Monthly Archives: May 2009

Beach Report Card Press Conference May 20, 2009

The December 2008 freeze on bond funds has meant that all "California Clean Beach Initiative" projects that were underway last year have been put on hold until funding can be freed up.

The December 2008 freeze on bond funds has meant that all "California Clean Beach Initiative" projects that were underway last year have been put on hold until funding can be freed up.

So it’s that time of the year again, when Heal the Bay releases its annual “Beach Report Card” that grades California’s beaches from a scale of A to F.  For this awesome occasion, I worked my ass off for almost most of last week and the beginning of this one to help Heal the Bay get the word out to the various Spanish media outlets doing in-Spanish press releases, executive summary, and contacting members of the Spanish media (attention Spanish-speaking media folks, if you haven’t reported on Heal the Bay’s Beach Report Card and need information in Spanish, visit this site).

In addition, I was fortunate enough to be at this morning’s press conference at the Santa Monica Pier of Southern California; at one point one of the reporters pointed to the beachgoers that were already out on the beach so early in the morning (it was around 11 a.m.) and asked “is it safe for them to go into the water?” (the reporter was referring to people on the part of the beach that is located on the north side of the Santa Monica Pier, which typically has a better water quality compared to the south side of Pier, according to Heal the Bay’s online Beach Report Card; in fact, the south side is usually sporting a big ol’ “Do Not Swim” warning sign).  I couldn’t help but notice how the majority of the people on the beach were mostly young and Latino.  This is no surprise, being that many of them come from farther “inland” communities that get extremely hot around this time of year … and of course Santa Monica Beach, for those of you that don’t know, is a major makeout dating spot-it can actually be quite romantic in the evening. 

I was not the only one to make the observation that most people in the water were Latino though: well-respected and public health expert Dr. Aliza Lifshiftz (she is often featured on the local Univision station and La Opinion), who was kind enough to join and speak at the press conference, also noticed the demographic makeup of those that were going in the water.  For us Latinos, water quality and its condition is extremely important and personal to our health (it can cause serious health problems) because we are the ones that are more likely to go swimming in those  polluted beaches because of lack of monitoring programs, failure of agencies to post notices, or simply because we dont’ have the access to information or political levers that other racial groups have.  To make matters worst, the state budget crisis has forced many agencies throughout the state to either scale back or completely suspend their beach water quality monitoring programs that aim to keep us all safe. 

Amid all these bad news, you may ask yourself, “well what can I do about it? how can I help?”  Well for starters, you can help by checking out the Beach Report Card Annual Report  and look up your favorite beach and demand of the local officials in charge of that beach to do something about it to repair the condition of the water.  You can also do your small part: join one of Heal the Bay’s beach cleanups (which is especially important, being that the Beach Report Card itself identifies only fecal bacteria and does not take into account actual street trash that ends up in the ocean).

Update: we received quite a few coverage in the local media:

Some television stories:

http://www.ktla.com/news/landing/ktla-beach-report,0,5432753.story

http://abclocal.go.com/kabc/story?section=news/state&id=6824983

http://www.ktvu.com/news/19523064/detail.html

Some of the many newspaper articles:

http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-beaches21-2009may21,0,6689209.story

http://www.mercurynews.com/breakingnews/ci_12411408?nclick_check=1

http://www.presstelegram.com/news/ci_12415846

http://www3.signonsandiego.com/stories/2009/may/20/bn20beaches-report-card/  

http://www.venturacountystar.com/news/2009/may/20/county-gets-incomplete-grade-in-annual-water/

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2009/05/20/MN0H17OAB8.DTL&tsp=1

http://www.pe.com/ap_news/California/CA_Polluted_Beaches_407921C.shtml

http://www.kpbs.org/news/2009/may/21/state-budget-crisis-could-endanger-beachgoers/

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Filed under Environment, Spanish

Jesus WAS a LIBERAL

Was Jesus a Liberal or a Conservative?  Some people answer “neither” because he is supposed to transcend human labels … but this view is a little contradictory because Jesus was the incarnation of God into human flesh, and if that was the case, then shouldn’t we assume that he also adopted human qualities as well?  The question of Jesus’ orientation is nevertheless explored more in depth in the new book: “Jesus Was a Liberal.”  The media, nevertheless, would have you believe that Jesus was a staunch right-wing conservative even though there are many Christians that see through the current so-called conservative “culture of life” because it often contradicts itself when it refuses to promote a true all-encompassing culture of life, that is, one that celebrates and protects the human condition in all of its facets: through social programs that follow the teachings of Jesus to combat poverty,  promote compassion and empathy, and protect God’s creation (to agressively combat such threats to our environment-like global warming and offer everyone Universal Healthcare).

