Sunday, June 30, 2013

Observations from the Shore 6.30

There is nothing like sitting on the deck after a morning walk on the beach reading the Sunday New York Times, even if it does happen to be the New Jersey edition of the paper. What makes it even better is knowing I'll be here for the week. I usually do spend a week here in the summer but last year I was going to Paris and times didn't work so I only spent a few days.

Before I forget, a quick note to the New York Times Company. I think somebody needs to build you a newspaper vending machine that takes dollar bills or, better yet, takes cell phone payment like in Japan. I don't mind paying the $6 for the Times but $6 is a hell of a lot of change to come up with in the morning.

I've been using this house for years and some of the neighbors are the same as when I was a kid. I had to laugh because when I arrived yesterday one of them yelled congrats at me as I unloaded and I had no idea why I was being congratulated. Than I realized, I'm the queer neighbor and it was because of the court decisions on marriage. For that and other reasons I have declared this week to be Fred's Gay Pride week. Eventually I shall have to inform the people at Fred's.

The time I spend here always feels like a recharge of sorts. I do a lot of walking on the beach and in town. Visit the same galleries, sit in Fred's, and eat at Sylvester's which happens to be the best seafood restaurant ever. Sylvester's is a fish market on the bay side of Avalon and it looks the part. I also eat a lot of peanut-butter and jelly sandwiches, because that's what we took on the beach when I was a kid, and fresh fruit off the truck that drives around.

I also read, I read a lot, I was told I read too much because I packed four books for a week long stay. The Chaperone by Laura Moriarty, The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers, The Art Forger by B.A. Shapiro, and The Future by Al Gore. I also have a stack of magazines with Moroccan pottery in them because I'm suddenly obsessed with Moroccan pottery, I have no idea why.

Most of all I like to do a lot of nothing whether walking on the beach or sitting on the deck watching lightning above the horizon. Doing nothing is an activity that gets harder and harder to do as one gets older.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Observations from the Coffee Shop 6.27

Yesterday was a historic day, a word that doesn't quite do it justice but is true nonetheless. At the moment I can't seem to put in words how I felt at 10:01 AM when I saw this simple tweet; "@SCOTUSblog: DOMA is unconstitutional." Maybe in a couple days I can describe the day better but for now I'm not going to try.

As expected Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote The Supreme Court's decision that ruled DOMA unconstitutional. The official legal wording of the tweet is this; "DOMA is unconstitutional as a deprivation of the equal liberty of persons that is protected by the Fifth Amendment." You can read the full decision and the dissenting opinions here

Yesterday's other major decision for all practical purposes made same sex marriage once again legal in California. In the Prop 8 decision Chief Justice John Roberts said the "petitioners did not have standing to appeal the District Court’s order." That leaves the lower court ruling that Prop 8 violated both the Due Process and Equal Protection clauses of the U.S. Constitution stand and re-instates equal marriage. You can read that SCOTUS opinion here and the original Ninth Circuit Court ruling here.

Yes it was quite a historic day. Finally this statement from President Obama who got the news on Air Force One as he flew to Africa:

The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release June 26, 2013

I applaud the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act.  This was discrimination enshrined in law.  It treated loving, committed gay and lesbian couples as a separate and lesser class of people.  The Supreme Court has righted that wrong, and our country is better off for it.  We are a people who declared that we are all created equal – and the love we commit to one another must be equal as well. 

This ruling is a victory for couples who have long fought for equal treatment under the law; for children whose parents’ marriages will now be recognized, rightly, as legitimate; for families that, at long last, will get the respect and protection they deserve; and for friends and supporters who have wanted nothing more than to see their loved ones treated fairly and have worked hard to persuade their nation to change for the better. 

So we welcome today’s decision, and I’ve directed the Attorney General to work with other members of my Cabinet to review all relevant federal statutes to ensure this decision, including its implications for Federal benefits and obligations, is implemented swiftly and smoothly.

On an issue as sensitive as this, knowing that Americans hold a wide range of views based on deeply held beliefs, maintaining our nation’s commitment to religious freedom is also vital.  How religious institutions define and consecrate marriage has always been up to those institutions.  Nothing about this decision – which applies only to civil marriages – changes that.  

The laws of our land are catching up to the fundamental truth that millions of Americans hold in our hearts:  when all Americans are treated as equal, no matter who they are or whom they love, we are all more free.

6/29 update - "At the President’s direction, the Department of Justice will work expeditiously with other Executive Branch agencies to implement the Court’s decision." From Attorney General Eric Holder's statement on the Wednesday's DOMA ruling. Read the full statement here.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013


In memory of those who died forty years ago in the UpStairs Lounge fire I described yesterday.

