Call it a generational shift, or simply a difference of opinion, but it was a moment that stuck with me forever. It was the night of the 2004 presidential elections, Kerry v. Bush, the first election I voted in. I was over at the home of an old friend, watching the results come over live television. My friend’s parents asked me who I voted for, I replied without hesitation, “Kerry of course.” My friend’s mother shook her disagreeably and said, “You guys are young, you don’t understand. We’ll need to get them before they get us.” I was confused by that and asked, “What do you mean they?” “The terrorists,” she said.
Ever since that fateful day on September 11, 2001, the American psyche has been trained and focused on the new Red Scare, where the communists have been replaced by Muslims or simply anyone who appears to be Muslim. The American public now sees Muslims as only a possible threat. Echoing back to what my friend’s mother said to me on the night of the 2004 election, the American public has embraced an irrational fear of the Muslim community in the U.S., which has been termed “Islamaphobia.” This exaggerated fear has helped foster this us verse them mentality against the Islamic community, as my friend’s mother stated back in 2004. Covert surveillance of Muslims by U.S. law enforcement and an increase in hate crimes against Muslims in the U.S. is now common place. According to a 2010 report by the FBI found that anti-Islamic hate crimes in the U.S. had rose by 50 percent over the pervious year, amounting to 2.4 percent of total hate crimes for 2010.
This past week, This American Life and film maker Sam Black aired the story of Craig Monteilh. A former FBI informant, who in 2006 was hired to infiltrate a Mosque and flush out possible terrorists in Orange County, CA, which came to be known as “Operation Flex.” The failed undercover operation shined some light onto how the FBI is spying on Muslims and has helped to strained relationships between law enforcement and the Muslim community. During Monteilh stint has an informant, he attempted to find radicalized Muslims plotting terror attacks, but instead found a group of guys who were more obsessed with playing xbox than carrying out Jihad. During the operation, Monteilh himself was reported to the FBI as a possible terrorist by the very so-called terrorists he was trying to uncover, due to Monteilh’s strange and frightening behavior.
In the end, no terror plots were uncovered and the only person arrested was Monteilh, who in an unrelated crime was convicted and served eight months in prison for conning two women out of $150,000, in an attempt to traffic human growth hormones. Monteilh attempted to sue the FBI over the arresting, stating that the FBI plotted to have him arrested after he became useless in “Operation Flex.” The suite was thrown out of court. Due to the fallout from “Operation Flex,” a second law suite had be filed on behalf of Monteilh against the FBI, this time by The Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR). The very group of people who Monteilh was out to expose and have arrested, are now on his side, since Monteilh is a key witness in the case. The story plays out like a stranger than fiction hollywood movie that the Coen brothers wrote and directed, complete with laughs and a strange twist of fate at the end.
A women in about her late 50s, dressed in her Sunday best, a stained top and sweatpants, approached me today and asked the following.
Women: are you Dave?
Me: No, I’m not.
Women: You’re not?
Me: No, I’m not the person you are looking for.
Women: Do you know him? Goes by the name madman and is good with mechanics.
Me: I have no clue who that is.
Women: You’re sure you’re not him?
Me: I got to go now.
I turned and started to walk away at that point, turning back after a few yards to see the women asking another passer by If he was Dave.
A recent report found segregated neighborhoods and inter-city ghettos to be on the decline, but what about Westlake?
Having grown up in a predominantly white neighborhood, I find this a bit hard to believe myself. A study by the Manhattan Institute reports that “metropolitan areas are now more integrated than any time since 1910.” Jacob Vigdor, the coauthor of the report was recently on NPR’s Talk of The Nation to discuss his findings.
Based on census records from urban areas in the U.S. from 1890 to 2010, Vigdor was able to conclue that the “all white neighborhood is virtually extinct.” The study also found that inter-city ghettos are on the decline. Due to social changes brought about by the civil rights era such as the Fair Housing Act, minorities were able to move out of inter-city ghettos into neighborhoods they once could not.
Sheryll Cashin, author of “The Failures of Integration: How Race and Class are Undermining the American Dream,” found that the country is really still “moderately segregated.” Where by 1950 half of all African Americans lived in ghettos, now “one in five do.” As where progress is being made in inter-city ghettos, such as the changes I have seen firsthand in Silverlake and Echo Park, California. Where areas once viewed as gang war zones are now flourishing cultural hubs with large commercial development.
