Report Card – A Brief Response to SOTU


He had a few different jobs to do from a few separate perspectives.

In the Eyes of the Left

He had to lay out his agenda in a definitive manner and avoid digressing from the party script. He had to concede little and give the Republicans much to mull over. He had to acknowledge the presence and potency of the new House majority, but suppress its voice to the best of his ability. He had to talk about guns — in light of Tucson — and talk about civility in light of the political climate. He had to promise to veto a healthcare repeal and vow to protect the middle class. He had to win over the “green” people, make education a priority, and address immigration reform. The list was endless. From the outset, the Democrats were not likely to be pleased.

From this perspective: B+

He covered most issues and did, in fact, present his agenda. Contrary to White House spin before the event, his speech was pretty partisan. It was sprinkled with a unifying tidbit here and there, which made it seem like somewhat “kumbaya”-esque. He neglected some key social issues (evidently for political purposes), but for the most part, his speech didn’t concede too much.

In the Eyes of the Right

Was there anything that the president could have said that would have pleased the right? Well, he could have said that he supports full gun-ownership rights and would be more than willing to sign a repeal of the healthcare bill. He could have said that taxes on the rich needed to be lower and that the issue of the declining quality of public education should take a backseat to more ‘important’ problems like regulation. He could have said that our two wars needed to be continually waged until every building in Baghdad and Khartoum is burned to the ground. In other words, to please the Republicans, he would have had to become a Republican.

From this perspective: D

He was partisan in one direction.


I haven’t seen a whole lot of coverage of this element of the speech but I thought that the way the chamber looked during the speech was fascinating. For example, because the members were so intermingled, even when Obama spoke a line that only Democrats stood or applauded for, it looked as though the entire House chamber rose.

I also found a somewhat disheartening irony in the appearance of the House chamber. For the sake of unifying around a common cause, each member of Congress (among others working on the Hill) wore a white and blue-striped ribbon on his or her lapel. This was intended to honor the victims of the shooting in Tucson and keep Rep. Gabrielle Giffords — who was shot in the head — in Congress’ thoughts.

Here’s the irony: each Democrat wore the ribbon on his or her left, each Republican on his or her right. Nice job, Congress.


Ostensibly, the SOTU was a call for unity. If ever there was a place where the idea of unity and cohesion could take precedence over partisan gridlock and resistance to compromise, it would not be Capitol Hill. And Barack Obama knows that, which is why he sugar-coated his speech with a bipartisan flare. But the agenda that he set out in his speech covered left-wing talking points. The vitriolic mood is going nowhere.

America the Eclectic

I don’t really know anyone who eats raw eggs.

Nor do I know anyone who eats raw baking soda. The same rule seems to apply to sugar, flour, and vanilla extract. You don’t eat them raw (that’s nasty). But when you mix them together…that’s right, it’s a cake. And really, try telling me that you don’t like cake.

But imagine that there was a wall that separated each ingredient, never allowing them to interact—that halted the production of a mouthwatering delicacy. That wall exists. It’s on the border of Mexico and California. The wall (and the values it represents) isolates the ingredients. Someone’s trying to steal your cake.

The wall’s shadow on the desert’s desolate ridges catapults even the most hopeful of men into indefinite darkness. It’s the only thing standing between the land of penury and the land of promise. Its iron foundation is impenetrable. It’s like a moat surrounding an opulent palace. America is on the other side.

America has an eclectic personality. In fact, our taste is so heterogeneous that we’ve been called a salad bowl. We take and adapt. What could be more American than a hamburger, pizza, and good ole’ apple pie? Nothing. The hamburger, however, hails from Germany. Pizza calls Italy its home. And pie, that distinctly American delicacy? Ancient Egypt. Stop being naïve, America. That which is uniquely American is uniquely multicultural. Drop the holier-than-thou attitude. It’s time to realize that our food—as childish as it may seem—is analogous to ourselves.

John Kennedy said it and each of us knows it: we are a nation of immigrants. Unless you’re one of the 1.9 million Native Americans left in this country of 307 million, you’re an immigrant. I was born here, but my great-grandparents emigrated from Eastern Europe. Our President’s father was an immigrant. Five hundred and thirty-four members of our Congress are not Native Americans. That means that the ratio of once-immigrants to Natives is 534:1. We all came here from somewhere.

Our country was originally built as a haven for immigrants. Don’t you get a bad taste in your mouth when you realize that we’ve forgotten our roots? That the very fruit of our founders’ loins are the people who now seek to stack bricks upon bricks, building the wall higher and higher? Isn’t it tragic that the level of sanctimony has become so overwhelming that the men and women who preach the quintessential story of migration have forgotten the taste of the salt of the sea? Isn’t it ironic that this country that was created by people seeking refuge from a repressive and impoverished land is now the first in line to push newcomers away?

