Open Justice

Reported By: Nicolas Garcia

Open Justice is an online database within the California Department of Justice that tracks the number of deaths of suspects, inmates and police officers in the line of duty. Just last week, CA Attorney General Kamala Harris announced that the database will also track injuries, not just deaths. California is the only state so far to have such a transparent database available to the public.

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Oh Bernie, Let’s Tell the Truth.

Bernie Sanders says he can make tuition-free college a reality, reality says different.

Sanders has done an amazing job of rallying college students this election season, according to NBC News he pulled in a whopping 83% of the millennial vote in the New Hampshire primary, but many believe their support of him is built upon false hope. Sanders continues to preach this idea of a “political revolution” that will suddenly occur if he is elected president, but he tends to forget about checks and balances.

No revolution is going to happen unless he can manage to get the vast majority of congress voted out of office and replaced with representatives that will help his revolution’s cause. The odds of that happening are slim, but it is just one of the concerns regarding his tuition-free proposal.

What happens when Wall Street speculators (whom he plans on taxing to pay for his $75 billion a year plan) find ways around the tax? Does the middle class get stuck with the tax hikes? There are several holes in Sanders’ proposal. As Jim Zarroli of NPR put it: “many firms would find ways to get around the tax, by routing transactions through overseas markets.” That is a fact. Unfortunately, many big banks and investment firms thrive by finding tax loop holes. It is not fair, but that is the reality of the matter.

He also plans to leave it to the states to figure out how exactly this will be implemented. Most states struggle with funding K-12 education, and when it comes to higher education state schools, it is even more difficult to keep the funding consistent. Sanders should really examine how the states have dealt with various issues like this in the past, most recently the situation with Planned Parenthood. Nine states have defunded Planned Parenthood, do we really want certain governors in charge of our college educations in a similar way?

I’m a college student and to quote President Bartlett of The West Wing, “I’m a lily-livered, bleeding-heart liberal,” but I see nothing plausible about Bernie’s tuition-free college plan. Given my age demographic combined with my political ideology, I’m sure I’m in the minority because of my feelings on this issue, but we need to look at the numbers and do the arithmetic.

Sanders is claiming this whole plan will be paid for by a “wall street speculation tax.” In 2012, students spent $62.6 billion on tuition at public colleges in the U.S. This speculation tax simply will not cover that large and growing number. So who has to make up the difference? Students? Middle-class families?

I fear that the quality of education and the quality of life on campus will slip if we make college free. By the way, even though tuition would be taken care of, students would still be subject to campus fees (which would likely increase as a result of tuition-free college).

I know for sure that at Cal State Fullerton we have an issue with housekeeping. There are some classrooms that probably haven’t seen a vaccum or broom in years. I would expect these issues only to get worse under a Sanders presidency (assuming he can get tuition free college through congress). I would hope I am wrong about this, but I highly doubt it. Would we be able to hire more faculty if need be? It might just get a little harder without students paying tuition.

We are all rather familiar with the K-12 education system, at least California’s. In addition to state funding, most schools have to hold fundraisers to help pay for things that aren’t covered by the state. Will we see something similar to this happening at colleges and universities if tuition is taken away? While it probably is not the most likely, it surely is something to consider when thinking about free college. Not to mention the fact that students will still be paying for those hefty campus fees.

Sanders makes the argument that the United States is one of the only developed nation in the world that does not guarantee tuition-free college. However, this is not a very strong argument once you start looking at the numbers. His campaign website talks about European nations that have made their colleges tuition-free, but does not compare the population sizes.

Bernie’s website mentions Germany (pop. 80 million), Finland (pop. 5.4 million), Norway (pop. 5 million), and Sweden (pop. 9.6 million). The United States has a population three times as large as those four countries combined. We should not be comparing the massive education system of the U.S. with much smaller education systems/programs in much smaller countries. It’s like comparing Donald Trump to Abraham Lincoln, the two just do not compare.

As much as I would like to go to school for free, that’s just not the way it is. It’s not reality, or even a realistic belief. And it certainly is not something that should be a presidential campaign promise when the hopes of so many young Americans are riding on it. Let’s be realistic. Let’s stop making promises we can’t keep and can’t afford.