A few miles south of Silverlake and Echo Park’s trendy shops and cafes sits the polar opposite, LA’s inter-city ghetto of Westlake. According to data collected by The Los Angeles Times, in 2008 Westlake’s population of over 170,000 was 73.4 percent Latino, 16.5 percent Asian and only 4.5 percent white. The area has one of the highest densities in the city, packing 38,214 people per square mile, the community is 2.72 square miles. Westlake’s median household income of $26,757 is among one of the lowest in the city.
It’s A Man’s World
Skewed Sex Ratios in Asia
I’m going to start by asking a question, what would you want your first child to be? A boy or a girl? For most people this question may spark a little debate but have no serious consequences. For women in Asia, this question has amounted to a loss generation of female births and the wide scale exploitation of women. Several scholarly studies and reports have found that In countries like China and India, reproductive technology such as the ultrasound machine, is being used in a manner that favors a male dominated agenda. A wide scale gender bias towards male heirs has become common in these countries. Through the use of sex selective abortion and population control in some countries, female births are declining, leading towards a skewed sex ratio in many Asian countries, where men are now outnumbering women.
Reporting by author Mara Hvistendahl, found that “in most human populations, the natural sex ratio at birth is around a hundred and five boys for every a hundred girls”. Due to sex selective abortion, “the overall boy-girl birth ratio in China is 121 boys for every 100 girls. In one city, Lianyungang, the ratio was 163 to 100, and in India, the overall ratio was 112 to 100”. Sex selective abortion in Asia had led to an estimated 160 million women that are missing, whom should have been born, according to the natural sex ratio. Along with the discriminatory factors that affect females as a whole in sex selective births, women also suffer greatly as victims of infanticide and sex trafficking. Sex selective practices have also negatively effected males in sex skewed populations. Research has shown that among populations with high male ratios, there tends to be a higher crime rate.
Sex selective abortion is nothing new, the practice dates back to the Roman Empire, where infanticide was used to favor males, “abortion and infanticide were permitted under Roman law at the time of Jesus. Since abortion could not be done according to sex of the child, infanticide was the main way to sex select and the selection was predominantly against girls,” according to researcher Douglas Almond. More evidence of the practice was found in a letter that was dated at around 1 B.C., where a husband instructed his wife to discard their child if it was female, “If you are delivered (before I come home), if it is a boy keep it, if a girl, discard it”. The same social bias that favored sons over daughters during the Roman Empire, can be seen in modern Asian countries.
In China, sex selective abortion emerged on wide scale use starting in 1978, when China introduced its one child policy, restricting married, urban couples to having only one child. The policy was adapted to help alleviate social, economic, and environmental problems in China, due to its large and growing population. The policy is estimated “to have prevented roughly 250 to 300 million births in China since 1980” according to Hvistendahl. At the center of sex selective abortion in China, is technology, where the wide scale use of tools like ultrasounds has allowed for parents to determine their child’s sex before birth. “Sex determination using ultrasound visualization is the dominant form world-wide” as found in a study by Almond. Through a combination of social traditions that favor males and the use of technology in sex determination. Gender discrimination towards females has become common in Asian countries, contributing to the abortion of millions of female fetuses. The promenade bias towards females in Chinese culture can be best described by a traditional folk saying, where it is “better to have a crippled son than eight healthy daughters.”
Even though countries like China have banned sex determination since 1989, the practice is still widely used, due to poor regulation of the ban. Studies have found, that due to social and economic reasons, a bias towards male over female births has become common in Asian countries, known as “son preference.”
A study by the International Institute for Population Sciences found that in India, “son preference” has become common, due to long standing cultural traditions and economic pressures. The study found that among India’s population, the common view is that “sons are more likely than daughters to provide family labor on the farm or in a family business, earn wages, and support their parents during old age.” Along with the financial resources a son may bring to a family in India, males also bring social class mobility. Due to the male dominated culture in India, “another important advantage of having sons is their sociocultural utility. In the context of India’s patrilineal and patriarchal family system, having one son is imperative for the continuation of the family line, and many sons provide additional status to the family.”
Among the massive effect on unborn female populations in Asia, “sex selective abortion” and “son preference” has also created have a lasting effect on the adult women populations of Asia. Due to the skewed sex ratios created by the declining birth rate of women, Asian countries are experiences a shortage of females to a ever growing male population. According to research by Hvistendahl, the scarcity of females had created a prolific sex trade in Asia. Women are regularly sold into prostitution or as brides to men unable to find wives in their native country, “while the proliferation of prostitutes in China is especially striking, anti-trafficking workers stress that gangs sell women into both sex work and marriage” and “ninety percent of Burmese women trafficked to China end up in forced marriages.”