Duane George Mitchell had escaped to the roof with a group led by bartender Douglas Rasmussen. He ran back into the burning building trying to save his partner, Louis Horace Broussard. Their bodies were discovered lying together. Also Adam Roland Fontenot who was survived by his partner, bartender Douglas Rasmussen.

Mrs. Willie Inez Warren died in the hospital two weeks later from burns suffered in the fire. Her two sons died inside the bar, Eddie Hosea Warren and James Curtis Warren.

Luther Boggs, a teacher who died two weeks later and who was notified in the hospital that he had been fired.

Rev. William R. Larson, a former Methodist minister.
Dr. Perry Lane Waters
Douglas Maxwell Williams
Leon Richard Maples
George Steven Matyi
Larry Stratton
Reginald Adams Jr.
James Walls Hambrick
Horace Getchell
Joseph Henry Adams
Herbert Dean Cooley
David Stuart Gary
Guy Anderson
Donald Walter Dunbar
John Thomas Golding
Gerald Hoyt Gordon
Kenneth Paul Harrington
Glenn Richard Green
Robert Lumpkin
Ferris LeBlanc

Three bodies were never identified.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Observations on Queer History 6.25

Lately I've been reading a lot of gay history, not the easiest subject considering most of it was hidden. While I spend another morning waiting for SCOTUS to announce the fate of the dreams of millions of Americans I thought I would give you a short history lesson.

UpStairs Lounge
from the collection of Johnny Townsend
Forty years ago there was a gay bar at the corner of Iberville and Chartres Street in New Orleans. It was called the UpStairs Lounge.

June 24, 1973 was a Sunday, the final day of one of the first Pride weekends, and the fourth anniversary of the Stonewall Riots. Not that there was an open Pride celebration in New Orleans. Gay life in the city was lived deeply underground and most gay bars in the city were located in derelict waterfront buildings to keep it that way. On that Sunday night sixty people were celebrating in the bar when somebody soaked the stairwell with lighter fluid, lit it, and rang the buzzer. Thirty two people died in the ensuing fire storm, the largest murder of LGBT people in American history. The second floor bar had no emergency exit and the windows were barred to keep people from falling, some were later found burned to death pressed against the bars. Many of the survivors owed their lives to the bartender who led them to the roof through a back exit until it was blocked by flames. Nobody was ever charged with what was never considered an outright hate crime so it is a bit lost in American history.

To me what is most important historically is what happened after the fire. At the time New Orleans Mayor Moon Landrieu and the Governor of Louisiana had no comment. Two days after the fire the story disappeared from the local headlines, something that would have been unimaginable had the victims been straight. Many churches in the city (Catholic, Episcopal, Baptist and Lutheran) refused to allow memorial services in the facilities or allow the dead to be buried in their cemeteries. The refusal to allow burial in Catholic cemeteries reportedly came from Archbishop Philip Hannan himself but he never publicly commented on the fire. The dead were gays after all and deserved what they got. Some remains weren't claimed by 'embarrassed' family members and three of the dead were never identified at all. Many gay men in the city carried false papers in case they were arrested in one of the frequent NOPD perversion sweeps.

A few days after the fire a New Orleans detective, Henry Morris, was quoted in the New Orleans States-Item. "We don't even know these papers belonged to the people we found them on. Some thieves hung out there, and you know this was a queer bar."

But looking back, horrific as it was, the UpStairs fire marked a turning point as important for New Orleans as the Stonewall Riots were to New York. On July 1st, a week after the fire, a memorial service was finally held at St. Mark's Methodist Church in the French Quarter. After the service the 300 attendees had the option of leaving through a side door to avoid the cameras of the media and police. For the first time in city history most choose to walk out the front door.

That happened in America just forty years ago.

notes - One of the attendees at the St. Mark's memorial service was Louisiana's Methodist bishop, Finis Crutchfield, who would die of AIDS fourteen years later at age 70. Eventually New Orleans became the first city in the South in extend full civil rights to gay city employees.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Observations 6.23

It's been a busy week and I didn't realize I hadn't posted a thing since Tuesday. I've been getting ready for a couple trips and at times lately Twitter just turns into a micro-blog for me so I start thinking in 140 character bursts. That being said I have the usual multiple posts started so maybe I'll get some finished before I leave for the shore.

