Thursday, February 28, 2013

Observations from the Coffee Shop 2.28

Next week is Armory Week but the kids who play at politics in Washington just wont to get out of the way. I say play at politics because at the moment they seem more like spoiled brats on the playground than leaders of anything important. Tomorrow the sequester will take effect, yes will take effect, and the current debate centers more on whose idea it was than on how to deal with it. Even Wall Street may have finally said the hell with them as the stock market nears an all time record high. Of course eventually the cuts will be felt and we can all watch as it crashes back down. The only idea Republicans have is to give President Obama the authority to move the cuts around, in effect making all the cuts the President's, something he refuses to accept.

Elsewhere in the nation's capitol Senators for all practical purposes scolded police chiefs who support background checks for gun purchases. During the Senate Judiciary Committee Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham told the police chief of Milwaukee that the limited resources of police departments is a reason to bolster gun ownership and not limit it.

Also The Supreme Court, on the same day a statue of Rosa Parks was unveiled in the U.S. Capitol, announced it is considering part of the 1965 Voting Rights Act and whether there is still a need for an important part of it. The section SCOTUS will look at requires that states with a history of discrimination get approval before making changes to how they hold elections. Rather than try and explain it I'll leave this link to a good article in the Miami Herald.

Turning to the petty side of politics the wingnuts continue to snub New Jersey Governor Chris Christie by not inviting him to speak at CPAC, the Conservative Political Action Conference. Apparently the conservatives still blame Christie for President Obama's reelection and don't care that he is the only Republican with an approval rating, currently an unreal 74%, to rival Hillary Clinton's. To Christie's credit he said this; "So I didn't know that I hadn't been invited to CPAC until like two days ago when I saw it in the news. It’s not like I’m lacking for invitations to speak, both here or around the country, it’s not like I have a whole lot of openings in my schedule."

The current list of those speaking instead of Christie includes the winners Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney, Allen West, Rick Santorum, and Sarah Palin. As a bonus Wayne LaPierre will be speaking. Somehow the wingnuts see their losing past as the best hope for their winning future.

I have no words.

update - Barring any totally unforeseen and just as totally unexpected, changes the sequester games officially begin at 11:59 p.m. Friday. Why than? According to both sides, the White House and Republicans actually agree, President Obama can decide at what time to start the cuts. He just has to do it by 11:59 p.m. Friday.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Observations from the Window 2.26

Paperman, the mixed animation film from Disney that I love, won the Best Animated Short Film award at Sunday night's Academy Awards. If you haven't seen it, or if you saw my post after the video went private, I updated my original post with a new embed/link and you really need to see it. Besides, the little story I'm about to tell you will make much more sense if you do.

Paperman director John Kahrs accepted the award as Kristina Reed, the film's producer, began throwing paper airplanes with kisses on them from her seat on the balcony. As paper planes tend to do they didn't fly well at all but dove straight down into Hollywood's finest. While the crowd didn't seem to notice, or understood the planes meaning, security wasn't thrilled at all with the 'stunt' and Reed was evicted from the auditorium. After ten minutes of protest the party pooping guards allowed Reed back to her seat with a slap on the wrist.

Consider this a warning, if you ever win an Academy Award don't even think about confetti, noise makers, or any other form of celebration other than some polite clapping. It may be the night of your life but proper decorum will be displayed at all times.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Observations from the Coffee Shop 2.25

I wasn't planning on writing anything more about last night's Academy Awards but I have to get something out of my system. Before I get to that I'll mention Anne Hathaway won as expected and looked adorable as always, I really don't care if most of twitter seems to hate her. I was a little disappointed there was no Scarlett Johansson sighting but I totally forgot about Cat On A Hot Tin Roof so that was understandable.

What I need to get out of my system started with a very late night tweet by The Onion concerning nine year old Quvenzhane Wallis who was nominated for Best Actress; "Everyone else seems afraid to say it, but that Quvenzhane Wallis is kind of a c***, right?" The tweet has since been deleted. Yes it was totally offensive, especially when directed at a nine year old girl, but come on it was The Onion. I'm sure whoever was tweeting for The Onion was drinking just as much as everybody else and, looking at my tweets from last night, tweeting and drinking is never a good idea. As I said the tweet has been deleted and hopefully they apologize to her in some way. Wallis is attacked with almost as much relish as Hathaway and I'm sure it was meant as sarcasm but sometimes sarcasm goes too far.