We often forget that humanity is just as valid a common bond as any. Americans have paved so many different paths to success because of our polychrome composition. According to the Migration Policy Institute, an independent, non-partisan, non-profit think tank, one in every four doctors in America is born in another country, forty-two percent of medical scientists in America are foreign-born, and one in three software engineers. Immigrants contribute $1,800 more in taxes than they collect in benefits according to the National Research Council and National Academy of Sciences. According to the Congressional Budget Office, “ tax revenues of all types generated by immigrants—both legal and unauthorized—exceed the costs of the services they use”. Immigration has served as the backbone of this country; if there were no immigrants, there would be no United States of America.

Immigration needs to be easier. Becoming a citizen of this country ought to become an inviting and enticing process instead of a legislative turn-off. The notion that Americans are better than everyone else is bunk. Our “moral high ground” is often a plateau and we’re not more worthy of achieving success than anyone else. Our country’s original foundation was an experiment; something that had never been tried before. We are living proof of how an unsteady mixture of idiosyncrasies can build upon each other to form not an obtrusive wall, but an invitation to the rest of the world.

Raw ingredients serve a much more pragmatic purpose when they are combined. America is so successful because it is a motley crew. And so, to those who wish to bolt up the door to opportunity and hold up clenched fists rather than outstretched arms, I have but one thing left to say: let them eat cake.

Election Guide

If you think that more minorities belong in jail, vote Republican tomorrow.

If you’ve seen your share of nature and have come to terms with letting the rest of it go, vote Republican tomorrow.

If you think that no one else should benefit from your success, that you and your money are better off in the a secluded bubble of wealth, vote Republican tomorrow.

If you believe those who are different should be sent away, ostracized, or persecuted, vote Republican tomorrow.

If you know which religion is best, vote Republican tomorrow.

If you think that not all Americans have the right to health insurance, if you think that only those who can afford it should have it, and that you are not somewhat responsible for the well being of your neighbor, vote Republican tomorrow.

If you believe that the government doesn’t serve any critical function, or if you feel the deep desire to give up your compensation when you retire, if you have the concrete knowledge that you’ll never lose your job and you’ll never be in need of financial assistance–why bother having welfare?–vote Republican tomorrow.

If poor people are none of your concern and poverty–you’re sure–is a back burner issue, vote Republican tomorrow.

If you believe that there is a right way and a wrong way to love, that the distinctions are clear, that the government should dictate to Americans who they can and can’t love, and  that feelings should be in the hands of Congress, vote Republican tomorrow.

If you believe that corporations shouldn’t be held accountable for deeply destructive environmental policies and financial irresponsibility that has proven detrimental to millions, vote Republican tomorrow.

If you’re under the impression that the subprime mortgage crisis couldn’t have been  prevented by regulation and oversight, vote Republican tomorrow.

If you don’t believe in the American Dream and instead believe that those seeking it should be sent away en masse, vote Republican tomorrow.

If you know that we need more wars, vote Republican tomorrow.

If you believe that Texas oil billionaires need more money, that large companies should be able to fund major political campaigns, vote Republican tomorrow.

If you’re sure that old white men should make decisions about what does or doesn’t happen to bodies of young women, vote Republican tomorrow.

But if you’re interested in a future antithetical to the one just described, you may want to reconsider your vote. I cast my vote for the Democratic Party in 2010.


An uneasy mixture of a corporate ego and political corruption have finally caught up to Meg Whitman. In the past week, it has come out that the California gubernatorial candidate employed an illegal immigrant as her housekeeper for several years. Whitman and her husband, Griff Harsh, claim that they were completely oblivious of any sort of notion that their housekeeper, Nicky Diaz, was an illegal immigrant. They claim that the only found out about her immigration status in 2009, and promptly fired her.

Whitman and Harsh, however, received a letter from the Social Security Administration in 2003, which indicated that aspects of their housekeeper’s paperwork did not add up. The couple ignored the letter, for the most part, aside from running it past Diaz. Harsh wrote “Nicky, please check this” at the bottom of the letter and gave it to Diaz. For the next six years, the steadily employed her (at very low wages. Meg Whitman is a billionaire).

Am I against illegal immigration? Am I against employing illegal immigrants? Do I think that there are major flaws in the United States immigration system? Do I think that what Meg Whitman did was right? None of these questions are relevant.

Meg Whitman is running on a platform that is firmly upheld by her plan to make illegal immigration tougher and to send those immigrants back to their home countries. One of her principal proposals is the “Economic Fence,” which would supposedly protect against the employment of illegal immigrants. The following is from the website:

“Meg believes that the federal government and California need to work together to establish a system that allows employers to better verify the immigration status of their workers. The “Economic Fence,” an enhanced e-verification system, will help keep employers honest and will be a major deterrent to illegal immigration.”