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“Anything for Selenas”

Every Mexican-American in America has seen the 1997 biopic about slain Tejano music singer, Selena Quintanilla. I say that with confidence but any Mexican-American who has not seen Selena needs to watch it NOW. And even if you aren’t Mexican-American it’s still an amazing movie to watch that tells the story of a remarkable family. I would like to draw attention to one scene in particular before I go into what a hero Selena has been for all Mexican-Americans. Here’s how it goes down:

  • Abraham:  They don’t accept us over there. They never have.
  • Selena:  Hello, we’re Mexican.
  • Abraham:  No, we are Mexican-American, and they don’t like Mexican-Americans. And they can be mean. And they can tear us apart over there. And Selena’s Spanish is …
  • Selena:  What about my Spanish? I’ve been singing in Spanish for 10 years. It’s perfect.
  • Abraham:  Singing, yes. But when you speak it, you speak it a little funny. And down there you gotta speak perfectly or the press will eat you up and spit you out alive. I’ve seen them do it.
  • Selena:  Overreacting as usual.
  • A.B.:  Dad, the music will speak for itself, Dad.
  • Abraham:  Listen, being Mexican-American is tough. Anglos jump all over you if you don’t speak English perfectly. Mexicans jump all over you if you don’t speak Spanish perfectly. We gotta be twice as perfect as anybody else.
  • A.B.:  [Laughs]
  • Abraham:  Why’re you laughing? What’s so funny?
  • Selena:  Nothing.
  • A.B.:  Nothing.
  • Abraham:  I’m serious.
  • A.B.:  I know you’re serious, Dad.
  • Abraham:  Our family has been here for centuries. And yet they treat us as if we just swam across the Rio Grande. I mean, we gotta know about John Wayne and Pedro Infante. We gotta know about Frank Sinatra and Agustín Lara. We gotta know about Oprah and Cristina. Anglo food is too bland. And yet when we go to Mexico, we get the runs. Now that, to me, is embarrassing.
  • Selena:  Oh, Dad!
  • Abraham:  Japanese-Americans, Italian-Americans, German-Americans, their homeland is on the other side of the ocean. Ours … is right next door. Right over there. And we gotta prove to the Mexicans how Mexican we are. And we gotta prove to the Americans how American we are. We gotta be more Mexican than the Mexicans and more American than the Americans both at the same time. It’s exhausting. Damn! Nobody knows how tough it is to be a Mexican-American.

I tried shortening that quote down to fewer lines, but I couldn’t because each line serves an important purpose so thank you for bearing with me. That is one of the most iconic scenes in Mexican-American cinema history. I’m sure most Mexican Americans can recite each line of that scene perfectly, I know I can. What Abraham says speaks to me, speaks to all of us. And you don’t just have to be Mexican-American to get it. Colombian-Americans, Cuban-Americans, El Salvadorian-Americans all get the treatment we get, often because they are confused for Mexicans. Anyone who has been asked: “When did you come to this country?” or “Do you have a green card?” or “Why don’t you speak Spanish, aren’t you Mexican?” (that last one pains me the most) shares this unique bond that Abraham validates in this scene.

Beyond that very amazing scene, the movie Selena portrays the story of a woman who broke down gender and ethnic barriers. While her dream was to sing songs like Donna Summer, she had to find success in Tajano (Spanish language) music before she could cross over to Anglo (English language) pop. And success in Tejano music she found. The first woman to do so, as the genre was very sexist before Selena. Selena was born and raised in the United States, just like her parents and grandparents. Many young Mexican-Americans can relate to her lineage. She grew up speaking English, but learned Spanish to pursue a career in music.

Although she was murdered 20 years ago, her legacy lives on. A hologram tour is in development for young fans who have grown up inspired by Selena but never got to see her live. It’s hard to put into words just what Selena means to Hispanics in America. She tells us (through her success) that anything is possible and that you should never let anybody stop you from dreaming big.

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Kicking off Hispanic Heritage Month…Embracing Chicano Pride

This week (September 15) marks the beginning of Hispanic Heritage Month. It will last until October 15. President Lyndon B. Johnson began Hispanic Heritage Month in 1968, likely the result of his close relationship with Dr. Hector P. Garcia (an often forgotten hero of the Civil Rights Movement and the Voting Rights Act of 1965). We’ll get to more on Dr.Garcia later. First I have to mention how important it is to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month.

Most schools do not teach or celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month the way they do Black History Month in February. I believe this contributes enormously to the confusions many Americans have today (i.e. Donald Trump and his supporters) about our unique ethnic history. To combat these misconceptions I hope to spend this wonderful month paying tribute to the Hispanic Americans who have broken down barriers so that an American of Mexican descent, like myself, can turn the dream of being successful in the media industry (while still keeping my Hispanic last name of Garcia) a reality. Today I pay tribute to Hector Perez Garcia.

Dr. Hector Perez Garcia played a huge role in making the Voting Rights Act of 1965 a reality. He worked closely with President Johnson to secure the rights of Hispanic Americans, especially veterans of Hispanic descent (Dr. Garcia being a veteran himself). When people think of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 the obvious hero is Dr. Martin Luther King, but Dr. Hector Perez Garcia was right there marching and fighting for the voting rights of all American citizens as well, he played just as important of a role.