End of story right? This is America, of course that isn't the end of it. The rapidly becoming irrelevant Keith Olbermann jumped on the soapbox he hasn't been on since the Penn State scandal broke and demanded a full public apology which I'm sure wouldn't satisfy him anyway. It has also been said the tweet was only acceptable because Wallis is a "woman of color" even though nobody anywhere has remotely considered it acceptable at all. Others are demanding to know who wrote the offensive tweet and want him, personally I'm sure it was a him, fired and severely punished. Whether or not the writer is fired is up to how The Onion handles the fickle court of public opinion but otherwise punished? What happened to the supposedly liberal Hollywood's love of the freedom of speech? If somebody can be punished for writing something stupid or crude I'm totally screwed.

It was offensive and totally over the line but was it surprising at a all? Not really, not in the world we currently live in and what is considered normal conversation and I'm quite sure the person tweeting thought it was his edgiest ever. Not in a world where gays and women seem to be perfectly acceptable punchlines of stupid stereotypical humor. Maybe it was me but I don't ever remember watching a more white and male dominated Academy Awards show than the one last night. I shouldn't be surprised, current Oscar voters are 90% white, 77% male, and have an average age of 62. Change the age and I probably just described the writing staff at The Onion too.

I may be totally wrong about all of this. If I am feel free to tell me.

There is something to be remembered here, something we all should remember sometimes. As Yahoo Canada's Greg Hughes wrote; "The Onion made a pretty significant faux pas tonight on Quvenzhane Wallis. They deleted the tweet, but the Internet doesn't ever forget."

update - For what it's worth, since I posted this morning Steve Hannah, CEO of The Onion, apologized by way of its Facebook page. "On behalf of The Onion, I offer my personal apology to Quvenzhané Wallis and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for the tweet that was circulated last night during the Oscars. It was crude and offensive." You can read the full letter here.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Observations from the Coffee Shop 2.24

The Academy Awards are tonight so hopefully I can go from Danica Patrick in victory lane to Anne Hathaway on the red carpet. That sounds like a good way to spend a Sunday. I'm not going to make any Oscar winning predictions because in all honesty I care more about what people are wearing than who wins. Seriously, does winning an Oscar mean anything anymore other than that you made a relatively uncontroversial film and played the Oscar game just right? As a public service I'll leave this link to Nate Silver's predictions from his blog in The New York Times. Silver uses the same models he used to predict the Presidential election, when he predicted 49 of the 50 states correctly, and as he says, "Anne Hathaway is about as safe a bet to win for Les Misérables as Mitt Romney was to win Utah."

Other than that my Academy Award preview consists of sharing the documentary Chasing Ice which should win the Best Documentary Award but wasn't even nominated. Chasing Ice did win the Excellence In Cinematography Award at last year's Sundance Festival where it premiered and was also nominated for the Grand Jury Prize. In Chasing Ice the National Geographic photographer James Balog uses thirty of the ultimate in time-lapse cameras, at the time the new and revolutionary Nikon D200, to capture proof of climate change. Years are compressed into seconds as you watch glaciers and ice from Alaska to the Alps quickly disappear. As of now the movie isn't supposed to be released on video until September and it isn't streaming anywhere so you might have to make do with this clip.

It isn't much of a consolation prize but "Before My Time" from Chasing Ice is nominated for Best Original Song tonight. Hopefully we will get to see Scarlett Johansson perform and, yes, that is how I get both Anne Hathaway and Scarlett Johansson in my Academy Award preview.


Before My Time
Written and produced by J. Ralph, performed by Scarlett Johansson, and accompanied by violinist Joshua Bell. "Before My Time" was played under the credits of the documentary Chasing Ice.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Observations from the Window 2.23

Sunday Danica Patrick will be starting the Daytona 500 from the poll position, the fastest qualifier at Daytona with a speed of 196.434 miles per hour, and the world becomes just a little bit better. There was a time I spent nearly every Sunday afternoon watching a race and discussing the fine art of pit stop times with my dad. I don't follow racing as much as I once did, then again I don't spend as much time with my dad as I once did, but I remember watching the Indianapolis 500 in 2005 when she became the first woman to lead that race in her very first trip there. I was watching again in 2008 when she became the first woman to win any IndyCar race.