Politically my immediate family is a close knit group. I always thought that was partly out of shear necessity as it was the only way we could survive get togethers with the extended family. While we disagree on some things we do agree on most and my brother and I have been known to finish each other's arguments. The recent NSA data collecting revelations changed that on at least one issue as my brother is just slightly pissed off by it all. On the other hand I find nothing surprising about it and think it's all perfectly legal under the Patriot Act anyway. As I have said the legality of it doesn't make it right, just not surprising. Why do you think the NSA was created in the first place?

A lot was made of the surge in sales of George Orwell's 1984 after The Guardian stories were printed. Somebody, I can't remember who, made a good point when they said that if an attack on the order of 9/11 ever happened in this country again 1984 would look like child's play. There is a fine line many journalists seem to miss when they are screaming about privacy. If an attack like that did happen a large majority of American's would tell the government to do anything, anything at all, to keep them safe. It's a sad fact of many American lives today that if something didn't happen to them it just doesn't matter (torture, war, being shot in school, etc.). If you don't believe that fact ask yourself how an un-winnable war could drag on for a decade with hardly any protest at all.

This (Sunday) morning news broke that Edward Snowden, to some the great American hero of the NSA story, had fled Hong Kong on a flight to Moscow as he continued his freedom loving nation tour. As you read this Snowden is probably adding the Russian chapter to his book.

While I'm on the subject of "heroes" I'll mention that a few days ago Julian Assange gave a speech to mark the one year anniversary of his seeking asylum in Ecuador's Embassy in London. I put heroes in parenthesis because I see nothing heroic about releasing documents and than running as both Assange and Snowden did. Heroic to me is a Nelson Mandela who stood his ground and went to prison for what he believed. Assange said he would consider leaving the Embassy if Sweden dropped its investigation of him, that would be the sexual assault investigation.

I really should clarify again that I don't think the data collecting is right but I see it as a fact of life now. Its a genie that's never going totally back in the bottle but needs to be contained. You can feign all the outrage you want at government spying but Facebook and Google have more information on you than the government ever will and their info is available to the highest bidder including at times the government. If you want to be outraged point it towards the large tech companies that preach privacy in public while secretly allowing all the government snooping without the slightest complaint. Also while I consider the conversation Snowden started a good and necessary thing I also think the only laws broken were done so by Snowden himself.

I hadn't planned on writing a full post on this subject but I guess I needed to let it out. Some things still can't be said in 140 characters or less.

update - This story is changing so fast I needed to update it before I even got it posted. I'm lazy at times and didn't feel like starting over. After leaving Hong Kong Snowden arrived safely in Moscow where he will spend the night before traveling on to Cuba. That last bit comes via the Los Angeles Times who quoted an anonymous Russian official, not an Anonymous official. Personally I think a quick layover in Tehran would have made Snowden's freedom loving tour complete. I have to wonder if Snowden realizes he is being used not by countries who have seen the light of freedom but by countries that are thoroughly enjoying making an ass out of his home country. That and a man, Assange, who is desperately in need of publicity.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Observations on Art 6.18, the Rain Room

© kane in the rain by Katie
The Rain Room is a thousand square foot installation that allows a person to walk through a simulated rain storm without getting wet. It was created by rAndom International which is a studio known for its experimental interactive projects.

As a person moves through the Rain Room multiple 3D cameras and ceiling mounted sensors track their location and turn on or off jets of water as they do so creating the impression of repelling rain. The room uses over 200 gallons of water a minute but it is quickly filtered and reused to be environmentally friendly. The Rain Room is part of  "EXPO 1: New York," a festival of new ideas in art and ecology that includes an exhibition at MoMA PS1, whose director Klaus Biesenbach curated the project, and other activities located under a geodesic dome in Rockaway Beach, Queens.

Rain Room was first shown last year in the Curve Gallery of London's Barbicon, it closed in March 2013. In May it opened in a lot next to New York's Museum of Modern Art and will be there until July 28th. Current wait times for non-members are running 4-6 hours and 2 hours for members. If you want to go, and you should, here are a few hints. Go as early as possible, MoMA opens at 10:30 but the lines start forming as early as 8. Sunday and Tuesday are the least busiest days, Friday is the worst. This may say stupid but if you have a choice go on a sunny day because people don't seem to want to stand in simulated rain on a nice day.

I have been to the Rain Room a few and while Ash and others describe it as surreal what I remember more than anything else is the sound. This video from the Barbicon gives you a good idea why.