His family fled a violent Mexico during the Revolution of 1917, legally immigrating to the United States and making a home in Corpus Christi, Texas. He attended a segregated high school before going on to the University of Galveston where he earned his doctorate in Medicine. He was a Major in the Army and served in the Medical Corps during World War II.

In response to the lack of service of the Veterans Administration to Hispanic veterans, Garcia founded the American G.I. Forum where he empowered Hispanic veterans to fight for their rights. One of his most famous stories is the way he fought for slain Mexican-American veteran, Felix Longoria. Longoria was killed by a Japanese sniper and his family was denied access to a local funeral chapel to hold his service and burial (as explained by the funeral home: “Whites won’t like it”). Once Hector and the G.I. forum heard about this, he reached out to then Texas Senator Lyndon B. Johnson. Senator Johnson made arrangements to have Longoria’s service and burial held at Arlington National Cemetery in Washington D.C. and earned Garcia and the G.I. Forum national recognition.

I am proud to pay tribute to Dr. Hector P. Garcia. I vow to fight for his memory, to fight so that one day we might celebrate his birthday as a national holiday. I would at least like to see the day that all Americans will recognize the name and face of Hector P. Garcia just as quickly and surely as they would Martin Luther King’s. So that all Americans, especially those of Hispanic descent grow up knowing that they can build a successful life. So that they know they  have just as much opportunity as any other American. Because we ARE Americans. Many of our ancestors have been here for generations and generations, long before any European immigrants.

Gone are they days that having Mexican (or Colombian, Cuban, El Salvadorian, etc.) ancestors is something to be ashamed of. It is because of people like Hector Garcia and movements like the Chicano Civil Rights movement that we can live so freely today. Take pride in being a Chicano! Get in touch with your heritage this month.

Next time we honor Selena Quintanilla-Perez, stay tuned.

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Let’s Talk About (Safe) Sex

*Disclaimer: Yes. I’m really going there. This is a completely appropriate topic, it needs to be talked about. However if you are uncomfortable with the subject, I don’t mind if you choose not to read this article.*

Last night I was watching a show on ABC Family, The Fosters. I don’t often watch it, but my sister does and I find myself watching an episode here and there. It’s a show about foster parents and their foster children, most of the foster children are teenagers. Last night’s episode included two scenes in which teens (supposed to be ages 16-17) had sex. It is ABC Family, so they did not actually show the act- but they did show them getting started. Not ONCE did any of the characters (male or female) mention a CONDOM. I saw this as a huge problem. This show’s target audience is high school age teenagers and young adults. It is the producers’ and writers’ responsibility to promote safe sex if they are going to include their teen characters having sex. We live in a state (California) that does NOT require schools to teach comprehensive sex education (defined by the state of California as “Educating regarding human development and sexuality; including education on pregnancy, family planning and STDs”). Twenty-eight states in total do not require comprehensive Sex Ed. to be taught. That’s over half the states in this nation.

Think of all the teens who may not have access to sex education. Now think of all the teens who look up to the young characters on shows like The Fosters. It’s not good enough for shows targeted at teen audiences to devote just one or two episodes to safe sex and condom use, the issue should be discussed EVERY SINGLE TIME the characters have sex. Just like people should be practicing safe sex EVERY SINGLE TIME they have sex, unless in an extremely committed relationship. There are lessons to be learned on many television shows, but especially on shows on Teen Nick and ABC Family. Safe sex should be one of those lessons. The fact is, we need to teach about the diseases that people can catch if they don’t practice safe sex. According to the CDC, most reported cases of Chlamydia and Gonorrhea occur among 15-24 year olds. I would assume that people ages 15-24 are the targeted audience of The Fosters.

While California schools are not required to teach comprehensive sex education, they are required to teach HIV/AIDS prevention. And should CA schools teach Sex Ed. (the majority of CA school districts do teach it) they are required to teach medically accurate information. That seems like a given, but not all states are required to teach sex education that is medically accurate (how scary is that?). As a nation we need to come together on this issue. We need to get comfortable with talking about it because teens at younger and younger ages are getting more comfortable with sexual activity. Abstinence works great in theory, obviously if you don’t have sex you won’t wind up pregnant or with an STD. But we need to FACE THE FACT that teaching/encouraging abstinence alone is not a successful method in preventing teen pregnancy and STDs.

At the end of the day we should be striving to raise successful and driven young adults. An unplanned pregnancy can ruin a young adults’ chances of successfully completing high school/college, which significantly decreases their chances of getting a high paying job in the future. It is important to talk about family planning and what options are out there regarding an unplanned pregnancy.

Last night as I watched The Fosters I hoped I would see the characters stop their activity and pull out a condom or at least talk about it. Sadly that didn’t happened. The writers of that episode FAILED their audience, they had an excellent opportunity to promote safe sex (since they felt it necessary to promote teen sex). I hope in the future I see more people on TV talking about safe sex. And I hope this can be a talking point brought to the front burner in all American homes as well as in the classroom and on legislative floors. We have a duty to raise responsible young adults, and we as a nation cannot do that without including conversations about sex.