This will be Patrick's first full season running the NASCAR Sprint Cup series. For the racing novices that is the series where you drive pseudo stock cats by punching the gas and turning to the left for two hours. Sprint Cup racing is the pride of southerners, future southerners, and wannabe southerners the world over.

It has never been easy for Patrick to be taken seriously in the totally male dominated world of auto racing. They always said she was a flash in the pan, that she got so much media attention because of her looks or just because she was a woman. It was never because of her skill as a driver because everybody knows a woman just can't handle a car like a man can. Multiple champion and team owner Richard Petty is the father of my onetime fav driver Kyle and a now sort of the Queen Father of NASCAR. Just last week Petty said this while discussing media coverage of Patrick and her new boyfriend NASCAR rookie Ricky Stenhouse. "It takes away from the racing deal, the stars that really bring the people and the show that brings the people and the people that put on the show. Peyton Place and the racetrack, I keep them separated." I haven't heard if 'King Richard' revised his comments after Patrick won the pole.

So why does it even matter? Five year old Ella Gordon, daughter of driver Jeff Gordon, told her dad she wanted a picture with Patrick in Victory Lane after Patrick won the pole. Jeff Gordon happens to be starting in the front row next to Patrick yet I still wonder who Ella will be cheering for tomorrow. It matters because it's just another way for young girls to see they can do whatever they want to do.

When the flag drops with Danica on the poll the good ole boys in the Daytona infield will be crying in their cans of Budweiser. The confederate flags may still be flying over their tricked out Winnebagos but their world will never be the same.

I like the thought of that.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Observations from the Window 2.20

In a little over a week the sequester returns. Sequester is a word that will go down i history as a euphemism for totally self-inflicted unnecessary economic pain on a national scale. It's also one of the reasons politics isn't exactly my favorite thing right now. While a majority of the American people worry about jobs the Republican party obsesses over spending cuts that will cut those jobs. You think letting the auto industry crash and burn would have hurt the economy watch the ripple effects of cutting government spending to the bone.*

A few examples off the top of my head. Police, fire, teachers, and EMT will see job cuts around the country. Those free national museums your'e going to visit in Washington? Closed. The national parks on your itinerary this summer? Closed. If you are flying anywhere get to the airport early because the TSA lines will be unreal then once you get through pray that lonely air traffic controller at the end of a double shift is awake. Oh and be careful what you buy at the grocery store because there wont be as many meat, fish, and poultry inspectors, not that there are nearly enough now. Worried about the border and immigration? Worry some more because there will be fewer border guards. Traveling overseas legally? You better have your passport because it will probably take longer to get one and when you return be ready for longer waits at customs.

The Pentagon will see massive, probably necessary, cuts but at all the wrong places. We can keep fighting our wars, because the cost of them is not in the budget, but wont be able to hold military funerals at Arlington or pay for prosthetic limbs for disabled veterans.

You get the idea, it goes on and on. The problem is Congress members will have none of these problems because a majority are rich anyway. They have the best healthcare in the world and pensions that set them up for life. I wont even get into the unlimited "campaign" contributions they now can take from corporations thanks to SCOTUS' Citizens United decision.

The hell I wont.

While you were out walking the dog or looking for a job SCOTUS quietly made a minor announcement yesterday. It seems they have decided to hear a case brought by our friends at the Republican National Committee. Some of the few election fiance controls remaining are the amount of money individuals can donate to a candidate, currently $2,000, and the total an individual can donate to all parties or candidates in any election cycle, currently $123,000. In a lower court decision Judge Janice Brown, one of the most conservative judges in the country, said that lifting these limits would corrupt the system even more than it now is.** Not good enough for the GOP, they may be fiscally conservative when it comes to spending on you but they themselves want to drown in cash. The Supreme Court that gave them Citizens United is probably about to let them.

Was there another time in American history where an entire political party didn't care about anything but cold hard cash?