According to statistical information from The Global Initiative to Fight Human Trafficking, an estimated 1.4 million women are victims of human trafficking in Asia each year, “95% of victims experienced physical or sexual violence during trafficking and 43% of victims are used for forced commercial sexual exploitation.” Sex selective practices also have been found to have a direct effect on crime rates. Studies have found that among sex skewed populations, where the male to female ratio is skewed towards males, there is direct correlation to higher crime rates. Hvistendahl found that “between 1992 and 2004, China’s crime rate nearly doubled” and another report by Valerie Hudson found a “strong correlation between state-level sex ratios and state-level rates of violent crime in India.”
The greatest irony found in sex selective practices in Asian countries is how the use of technologies like the ultrasound, was intended to help save lives. Instead, the technology has actually enabled the systematic loss of an entire generation of women. Through a combination of social discrimination, technology and sexual exploitation, women in Asian countries have been transformed into nothing more than an commodity. They are bought and sold freely into lives of abuse and neglect at the interest of age old traditions and social biases. Something to think about if asked by a nosy in-law or your spouse on what you would prefer your little bundle of joy to be.
Earlimart at The Echo, Los Angeles, CA
Originally published May 28, 2008. On larecord.com
Cheap wine and pastries make for a great pre-show snack, and they paired perfectly with L.A.’s post-punk folkists, Earlimart. The band, named after a small town near Fresno, is the product of frontman Aaron Espinoza, who is something of a hometown hero having produced albums for bands like Castledoor and Rademacher. Espinoza helped usher in the band’s upcoming sixth album Hymn and Her by telling the crowd: “We’re going to play a bunch of songs no one knows.” Even so, Earlimart’s sound stayed familiar, landing somewhere between the Pixies and Elliot Smith, a tone that goes over well with both moustache-wearing hipsters and middle-aged stiffs. As their set rolled along, they played through plenty of new and classic tracks, which included their radio hit “Answers & Questions.” And as Espinoza strummed away, bass player Ariana Murray engaged the crowd with her beautiful, dream-like resonance while video of the band performing was projected behind them. At times the video would zoom in for a close-up of Espinoza as he played along, setting the mood as if everyone was viewing a film in the making.
Gangi at The Echo, Los Angeles, CA. January 12, 2011
Matt Gangi has to be some sort of genius, or better yet, a time traveler. Beaming back and forth between today and the 1970s, sampling tracks at will. Gangi released an impressing debut album in 2009, A, an eclectic mix of Jethro Tull meeting a drum machine with a soul. Following their roots, Gangi and new drummer, Eric Chromate, played some retooled tracks and new material to a packed crowd, Wednesday night at the Echo.
The band opened with “The Outside Ones,” a new track from their upcoming album that made everyone clamoring for a drink, quickly turn and look as Gangi riffed a killer hook over Chromate’s relentless backbeat. As Chromate laid the tempo, Gangi stood hunched over his sequencer, operating dials like a chemist at work. The atmosphere this band creates as a two piece rivals bands twice their size, proving that less is more.
They followed with “Gold,” another new track which sounds to be their diamond in the rough and a contender for radio play. As I stood there and watched Gangi belt out soulful lyrics while managing to play guitar and control a sampler at the same time, I began to wonder if I needed to review old film stock from the ’70s and see if I could spot a a familiar face
Abe Vigoda at L.A. Unheard
The Autry National Center, Los Angeles, CA. January 20, 2011.
Among the rustic hallways of The Autry National Center, sat forgotten relics of the wild west’s former glory. On display were beautifully decorated saddles, pistols once belonging to famed bandits, clothing used in Brokeback Mountain and photos of cowboys sporting mustaches that would make any hipster swoon in envy.
As collections of cardigan sweaters began to gather in the courtyard and nervous museum staff looked on as Abe Vigoda finished their sound check. The band was headlining L.A. Unheard, a showcase put on by the LA Times’ Brand X and Spaceland Productions. Surrounded by a sprawling mural of cowboys and indians, the band launched into tracks off their latest album, Crush. A sonic mishmash of their “tropic-punk” sound and darkwave. Resulting in a new sound for the band, placing more focus on Juan Velazquez’s synth than guitars, compared to their pervious works.
Sporting a new hair-doo, singer and guitarist, Michael Vidal, began to shuffle around as the drum machined kicked in on “Throwing Shade,” one of my favorite tracks off of Crush, that sounds like something that would have manifested if Sonic Youth and New Order had a love child. The band closed the evening with “Don’t Lie” off of 2008’s Skeleton, going back to their “tropic-punk” roots and giving a hint of another more famous act that the band jokingly stated as an influence. I’ll give you a clue, their name starts with vampire and ends with weekend. Wink, wink.