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Get Ready, Get Set, VOTE!

Democrat, Republican, or other: you need to vote. Plain and simple, you need to register to vote (if not already registered) and then you need to vote in the next election. I know the next Presidential election isn’t until 2016, but you should be preparing now. Start doing your homework on candidates now. Find one you agree with and if you can, get involved.

The saddest thing about our political system is the fact that people simply do not vote. 18-24 year olds or so, they generally don’t vote. WHY NOT?! We are a very large demographic, our votes alone could turn an election. Students should not be allowed to complain about climbing tuition fees and loan debt if they do not vote. One of the reasons college students are not always taken seriously or into consideration in elections is because they don’t vote in large numbers. And if we were more vocal about our concerns, you better believe we would hear about issues concerning college students in debates and forums just as much as we hear about Social Security and Medical.

Everybody has an opinion about the President, Congress, etc. But I don’t think people should be able to express those opinions unless they voted. Your vote CAN count, so make it count. Use it.

You’re never too old to register to vote. After retiring and watching the news/reading news magazines more regularly, my grandpa registered to vote in 2008. He made his vote count and has in every election since.

To my readers and friends who are not registered to vote, look into the issues. Read up (I would recommend pretty neutral news sources for researching purposes, like the Associated Press) and find out how you feel about issues like our tax system, race, welfare, gay marriage, healthcare, gun control, immigration, climate change, social and judicial inequalities…there are so many other issues I could list and each of them can be swayed by votes of the people. It’s our duty to vote. We decide who we send to Washington. As a nation, we decide who the resident of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue is. We need to move away from being a society that relies on false news media rants for our political knowledge and move towards the facts. We need to stop being so ignorant when it comes to voting and the political process. There’s NO excuse to skip an election day. So take the time between now and November of 2016 to do some research and some fact checking, find a candidate you can get behind and VOTE!

One last issue I want to mention: The very right to vote! We need to protect our right to vote, and we need to vote accordingly. It is our CONSTITUTIONAL right to vote, we need to practice this right as much as possible.

I’ve created my own page on Rock The Vote’s website. You can find it by clicking on the “Register to Vote!” link on the home page of this blog. Please use this link to register to vote! Maybe you could even get involved with Rock the Vote events.

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CVS, a Pharmacy that Cares About Health

It’s been just over a year since CVS announced that they would stop selling tobacco products. Tobacco earned CVS around $2 billion a year, so this decision caused them to take a bit of a hit. However, I’m sure they have gained customers because of this bold decision, I know if I lived closer to a CVS I would go to it rather than Walgreens or Rite Aid. The amount of people who smoke is decreasing. It just isn’t healthy, known to cause emphysema and lung cancer. The risks of second-hand smoke are high as well. It’s one thing to subject your own body to cancerous toxins, but you have to think about the innocent lungs around your puffs of smoke. Smoking once was “the big thing.” Before we really had sweeping evidence of its dangers. Television shows like I Love Lucy and The Flintstones advertised for various cigarette brands during their broadcasts. But since then, we have learned the harms of tobacco and dramatically scaled back advertising of cigarettes and other tobacco products.

CVS, last year, made a very brave move in going up against the tobacco companies. Although it is expected, no other pharmacy has made the same decision yet. CVS and Walgreens are both promoting themselves as businesses wellness. Last night, Walgreens aired a telethon (Red Nose Day) fundraising for health care around the world. Both CVS and Walgreens intend on having a doctor’s office-type setting in all of their doors in the future, converting from just drug stores to all around health shops. Although I regularly go to Walgreens because it is close to home and work, I have to say I do not consider them a genuine force against CVS and I will not take their “being well” campaign seriously until they follow the precedent set by CVS and cut off the tobacco companies.

Tobacco companies need to be taken down. They’ve seen the decline in cigarette sales in the United States, but being the greedy money-hungry corporations they are they’ve come up with a way to survive through the millennial generation: e-cigarettes. E-cigarettes have been promoted as a “healthy” alternative to smoking. But this is NOT TRUE! E-cigarettes do not contain tobacco, but they still contain nicotine and other harmful chemicals like components of anti-freeze and Tetramethylpyrazine, which is known to cause brain damage. More recently, there have been incidents of these electronic devices exploding during use. Don’t be fooled, e-cigarettes are no healthy alternative to smoking tobacco-filled cigarettes- they cause just as much harm. Puffing on e-cigarettes is seen as “cool” right now, much like smoking cigarettes was in the 1950s and 60s, but I predict we will be seeing commercials about horror health stories in about 20 years similar to those of the anti-smoking commercials we still see today.

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