Rain Room at the Barbican, 2012 from rAndom International on Vimeo.

rAndom International was founded by Stuart Wood, Flo Ortkrass and Hannes Koch in 2002. The studio was set up to extend the perspective of contemporary artistic practice. Working from the fringes of art, design, science and architecture, rAndom develop projects and installations that re-interpret the 'cold' nature of digital-based work and emphasize the interaction between the animate (audience) and the inanimate (object), bringing the two into a powerful relationship of performance. The studio's work has won many awards in the fields art, architecture and design. rAndom are represented by Carpenters Workshop Gallery in London.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Father's Day

It's become a habit of mine to post the same Mother's Day post every year. It isn't because I'm lazy but because whenever I read it I realize I couldn't say it any better than I already had. I was surprised when I looked back and saw I had written more than one Father's Day post but once again after reading them I'm stuck with the same thought. I can't say it any better now than I did than and so here is what I wrote three years ago.

"I suppose I never mention my dad much, not nearly as much as he deserves. The quiet one of the family, just sitting back and watching as his crazy kids grow hopefully into something worthwhile. If my mom was my early inspiration my dad was the rock I leaned on. The one I go to when everything seems destined to fall apart.

I was the first, and I don’t think he wanted to wait years for ‘the kid’ to come along, so I became the pseudo jock artist at an early age. Of course I hadn't yet thrown lesbian into that mix, even I wasn't that young. I played all kinds of sports before settling on field hockey full time and he was always there. He was always the quiet one but always there for the games, the tournaments, and would drive me to Philly to go to a cool sports shop for sticks.

I am a lot of things because of my dad and a few things despite him, yeah try and guess that last one. I suppose that is how it is with anybody. I’m totally passionate about my sports and at times I am a voracious reader. I have been known to fish, yes fish. While my mom was taking me to New York and museums my dad was sneaking me off to Phillies games and sharing the shear sloppy joy of a cheese steak. I love to play ice hockey, skate, and I always wear hockey skates.

He bought me my first camera telling me, with a wink, that I couldn't paint everything.

And he pushed me to get my masters when I had had just about enough and was ready to give up. Though, to be honest, I always thought he steered me into Art History because he figured I would have a better chance of getting a job and getting out of his hair.

Like I said he is always there."

Happy Father’s Day Dad

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Observations 6.13

A short post brought to you by the Republican Party. Yesterday the House Judiciary Committee met yet again to pass an antiabortion bill. The committee includes 23 Republicans, all men. They passed a bill that is unconstitutional as it bans all abortions after 20 weeks, would never make it though the Senate, and would be vetoed by the President if it did. They did it anyway. They banned all abortions and allowed no exceptions as they voted down every amendment the Democrats proposed. The health of the mother doesn't matter, incest doesn't matter, rape doesn't matter.

I leave the balance of my post to Republicans. First up is Rep. Trent Franks who is a Republican from Arizona, a member of the Judiciary Committee, and the chief sponsor of the bill. During debate of the rape exception he said this, "The point I was trying to make, Mr. Nadler, is that, you know, before my friends on the left side of the aisle here tried to make rape and incest the subject, because, you know, the incidents of rape resulting in pregnancy are very low."

Gabriel Gomez is a Republican running for the Senate from Massachusetts. When asked about the Franks' comment he had this to say; "I think he is a moron and he proves stupidity has no political affiliation. I have no idea what goes on in a moron like that, these kind of comments only come from a moron."

I couldn't have said it any better, even if it came from a Republican.

For the record 32,000 women get pregnant from rape every year.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Observations from the Coffee Shop 6.10

I've missed my Sunday Observations lately and have a mess of notes that I either have to throw together or shred and I hate an unused note. Anyway some odds and ends, some old, some new.

First I need to apologize for a typo in a previous post. In the post about Miya Ando I called her Maya even though I know her name is Miya and looked over it a few times before I posted. I shall blame auto-correct as my only other excuse is that sometimes I'm just terrible at this writing thing.

Hillary Clinton joined twitter today, joining Bill, Chelsea, the Clinton Foundation, and the Clinton Global Initiative. Its exciting for a number of reasons including her black and white profile pic, you just have to like that. Of all the twitter profiles I have read over the years this may be the best; "Wife, mom, lawyer, women & kids advocate, FLOAR, FLOTUS, US Senator, SecState, author, dog owner, hair icon, pantsuit aficionado, glass ceiling cracker, TBD..."

During the tornado that hit Moore, Oklahoma I saw a video that showed a perfect funnel cloud. A local reporter on the scene described it as "the finger of god" and I thought I had never heard a more apt description of a tornado. It also struck me that this tornadoes and other extreme weather events have something in common with guns. Don't talk about guns after a massacre and don't talk about climate change after severe weather.

