
Marcos da Silvas’ separation from his bottle of pills when he was handcuffed and arrested led directly to his medical deterioration and subsequent death.

Marcos was taken into custody and held for 48 hours. On March 30,  he was to meet with a federal judge in a deportation hearing. He was transferred to several detention centers during this time and on March 31, he arrived at the federal Elroy Detention Center in Arizona.

By this time, Marcos’ health was deteriorating. His lack of medicine and the stress of arrest and confinement, inability to eat a prison diet contraindicated by his medical condition, to say nothing of the shackles, terror and fear of other inmates led to a collapse.

On Thursday, April 1, doctors at Elroy  realized Marcos  was in danger and they had him transferred to nearby Casa Grande Hospital. He spent three days there in intensive care. During this time, Marcos’ friends contacted the honorary consul of Brazil, Brad Brendan, in Phoenix, for assistance. The honorary consul tried negotiating various means to free da Silva without success.

On April 5, friends and associates organized a search to finally locate where he was being held. One of them located Marcos at the hospital; he and the rest rushed to visit , only to be told they did not have authorization to visit da Silva.
Once da Silva was stabilized, he was returned to Elroy Detention Center where he received notice to continue the case in the Federal Court in San Diego. Released on his own recognizance, he was given a return bus ticket. Ill, bewildered and with no way to get to the bus station, the Brazilian honorary consul arranged to drive him to catch his bus back to San Diego.

On April 8, Marcos rode the bus from Casa Grande to El Centro.  He carried with him a court summons and a few remaining pills for his heart ailment.

It isn’t known whether he misread his bus ticket or if there was some other error; what is known is that he spent the night in the bus station and walked to the nearest ATM to withdraw enough funds to purchase the remainder of his ticket early the next morning.   Marcos arrived in San Diego the following day, and spent the night at a friend’s home.
By April 10, Marcos’ condition deteriorated further; this was presumed to be from the stress of the arrest and imprisonment, the desert heat and the break from his medication. He was taken to UCSD Hospital and placed in the intensive care unit.

On April 11, Marcos began having multiple heart attacks and was placed in an induced coma.

On April 12, Marcos died of heart failure. Doctors at UCSD attributed his death directly to his loss of medication, complicated by high stress. An autopsy is pending. There was a memorial on April 25.

By April 22, news of Marcos da Silva’s death made headlines in Brazil. Media in that country have kept the dead man alive in commentary for over a week and highlights of immigration crackdowns in the US have focused much attention on this country in terms of one of their citizens who died at the hands of uncaring Yankees, attempting—and failing to save money on his incarceration.

Comments (0)

La Fachada: Our Kind of Mexican Food

Posted on 08 June 2010 by John Rippo

Next time you need Mexican, do yourself a favor and hop the trolley to el Varrio to the 25th St. stop at Imperial, walk up half a block and find La Fachada. There are two; one is a sit-in restaurant, the other is a covered patio served by a “taco truck” that takes care of the overload. This place always has an overload of customers because the food is excellent and the outdoor site is the quick service part of the operation. This stays open later than the restaurant does.
Watch the women make the corn tortillas in the window and blend the five different kinds of salsas. Order the pastor, carnitas, lengua, or chicken street tacos for $1.70 each; two will fill you up. They make their own horchata and the peppers and onions roasting over the coals are gratis, as are the boiled beans, cucumbers, radishes and chopped peppers. Beer is available inside.
The service is quick and presentation simple; the indoor restaurant is where to go if you want to sit awhile.  La Fachada al fresco opens early and offers crepes along with its full menu. It’s a great place to have the large Mexican breakfast you always dreamed of at an absurdly early hour. You can eat at the outside patio til one a.m.
The only shortfall is the coffee. If you go early, bring your own thermos. Other than that, the place is a jewel and if you’re up for something authentic, basic, hearty and different, this is the place for you. It certainly is for us and we’ll see you there. —ESPRESSO staff

Comments (0)

2540 Bistro: Real Northern Italian Cuisine from Liguria

Posted on 08 June 2010 by John Rippo

I have to confess a bias here; this is the kind of cooking that comes from my mother’s region of Italy and the stuff I grew up on. My mom’s ancestry came from a place near the top of the Italian boot on the Mediterreanean side not too far from where France and Italy meet. This is Liguria and the people there have spent centuries cultivating basil—pesto—into an art form along with the mysteries of pine nuts, olive oils, zucchini and nearly everything that comes from the sea.
It’s a little different from the average spaghetti red, sugar in the marinara sauce and canned artichokes that are too common in what passes for Italian cooking for American tastes. Those who are used to the stuff you can find in a cheap pizzeria or chain eatery are going to be surprised and maybe dismayed if they somehow find a real McCoy of Italian eating anywhere. I’m very glad to say that at 2540 Bistro & Bakehouse, the real McCoy of Ligurian cuisine is alive and well and living in San Diego. I was so taken with this place that I called my relatives in town to tell them about it.
Perhaps the most important thing to know about 2540 concerns the focaccia. Focaccia is a kind of pizza that is much different from the thin crust, cheese laden, etcetera that we all Jones for from time to time. Focaccia relies on a thick crust for starters that uses a semolina flour that takes forever to knead into readiness for the oven. The flour is paired with a dusting of a finely ground corn meal on the bottom of the cooking sheets that gives it a counterpoint taste not found in other forms of the dish and usually a light olive oil is added. Like any pizza, focaccia can be topped with whatever is handy; we often ate it topped with bacalao, crab, lobster or even clams. These were offset by a blend of light, spiced olive oils, herbs and peppers. But the pure form of Ligurian focaccia is a simple tomato sauce and blended olive offering. This is the kind found at 2540 and it is excellent.
That’s because their focaccia plays tomatoes, olive oils and temperature together in exactly the right combination that melds their flavors, adds some zing and melts in your mouth. It was like eating my mother’s pizza again and it’s as good as the focaccia form gets.
2540 is not limited to focaccia, however. There are delicate pastas, of which gnocchi are a potato flour dumpling to which a pesto sauce is added. First rate comfort food it is; and the roasted eggplant with oil is a completely pure form of the dish, too.
The bistro offers outdoor seating, a varied menu of authentic dishes, and even an exemplary coffee service. It is one of the two places in Old Town in which to have an excellent espresso and their house coffee is offered in french press pots only.
The place has class. Better than that, it has chops and will no doubt go far. The only limitation at present is that it is still waiting for San Diego’s bureaucrats to give it a beer and wine license; until that happens, there will be no alcohol served—you can’t even bring your own.
Lastly: I apologize for not getting the complete menu of pastries that are made daily at 2540. There are many and as the Ligurian culture dictates, they’re incredibly addictive. It’s best to call and ask owner Marco for the latest updates. I hope to see you there soon.

Comments (1)

Advertise Here
Advertise Here