Her website also says that she wants to “deploy the resources of the National Guard” to keep people like Nicky out of California. She wants to “prohibit driver’s licenses” for people like Nicky (how did Nicky get to Whitman’s house?) She wants to“conduct workplace inspections of suspected business.” Really!

Hypocrisy at its best. May God save California.

27 days, 13 hours, 38 minutes, 48 seconds.

Blind Zionism

On a soaring balmy mountaintop at the very top of the Galilee, a graying older man with a white goatee stands before an crowd of enraptured teenagers. Behind him, almost like a painting, is the motionless Lebanese village of Adaisseh. The man, an American-born Israeli, gesticulates and changes the inflection in his voice to make his points which garner scattered applause and cheers from the young quasi-zionist audience. Pointing out at– what is to the kids– the unknown, then back at the land upon which he is standing, the man makes a bold statement.

“This land has always been ours. It was granted to us in the Torah. At no point in history have we ever kicked anyone out of their homes here. At no point have we taken land that isn’t ours.”

Kids clap. Staff members smirk. I frown.

I don’t frown because I disagree with the idea that this land was promised to us. Or even because I have my doubts about God and the Bible. I frown because what the man with the white goatee is saying with such confidence is simply untrue.

After the Israeli War of Independence, there were between 600,000 and 725,000 Arab refugees. That means that there were between 600,000 and 725,000 Arabs (people) who were no longer able to live in their homes because– for better or for worse– the Jews needed somewhere to go. Fortunately for the Jews, they were able to settle. Unfortunately for the Arabs, they had to leave. The Zionist ideology at the time was something along the lines of, hey, Arab states, we’re taking care of our refugees. Why can’t you take care of yours?

Some of my closest friends have told me things like “That’s what war is. That’s what you do when you conquer a country.” It’s true. Few people bring it up, but the original American settlers– in all their glory– pushed out (even killed) the Native American population when they showed up. They decided that the land was theirs and nothing could be in their way.

The man with the white goatee and people who preach his hear-no-evil talking points are people who I’d dub “blind Zionists.” How idealistic can you get? Perhaps you believe that it was ethical, justified, or even necessary to displace all these people. But regardless, it displays ignorance and idealism.

Just because you wish it didn’t happen doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. It happened. It’s naïve to make such a definitive statement based on wishful thinking. Blind Zionism is real. If you call yourself a Zionist, please know why you are one.

A Disruption of School Affairs

A friend of mine lives in a particularly conservative city in south Texas; a city where 41% of the population is of Mexican descent and about 61% is Hispanic. When Arizona’s SB 1070 passed, my friend and twenty of his classmates organized a school-wide campaign to push back against the new law.

They taped up posters around school that displayed huge pictures of eyes on them with the subtext, “We See You, Latinos.” They put up mirrors around campus and underneath them, wrote, “Do I Look Illegal?” The whole thing was unmistakably caustic and sardonic; it was a powerful statement, the likes of which this school had never seen.

The high school’s administration ended the protest. My friend, along with two other students, got suspended; but not for displaying their political ideology, the administrators claimed, or because it broke with popular opinion. They suspended them because the protest “disrupted school affairs.”

That same day, during school hours, the school gym was being demolished by a crane. But that didn’t “disrupt school affairs.”

“(There shall be) no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

Tell me, does the first amendment not apply to minors?

That’s Your Birth Certificate? I Don’t Believe You.

I was talking to a Republican friend of mine a few weeks ago. Roughly a week had passed since the Arizona immigration law had become legislation and we were vigorously debating it. I was irate and told him that the law was unjust and chauvinistic. He couldn’t seem to understand what my problem with the law was. He was so intent on its “effectiveness” and how rational he thought it was; “If you’re an American citizen and can prove it– you’re fine!”

A few days ago, in Northern Illinois, a man named Eduardo Caraballo was taken into police custody after he was suspected of being involved in a robbery. When his mother came to bail him out, the cops wouldn’t let him go. Immigration and Customs Enforcement took him into custody on the hunch that he wasn’t a legal citizen.

Caraballo was born in Puerto Rico– a commonwealth of the United States– and maintains US citizenship. He supplied the feds with his birth certificate, ID, and social security number, but they kept him in custody over the weekend. They weren’t sure the he was a citizen. Apparently, there wasn’t enough evidence.

Maybe it was human nature, or maybe it was just an excuse; but, if for no other reason, this is why Arizona’s immigration “reform” is nefarious and highly unethical. It doesn’t work. Its motives are skewed and it empowers people to debilitate those who share their rights and privileges.

Arizona SB 1070 law is deeply rooted in conservative acrimony towards all things different and embodies a type of xenophobia that the world hoped to have done away with more than half a century ago.

It doesn’t work.

(Ed. note: He’s Puerto Rican-American, and they were going to deport him to MEXICO!)