* OMB Report Pursuant to the Sequestration Transparency Act of 2012

2/21 update - Yesterday USA Today had a good article about the effects the sequester would have on air travel. Each member of the FAA's work force will be furloughed one day out of every two weeks while customs employees will be off 12 to 14 days each over the course of the year. Taken together all the cuts will add up to three hours to the time it will take to get through an airport before and after an international flight. Also the Department of Defense announced 800,000 civilian employees will be laid-off should the cuts take effect. So much for the Republican Party's caring about jobs. The sequester could add two percentage points to the unemployment rate.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Observations on Art 2.18

With Armory Week just two weeks away my mind is turning more towards art and warm weather and away from politics and cold, both of which have me totally irritated right now.

I'm taking the time to post this video because I think it is just so dead on. I have this thing about art projects that are more theatre than anything else. I mean seriously if I stand on a street corner smoking a cigarette and call it an art project does that make it so? It's the question that will never be answered and if it suddenly was we artists wouldn't have anything to argue about all the time because, and this is surprising, not many want to discuss politics with me.

If you have never seen Portlandia it is a quirky comedy sketch show on IFC Friday nights that is now in its third season. Portlandia is produced by Saturday Night Live creator Lorne Michaels' company so you get the idea. I haven't seen many episodes, even though it's a current VQ favorite, but Ash showed me this sketch and I have to say ... yes, yes, yes, my thoughts exactly! I especially like the purse snatcher project called "Meditation on Property."

Just watch, and be sure to watch it to the end, it needs absolutely no other description. I do have one question now and it's this, is this sketch an art project?


Sunday, February 17, 2013

Sunday Observations 2.17

This Sunday morning I'm going to be short, simple, and to the point. I woke up and found that I had been retweeted by Mika Brzezinski. So yes, I can die happy now. It's going to be a good day.

update - Not long ago after 46 hours of dancing THON 2013 came to an end. The total amount raised this year was was a record $12,374,034.46 bringing the total raised over the years to $101,477,271.88, all for the Four Diamonds Fund. I must also inform you, at my brother's insistence, that the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences raised $92,481.23 on its own, the most of any general organization. No word on the College of Arts and Architecture, not that I'm competitive or anything.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Observations 2.16

The Poop Ship Chronicles ....

I didn't set out to write about the poop ship, I didn't want to, but it was forced upon me. I need to put the Carnival Triumph behind me. Maybe not so much the Triumph itself, it's just a ship after all, but some of the people who sailed on it.

If you don't know the story of the Triumph I'll give you the quick version. Before I do I have to say if you don't know the story you mustn't watch CNN because they covered it relentlessly even as meteors fell to Earth and a mini-war was fought in the Sierras. So here is the story: 6,000 people set sail on a three day tour, fire in the engine room, no power, no water, no toilets, towed to Alabama, some passengers not happy.

It's some of those unhappy passengers that totally bother me because it was the same ones over and over again. I understand, it was a week from hell, but nobody died, nobody got seriously ill, no plague infested the ship, they just had a bad week and had to find alternative methods of, well, pooping. For this week of misery the left the ship with their money back for the cruise, all travel and other expenses paid including anything they spent on the ship, $500 cash, and vouchers for a seven day cruise in the future. Basically they go home with close to $10,000 for a couple of bad days. I should also mention those most awesome white Carnival bathrobes they all stole on the way out.

But this is the age of the cell phone and instant video and some of these people couldn't resist a chance at their couple of days of poop drenched fame. CNN was only happy to accommodate these select passengers. More than once CNN talked of families being reunited on the air as they talked by cell phone. No mention was ever made that these very same people wouldn't have been in contact anyway because they were on a cruise and out of cell phone range.

Now the first lawsuits are beginning even though when you go on a cruise you sign a waiver so basically you can't sue the cruise line. But never let it be said that a mere signature, not to mention maritime law, stopped a ship chasing lawyer from attempting to making a score. As there were no serious injuries there really isn't a chance in hell of anybody winning anything. As The Washington Post said, "It was a drama, but not of danger. It was a drama of discomfort."