Perception in the media most of the time trumps reality … in fact so much so that perception at some point becomes so pervasive that it starts to influence and define reality.  In the United States, religion has become a topic of division, mainly because it has been hijacked by its portrayal in the hands of who dominates our corporate media: the conservative right-wing. 

The conservative right-wing media has been extremely successful at dominating the dialogue in mass communication.  One perfect example is how they have been incredibly successful at perpuating the myth that the media has a “liberal bias”, when in fact the opposite is true: for the most part, mass media has a CONSERVATIVE bias, which continues to persist to this day

Point in case is the way that religion is portrayed in the corporate media. “Religious values” to the media talking heads has come to mean a very narrow set of issues: “anti-abortion” and “anti-gay” (by the way, the Bible never even talks about abortion and Jesus himself never even mentioned anything about gays-the only mention of it is some vague mention in the Old Testament, which according to Christianity, was rendered invalid by the advent of the New Testament).  This has come to be because of a concerted behind-the-scenes strategy through political manipulation from the right-wing think-tanks.  Yet, there is hardly any mention that for many Americans who identify themselves as “religious”, those issues are not really that important to them-in fact, issues such as social and economic justice are far closer to their hearts.  However, right-wing think-tanks, their corporatist sponsors, and their media talking head enablers are not all to blame. 

The left-wing of this country also bears some responsibility: for many secular liberals, religion has often been viewed as an obstacle to progress and enlightment or as a sign of weakness (never mind that some of the biggest leaps foward in our society have been rooted in religious themes: Martin Luther King Jr.’s speeches and organizing tactics were a perfect example of that).  Meanwhile, politicans on the so-called “Left” are left with the difficult task of trying to fill in the gaps and get across the message (most of the time in a very awkward manner) that not all religious people are authoritarian conservative but that in fact many are actually liberal and yes, even supportive of the sanctity of love inherent in the concept of Gay Marriage.  

Overall, conservative religious personalities such as James Dobson and Pat Robertson and their campaigns get all the attention from the media, and the progressive religious personalities like Michael Lerner or  Jim Wallis and their campaigns get almost no attention.  Point in case is the recent supposed (if not manufactured) uproar that the media is currently focusing on 24/7: President Obama speaking at Notre Dame.  According to right-wing outlets, “Catholics” are supposedly “outraged” that President Obama was scheduled to speak at Notre Dame (because of his defense of pro-choice policies), a Catholic University:

As a Catholic, I really don’t know what’s more offensive: the fact that right-wing religious outlets claim to speak for ALL Catholics (including myself and an overwhelming majority of Catholics that don’t share their views), or the fact that their hypocrisy is just so offensively transparent: the Pope himself gave an Honorary recognition to President Sarkozy, who is a supporter of pro-choice polices … so do you think they will boycott the Pope? Yeah, don’t hold your breath … and if you want to talk about contradictions between the Catholic Church’s teachings and peoples’ practices: how about the support of the American Catholic Conservatives for capital punishment, which is a direct violation of the Catholic Church’s official position … oh and let’s not get into the whole Occupation of Iraq: both John Paul II and the current Pope Benedict have been very critical of America’s military campaigns in the Middle East.  But do you think these contradictions are getting media coverage?  Nope, not a peep.  Instead, we hear carefully-crafted messages about how Nancy Pelosi is not worthy of communion because she supports “abortion rights.” 