Poop happens, get over it.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Observations on Penn State 2.13

I was reading some Penn State news, starting to write my long overdue second scandal update post (l), when somebody asked me what THON is. I may have mentioned this before but THON is the largest student run charity organization in the world. Since it began in 1977 the Penn State IFC/Panhellenic Dance Marathon, or THON, has raised almost $80 million dollars for The Four Diamonds Fund of the Penn State Hershey Children’s Hospital. The fund helps children with cancer and their families by paying fees and expenses insurance doesn't cover and it also funds pediatric cancer research.

Last year Penn State Public Broadcasting made a short documentary called Why We Dance: The Story of THON that explains it much better than I ever could. Rather than try I'm going to post some videos and a link to the full film which is just under one hour long and I think worth watching. The first video is the film's opening sequence and does a good job of explaining what THON is about in just a few minutes. The second video shows the Bryce Jordan Center being readied for the dance marathon, some of it in time-lapse.

The 2013 edition of the THON dance marathon begins this Friday night at 6:00 PM and ends Sunday at 4 PM.

"What we do for ourselves dies with us. What we do for others and the world remains and is immortal," Albert Pine.



Why We Dance: The Story of THON (full documentary, Vimeo HD)
from Penn State Public Broadcasting
Jeffrey Hughes, Executive Producer
David Aneckstein, Penn State Outreach News Bureau

"DVDs of this documentary are available for purchase through our website here. A portion of the sales goes to the Four Diamonds Fund."

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Observations from the Window 2.12

Yesterday was a slow news day as it only had a Pope abdicating, the holy quit as Jon Stewart called it, and a North Korean nuclear test. Today could be much more entertaining with President Obama's State of the Union speech, followed by Senator Marco Rubio's Republican rebuttal, followed by Senator Rand Paul's wingnut rebuttal to the Republican rebuttal of the SOTU. Lost in all the excitement is today being Mardi Gras and there being a late Flyers game in Winnipeg tonight. Hard entertainment decisions have to made.

Mardi Gras and the Flyers game are self explanatory but the State of the Union has entertainment value above and beyond the politics of it. Almost a year ago the aging mentally challenged hair guitarist and gun freak Ted Nugent threatened President Obama's life. You might say it was just more nutjob radio induced hyperbole but the Secret Service took it serious enough to call him in for a chat. Tonight Nugent will be Texas GOP Congressman Steve Stockman's guest at the address. One can only hope Nugent talks to the press at any possible time before during and after the Obama speech. Nugent's attendance should also answer the NRA's question as to why the President and his family need protection.

Than there is Rand Paul. The only reason to watch this speech is find out what nutjob minds are thinking in cloud coo coo land or on the dark side of the moon. Enough said about him.

This brings me to Senator Rubio who Time has christened the savior of the Republican party, el salvador if you will. The Florida Senator may well be the GOP's only current hope but has problems all his own. He is the GOP leader on immigration reform where he takes a predictable hard line even though he himself is the son of Cuban refugees and whose grandfather and childhood idol, Pedro Víctor García, was ordered deported only to be saved by the Cuban Adjustment Act of 1966. The law still grants Cuban Americans special privileges Rubio apparently doesn't want to grant other immigrants.

Than there are Rubio's stands on gay and lesbian rights where again he doesn't seem to be the savior of anybody. He supports allowing states to grant same-sex couples the right to marry while at the same time supports limiting marriage to one man and one woman, I'm not sure how this works. Rubio says he is "against discriminating against people," but wont take a position on the long stalled Employment Non-Discrimination Act. He supports the federal government honoring states decisions on gay marriage but also supports DOMA which specifically prohibits the government from acknowledging those same decisions. Now we come full circle to his strongest issue, immigration. He doesn't believe same-sex couples should be included in immigration reform because he thinks it would just cloud the issue and once again says it should be left to the states. I repeat, how does this work as immigration is constitutionally a federal issue.

For Rubio's benefit I'll finish with this video.

"Every day tens of thousands of lesbian and gay binational couples fight for the right to live together in the United States because the federal government refuses to recognize their marriages for immigration purpose. Becky and Sanne: Fighting DOMA to Keep Their Family Together."