This is not the first time that a blackout of the progressive religious view has taken place in the media.  Back in 2007, a group of progressive Evangelical Christians were arrested for protesting former President Bush’s Occupation of Iraq.  This got covered in a few print & online outlets, but it really did not make it to the corporate cable news cycle nor did it get the under-the-microscope intensity that Obama’s speech at Notre Dame got.  More recently, the online advocacy community “Faithful America” launched a drive to support Notre Dame’s decision to invite President Obama to speak, but do you think that got any major attention from the media?  Nope. 

Frankly, I wouldn’t be the least surprised to learn that all this media frenzy was manufactured by the conservative right as a strategic piece in their quest to torpedo Obama’s upcoming nomination of a new Justice to the Supreme Court.  Regardless, I am pretty sick and tired of the way the media is portraying religion as a battle between “secularism” and “religiosity”.  It is a frame that is manipulative at best and morally bankrupt at worst because it is devoid of meaningful debate.  The topic of abortion is the perfect example of how the messaging wars play out, to the detriment of the American public.  All we hear in the media is how the “pro-choicers” are in a battle with the “pro-lifers” … but these lables just block us from moving forward on views that recognize that this is more than just a black-and-white issue.  It deprives us of views such the one espoused by the Network of Spiritual Progressives on this topic:

“Make [abortion] safe, legal, and rare … And make childbearing safe, economically supported, and surrounded by a loving community that celebrates the mystery and miracle of life and that honors and rewards the parent or parents who have undertaken the difficult and beautiful task of raising children.” -Rabbi Michael Lerner.

So what can you do about all this? Well, for starters, check out the action alert that “Faithful America” has up on their site to support a new way in how we deal and talk about abortion.  Click here to visit their site.

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Filed under Abortion, Gay Marriage, Media Literacy, Political, Progressive Movement, Religion, Spirituality

Bring Back the Beach

Honoree H. David Nahai with boardmember Julia Louis-Dreyfus at Heal the Bay's 17th Annual Benefit Dinner held on May 29, 2008. Photo: Derek Goes

Honoree H. David Nahai with boardmember Julia Louis-Dreyfus at Heal the Bay's 17th Annual Benefit Dinner held on May 29, 2008. Photo: Derek Goes

It’s always exciting to see businesses advertise their products through donations to benefit events for worthy causes because it not only promotes social responsibility, but it also gives businesses an opportunity to advertise their products to key leaders of activist circles. 

One such event is Heal the Bay’s annual benefit dinner, “Bring Back the Beach.”  The kinds of products and services that are donated to be featured and auctioned off to support the important work that the organization does to protect our rivers and ocean and the type of environmental justice work that I’ve been doing in South Central L.A. (PDF Document-scroll down to pages 8 & 9) receive a lot of exposure.  Here’s an excerpt that describes them, straight from the www.healthebay.org site:

This year’s Bring Back the Beach Live Auction once again includes a variety of exciting and unique items, featuring the all-new 2010 Ford Fusion Hybrid. Other Live Auction items include a walk-on role for the New Adventures of Old Christine, exclusive game suites for the Lakers, and a sumptuous stay at the Four Seasons at Wailea.

This year’s Silent Auction offers guests nearly 300 items from which to choose, ranging from exquisite, collectible art works from Jillian Kogan, Jay Lewis, Laraine Mestman and many others; guest accommodations including the Ambrose Hotel, Casa Del Mar, the Fairmont Newport Beach Getaway, Loews Coranado Bay Resort, and Shutters on the Beach; as well as exclusive life-style experiences ranging from private surf lessons and helicopter sight-seeing tours, to an incredible, one-of-a-kind culinary experience with LA Weekly’s Pulitzer-prize winning food critic, Jonathan Gold.

Plus, as part of our continued focus on making Bring Back the Beach a sustainable event through reducing, reusing and recycling, our Auction will once again highlight a number of ‘experience-based’ packages; for example a dining-out adventure with Pulitzer-prize winning, food critic Jonathan Gold was a past favorite.

This benefit dinner will take place on May 28th so there is still time time to support this event (this is especially important and urgent because the state budget crisis has impacted Heal the Bay’s operational budget): you can donate a product or service by calling (310) 451-1500.  In addition, if you or your business would like to purchase a ticket ($500.00 individual) or better yet, purchase an entire table, please visit this site.

I can tell you from personal experience (I’ve worked at this event for the past two years-this will be my third one I will be attending) that this benefit dinner is very fun.  They start with an open bar out in the entrance of the hangar.  As you mingle throughout the display of items that are part of the “silent auction”, you never know who you’ll run into (last year I actually shared a joke with Chef Ramsay).   In past dinners, I’ve actually seen up close and personal  various personalities such as Alex Trebek, Amy Smart, Kelly Slater, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bob Saget, and many more.  Best thing is that although the dinner itself is quite “chic”, it’s not a formal attire event … so basically you just dress “beach chic” (whatever that is, LOL).

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Hate Speech

…”the only reason [Luis] is dead is because he was Mexican,” law experts recently argued on CNN.  Recently, there was a disturbing verdict on a racially-charged case where an all-white jury found a group of teens as not guilty of a hate crime for beating up a Latino kid to death.  CNN reported on this:

Equally troubling, is the fact that there is little attention being paid to the effects of verbal violence from certain right-wing media outlets and personalities that, under the cover of being “anti-illegal immigration“, get away with vicious statements that are sometimes full of misinformation at best and morally criminal at worst.  During the recent swine flu media frenzy, for example, right-wing pudits seized on the opportunity to push their racist rhetoric.  As is often the case, sometimes the most dangerous kind of rhetoric is the kind that is subtle and pretends or claims not to be racist, precisely because it lurks in the shadows.  One perfect example of this is media-talking-head Lou Dobbs.  He is married to a Latina, by the way, and that tidbit has often been brought up as an argument to claim that Lou Dobbs coudln’t possibly be racist.  Yet at closer examination, this seems to defy logic.  First off, the fact that he is married to a Latina does not give him license to spread lie after lie (after all, Hernan Cortes had the Malinche as a lover, and that didn’t make Cortes any less of a pillager of Mexico’s land and of its people).  In addition, a little-known fact is that Lou Dobbs often quotes “reports” as “facts” from or has people on his show that are members of right-wing extremist groups that either have deep ties with or are themselves groups classified as hate groups.  By all accounts, one cannot help but ask this: “if Lou Dobbs pushes defamatory falsehoods day after day based on racist sources (he does not disclose this fact, by the way) then what is his motiviation for doing so?  Is it racism?”   

Beyond Lou Dobbs, there is the larger issue of the potential effects that the violence (whether verbal or visual) in the media has on stoking the fires that eventually lead to violent murders against particular groups of people.  While it is difficult to prove a direct relationship between violent hate speech or even subtle but vicious anti-Latino immigrant rhetoric  and actual violent hate crimes, one would have to be a fool to not see a correlation that is just too evident to dismiss it as a coincence.   People influence media and media influence people-it is a self-reinforcing cycle.  To claim that media should not be held accountable for the impact that it has on people is just as naive as saying that individuals do not impact and influence media itself.  Somewhere along the lines, there needs to be accountability-otherwise, grotesque acts of hate go unchecked. 

Sometimes, some action is taken against the hate rhetoric on the media: recently, a radio talk show host was suspended because of his plainly racist comments against Mexicans:

As the video above discusses, Jay Severin should be fired (by the way, you can contact the station that puts him on the air and ask them to fire him; click here).  Now, will Lou Dobbs ever take responsibility for his role in the rising violence against Latinos?  Think again, he actually slammed and criticized the civil rights organizations that have denounced or warned the media of the hate speech that is on the air.  Yet, the number of extremist groups continue to grow and the tide of hate acts continues to rise.  For a list of high-profile cases exemplifying the rising incidence of hate crimes against Latinos, click here.

Perhaps what is most tragic and maddening is that amid all the violent rhetoric on the media and the grotesque acts it accompanies, it comes as no surprise that an all-white jury recently decided to let the murderers of Luis Ramirez walk free.  There is something you can do about it, though.  Read this message (below) from the organization America’s Voice:   

Dear Friends,

Last year a group of teenagers brutally murdered Luis Ramirez in Shenandoah, Pennsylvania.