Published on Jan 31, 2013

Becky/U.S. and Sanne/Netherlands, Asheville, NC:
Becky and Sanne first met while traveling around India several years ago. Though able to live freely in The Netherlands, the first country in the world to grant full marriage rights to same sex spouses, they are raising their 2 year old daughter, Willow, in Asheville, North Carolina, near the family, mountains, and community they love. By sharing their story, they hope to publicize the plight of binational couples while promoting a world in which Willow never has to suffer discrimination for having two moms.

For more information and how you can help:
The DOMA Project
The Devote Camapaign

update - The Violence Against Women Act re-authorization passed in the Senate today by a vote of 78 to 22. All 22 votes against it came from Republican men including, you guessed it, Florida's own Marco Rubio. I somehow doubt he will explain his love of violence against women in his SOTU rebuttal tonight. The bill now goes to the House where it faces wingnut opposition to a provision in the bill that would restore tribal authorities’ ability to "prosecute non-Indians who commit violence against the members of their tribe" on tribal land. Honestly, I do not make this shit up.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Sunday Observations 2.10

Friday I had just wanted to write a quick post to get my other drone thoughts out of the way before Nemo hit and my mind spiraled elsewhere. I started with following paragraph so you can see my mind always spirals elsewhere.

But speaking of Nemo, who the hell names a winter storm after a fish? Or maybe it's named after Captain Nemo or maybe I'm just putting too much thought into it and it's nemo as in the Latin word nemo. A storm named "no man." So you see how fast my mind spirals out of control. And now I have a Nemo post started ... but I never finished it. In the end the storm dumped a foot of snow on the Village on its way to terrorize New England where it left almost three feet of snow in some places. After the last few blizzards we had here, not to mention Sandy, a foot of powder on a weekend actually called for some fun. One lasting thought did come out of the storm though and that is damn the Weather Channel. Damn them for starting to name winter storms, damn them for naming a storm Nemo, and damn them for no longer having the hottest weather girls.

Nemo did teach me one thing. You really haven't lived until you have seen Fashion Week people trying to walk in snow in stiletto heels. It was totally worth the trip uptown just to see that rarest of social events.

Have you ever noticed Russian photographers are obsessed with big chunky furniture and Victorian settings? Do they teach that in Russian art schools or are they born that way? I mean seriously, simple and easy to look at they are not.

I was reading an article about population and found a bit of trivia. If it was concentrated as densely as it is in New York City the entire world population would fit in the state of Texas. There really is a smart ass comment in there somewhere which probably involves Rick Perry and contraception but at the moment I can't think of it. Now you might be wondering why I was reading an article from a two year old National Geographic and you would have good reason to. It was because the same month had a good article about the libraries of Timbuktu, the same libraries burned by jihadists retreating from the French in Mali. This too is how my mind spirals out of control but it seems perfectly rational to me.

Finally, Kate Upton is the cover girl for this year's Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue, it's her second time on the cover and yes this is important to know.

update - This photo is from Victoria Beckham's V.B. show at the New York Public Library earlier today. I'm only posting it because it could possibly be the only fashion line I've seen that looks like it was designed with me in mind. (Vogue)

Friday, February 8, 2013

Observations from the Coffee Shop 2.8

I want to write down my other thoughts on drones quick because snow is beginning to fall in the Village, Nemo seems to have arrived right on schedule. Usually the world is very black and white to me but these drones just have me torn as you can probably tell by now.

The drone war is an important story but it doesn't seem to resonate at all with a public that at times seems tired of it all. Tired of war, tired of politicians who get absolutely nothing accomplished, or just tired of the total ignorance coming from one side of every issue. Yesterday morning Joe Scarborough said he was scared because nobody seems to care about the constitutional issues involved. As I said that is part of the reason I was writing about it because I don't understand why I don't care more.

It's an important issue but it's also a very cynical one. Would people care more if Dubya was still President? There is a huge amount of trust involved and people just trust President Obama more than they ever did him. At the same time Obama wont always be President so what then?

An even more cynical part is the story of the Justice Department memo that was released this week. Supposedly it was found and released by NBC News after much journalistic effort. You might think it was on the level of David Corn getting the "47 Percent" video of Willard but you would be wrong. Now it seems that in all likelihood the memo was released by the Senate Intelligence Committee itself to create some drama for their confirmation hearings of John Brennan.

The White House says there are rules that are followed before drone strikes but they refuse to release them saying they are classified. Actually the whole drone program itself is considered classified. The problem is the drone war is part of a larger war that has been going on for ten years now. A dirty, ugly, secret war that shows no signs of ending anytime soon. That statement was proved recently by the French intervention in Mali and the terrorist attack in Algeria that followed. There are secrets in any war, there have to be, even more so in a war fought in the shadows as this one is and today the Congress of the United States is quite possibly the worst place on Earth to keep a secret. Also the ACLU is suing the government in civil court to force the CIA and Justice Department to release any and all information on the drone program and war. The thought of that lawsuit is laughable in an age where the Somali terrorist group Al-Shabaab has a twitter account.

But than there is the other, the constitutional, side of the story. Senator Robert Kennedy once held hearings into the terrible treatment of farm and other migrant workers. During the hearings he questioned a California sheriff who admitted to arresting workers without reason because the sheriff said he had a duty to stop them from causing trouble before they caused it. When Kennedy asked how he could arrest someone when they hadn't yet broken a law the sheriff answered "They’re ready to violate the law." At the next break Kennedy stared down at the sheriff and told him he should "read the Constitution of the United States" over lunch.

President Obama is the only President who studied, not to mention taught, constitutional law before he became President. One could say he should know better.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Observations from the Window 2.6

A couple days ago NBC released a Justice Department memo on drones, the government's way of saying yes we can kill you if you are an American citizen, happen to be overseas, and we even think you are a terrorist. That seems to be all any of the talking heads want to talk about now. That is unless you include The Washington Post who thought it fitting they publish an article about Michelle Obama's ass. Seriously.

One would think I would be all ready to rant about the drones, rights, and what you could probably call legal assassination but one would be wrong. Instead of writing this to vent I'm writing to try and rationalize why I don't feel that way. The only reason I can come up with is that for almost half my life this country has been in one form of war or another. For my generation the deaths of 3,000 people is the defining moment of our lives and for all practical purposes my sister's generation hasn't known anything but war. Maybe more important than that is we have lived with the Patriot Act the whole time. What gun control does to the second amendment pales when compared to what the Patriot Act did to the rest of the Constitution.

The notion that drone killing isn't who we are or what we do doesn't work the way it does with torture. The drone is a totally predictable evolution of the American way of war. Clinical, antiseptic, death from above delivered with nothing but a sound reminiscent of a snowmobile engine. Perfectly packaged for the evening news to show just before they report on how terrible the drone wars are.

So I just don't know why the whole thing doesn't bother me more. Am I just being cynical to the ninth degree? Is it the images of what I saw in the streets of New York ten years ago? Maybe it's the subtle feeling I sometimes get that, no matter how much I love it, technology will be the end of us all one day. I honestly have no idea so for now I guess you could say it bothers me that it doesn't bother me.

Time ran a very good cover story on drones that contains a very real warning. "The moral ambiguity of covert drone strikes will clarify itself very quickly if another country claims the right under international law to strike its enemies in the U.S. There may come a day when the U.S. bitterly regrets the precedents it has set." Just try and imagine the American reaction to a Chinese drone flying over San Francisco. It isn't all that far fetched because the Time article mentions a drone Grumman is developing that will stay in the air for weeks at a time.

A literary mind might feel the need to issue a more personal warning than Time by using a quote by George Orwell. But the book 1984 was written over sixty years ago, the year itself is almost thirty years ago, so people might only understand it in an quaint abstract sort of way. Something a little more timely is called for.

Skynet isn't as fictitious as it once was.

2/7 update - I did more thinking on this but I'm going to write an additional post rather than doubling the size of this one. I did want to that one of the major reasons this has even become an issue is John Brennan's confirmation hearing today in front of the Senate Intelligence Committee or, as I prefer to call it, the gang of cranky old men. Brennan, President Obama's counter-terrorism chief and the man who ran the drone wars, is nominated to be head of the CIA.