As Luis lay unconscious at their feet, the teens yelled to a young woman by his side: “Tell your effin Mexican friends to get the eff out of Shenandoah or you’re going to be laying next to him!”

Just last week an all-white jury found the teens “not guilty” of the serious charges of third-degree murder and ethnic intimidation. The ruling was greeted with cheers in the courtroom, and gasps of disbelief from Luis’s grieving fiancee and children.

Today we’re asking you to join with us and our friends at the Mexican American Legal Defense & Educational Fund (MALDEF) to demand justice for Luis, his children, and his fiancee.

Sign the petition to the Department of Justice and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. Demand that they prosecute Luis’s murder as a federal Hate Crime:

http://www.AmericasVoiceOnline.org/ProsecutetheHate

Afterward, the head of the jury said publicly “I believe strongly that some of the people on the jury were racist.” He said that some “had their minds made up maybe before the first day.”

Hate crimes against immigrants are on the rise across the country.

Law experts on CNN have argued that “the only reason [Luis] is dead is because he was Mexican.” It’s becoming clear that in that courtroom an undocumented Mexican immigrant was seen as less than a man.

Make sure justice is served for Luis Ramirez and the loved ones he left behind — sign the petition and forward it widely:

http://www.AmericasVoiceOnline.org/ProsecutetheHate

Together we can stand up to forces of extremism that threaten our country’s best values by playing upon our worst instincts.

Please send this email to 10 of your friends and loved ones now.

Thanks for everything you’re doing,

Adam Luna

America’s Voice

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Filed under Economic Refugees, Immigration, Media Literacy

So what are you getting your Mom for Mother’s Day?

I just love the way that new interactive media like this is breaking the door wide open to not only bring about new sets of values that challenge the old materialist me-firstism (and sometimes fallacious) profit-making ways AND on top of that, helping you do something really cool for your Mommy 🙂 Check this message out:

Dear Friends,
Bogged down in weighty political analyses, it’s easy to neglect our capacity to be light-hearted, goofy, and loving. This cute Mother’s Day video made us laugh. We’re sending it along in case you want to share it with the mothers in your life.  Click on the pic below: 
Click on this picture to make a customized video for your Mom with her own name!

Click on this picture to make a customized video for your Mom with her own name!

 The first principle of our Spiritual Covenant with America calls for a society that promotes rather than undermines loving and caring relationships and families. Mother’s Day may have been transformed into a “Hallmark” occasion to encourage profligate spending, but the idea of honoring our mothers is one that we should reclaim from the competitive marketplace and make central to our lives. Any occasion that legitimates the public expression of genuine love and gratitude deserves to be re-created and made real in our lives.

Love and generosity can and should become the foundation for all of our politics — that’s precisely what we have in mind when we talk about a New Bottom Line. Please re-read our Spiritual Covenant with America to see what a difference that could make. And then, make it happen!
The video was developed by http://www.momsrising.org/, a group committed to ending economic discrimination against mothers. Tikkun’s July/August 2008 issue featured this article about the group’s potential to lead the United States toward a New Bottom Line.
Love and blessings,
Michael Lerner

RabbiLerner@Tikkun.org

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Filed under Consumerism, Holidays, Spirituality

Stuff don’t last like it used to…

Yup, Grandpa’ was right: they really don’t make things to last like they used to.  In fact, most electronics are manufactured so they last only a few years or even only a few months-just perfect timing for when the “new” version comes out, you are  ready and anxious to replace your old broken-down beat-up one.  All this to worship our precious consumerist ways:

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Filed under Consumerism, Economics

PC or Mac?

Watch this video:

Personally, I am more of a PC person.  I guess this all stems from way back when Apple was associated with words like “old” and “outdated” but then their new fruity-shaped designs came along and we got inundated with messages of how “cool” and “sleek” Apple computers were all of a sudden.  To Apple’s credit, their PR campaign was a huge success-so much so that Bill Gates decided to start fighting back

In the end, I agree with the video above: both types of computers get you the same and are good at it … the only difference between them is us: brand loyalty.  So what is your computer orientation? PC or Mac?

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