Something to think about this morning, Senate Intelligence Committee, that's a political oxymoron if there ever was one.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Sunday Observations 2.3

It being Super Bowl Sunday I want to start with a beer related thought. I often joke about signs of the apocalypse but I saw something this week that just might be the final sign. This week the Justice Department blocked Anheuser Busch, the makers of Budweiser, from a complete takeover of Grupo Modelo who just happens to make Corona. AB fully admits the takeover attempt is out of fear of good beer. "We must slow the volume trend of High End Segment and cannot let the industry transform," said an AB spokesman. In the last ten years the number of craft (read that good) beer brewers has quadrupled while over the past two years Budweiser sales have fallen over ten percent. The combined AB/Modelo would control over half the U.S. beer market hence the anti-trust suit by the DOJ which is enough to thwart the apocalypse for now. Or it should until the vegetable growers try and corner the lime market.

Here is an example of the fun side of twitter. I read this tweet a couple days ago, "Leaning over stretching, I panicked for a second b/c I suddenly couldn't move my head. And...I was standing on my hair." Sadly I fully understood how this could happen but it made me smile just to read it because hey I've been there.

There hasn't been any reason to mention Willard for some time now but I found out a couple things this week that have changed that. The first isn't surprising at all. You might remember that during hurricane Sandy Willie's campaign changed one of their events into a pseudo food drive for victims of the storm. I've been reading an ebook by BuzzFeed's Michael Hastings in which he says that before the event the campaign dropped $5,000 at a Dayton, Ohio Walmart to stock the rally's shelves with canned goods. You know, in case Romney supporters were cheap bastards who couldn't afford a can of beans.

The other thing about Willard really did surprise me and reminded me that I had once thought that if Willard had run as the Massachusetts Governor Romney, and not the right wing kowtowing nutjob Romney, he might have won. Thursday the Romney campaign filed its latest report with the Federal Election Commission. It seems that after the election, and with no announcement at all, they had donated $90,000 to the Red Cross for Sandy relief. I thought that I should give him credit for that after all the abuse I dished out over the last year. Than again I should also note that the campaign still has $4 million in the bank.

The Hastings eBook is called Panic 2012: The Sublime and Terrifying Inside Story of Obama's Final Campaign and costs just $5 on Amazon. It's basically a 150 page BuzzFeed article about the campaign's last months which is funny and totally eye opening. It's worth reading and no I don't get a cut.

I don't normally share personal email but this one from a friend on Friday sums up the week so well. "Israel attacking Syria, terrorists attacking our embassy, China attacking the NY Times, Republicans attacking Hagel, all of England attacking the artist who painted Kate's portrait, people attacking commercials... I need a beer." I hope she got that beer and it wasn't a Budweiser.

Have I ever mentioned that I would totally like to go to China?

Friday, February 1, 2013

Observations from the Coffee Shop 2.1

The Super Bowl is just a few days away so I thought a little preview was called for. Personally I think the last version of the Beetle was cuter and this 2013 model would look much better in black. I better shut-it though, I don't want Foxy getting jealous.

Don't sweat me brodder, the sticky bun come soon ....

Published on Jan 27, 2013
Jimmy Cliff - Rebirth

Watch our Super Bowl 2013 TV commercial, where you'll meet Dave and his newfound sunny disposition (that manifests itself in a curious way), all thanks to his new 2013 Volkswagen Beetle.

update - After I posted this it was brought to my attention that some people somehow find the commercial offensive. That a white man speaking with a Jamaican accent and driving a German car is somehow racist and not multi-cultural fun. This was just a little post but some people are just too damn serious and now it's much too long.

In its defense I give you Dr Claire Nelson, the Jamaican born president of the Institute of Caribbean Studies and the Caribbean Heritage Organisation. Dr. Nelson said what she and her group found offensive "are the mostly non-Jamaican critics who contend that the commercial is racist. Some going as far as saying that it's like putting a black face on a white or Asian person. We hasten to assure the viewing public, that being Jamaican, just like being American, is a nationality and not a race.We invite everyone to 'Get in and get happy. No problem, man."

Tourism Minister Wykeham McNeill said Jamaica can benefit significantly from the Super Bowl ad. "I think this is a very creative commercial, which truly taps into the tremendous appeal that brand Jamaica and its hospitable people have globally," he said in a press release. The Opposition Jamaica Labour Party has also endorsed the ad.

I rest my case.