My current favorite journalist, other than Rachel, is Chris Hayes because I feel like he wants to understand both sides. Even if he doesn't agree with a position he wants to understand it and that's how I like to think I am. I only mention that because I wanted to bring up my current least favorite journalist, at least my least favorite non-wingnut journalist. I can say I have never been thrilled with The Guardian's Glenn Greenwald and his handling of his current NSA stories have just solidified that opinion. His arrogant, holier than thou, there is no other side to the story approach is something I expect from wingnuts and is the polar opposite of Chris Hayes.

I was told that I need to clarify something. A while back I mentioned that I did not like Woody Allen or his movies but technically that's untrue. Midnight In Paris is the exception to that rule. It's Paris, Ernest Hemingway, and Woody Allen isn't in it. Also I may be the only person who can watch both V for Vendetta and The Devil Wears Prada at the same time. I got yelled at for that one.

Finally a fashion sign of the apocalypse, CK's summer scented nail polish. The closest I've ever been to scented nail polish was using paints while painting but if I remember correctly they didn't smell like watermelon. Enough said.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Observations from the Window 6.9

I have to admit it was a fascinating few days watching the reaction of people to the NSA's data collecting and PRISM program. You had Senators who voted for the Patriot Act swearing they didn't know it made the NSA data fishing expeditions legal. You also had people who have fully supported the law, because they have no problem trading privacy for some sense of safety, admitting that they have never read even a part of it. Some Democrats are supporting something that is blatantly opposed to the fourth amendment of the Constitution while some Republicans call something initiated by Dubya unconstitutional because, well, you know, the black man is doing it.

For the record you can read the entire Patriot Act here.

I can't say I'm at all surprised that the data collection has been and continues to be done but because of President Obama I will admit to being a bit disappointed by it. Because it's being done with judicial oversight the Patriot Act makes it all perfectly legal and I doubt there has ever been a President who did use every last drop of power granted him. There is a good line in a Huffington Post column from 2011; "the surveillance state has nothing to do with the goodness or badness of the American people or our unseen protectors. It has to do with the psychology of power, and what power does to life." That says it all, it isn't about trust as much as what all the spying does to the country in the long run. Soon a whole generation will have grown up thinking this is the norm and once that happens there is probably no going back.

For the most part I think people will support the data collection or sadly just not care one way or the other. In all honesty if they want to watch as their privacy rights are slowly bled away in the name of safety so be it. There isn't a damn thing that you or I can do about it but I start to have a rather large problem is when these people are willing to give away my privacy with theirs. If only the Constitution's fourth amendment was as sacred as the second seems to be, something that will never be.

The always popular Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina voiced what is in all likelihood the average person's opinion. "I’m a Verizon customer. I don’t mind Verizon turning over records to the government if the government’s going to make sure that they try to match up a known terrorist phone with somebody in the United States. I don’t think you’re talking to terrorists. I know you’re not. I know I’m not. So, we don’t have anything to worry about."

I've been playing a game of sorts this week. I ask people to guess who said this; "They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety." Obama seems to be the popular first guess, I think just to shut me up.

It was written by Benjamin Franklin, in 1775.

6/10 update - I found another quote that makes one think a little harder about the NSA story. From the 17th century comes Armand Jean du Plessis, known simply as Cardinal Richelieu. "If one would give me six lines written by the hand of the most honest man, I would find something in them to have him hanged." You can learn so much from history if you only take the time to look.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Observations on Art 6.8

Miya Ando
Brooklyn based artist Miya Ando has a fascinating bio if there ever was one. Ando was born in America of a Russian father and Japanese mother but was raised in a Nichiren Buddhist temple on Okinawa where her grandfather was head priest. She graduated from UC Berkeley with a degree in East Asian Studies, studied Buddhist imagery at Yale University, and apprenticed with Taro Hattori in Japan. A trained metallurgist Ando uses chemicals and dyes to create the same patterns Japanese sword makers used to give each sword a character all its own.

Ando's most famous work, called After 9/11, can be seen in London's Battersea Park and is a sculpture made from steel recovered from the World Trade Center after the Sept. 11th attacks. For a more recent project she spent six months making 1,000 hand-painted resin and phosphorescence coated skeleton leaves. Called Orbon it symbolizes the ancient Japanese tradition of folding 1,000 crane leaves to be granted a wish. Orbon was floated for 24 hours on a pond at Dorado Beach, Puerto Rico.

Miya Ando - Changing all the Rules
from The Avant/Garde Diaries on Vimeo.

For her intriguing artwork the descendant of a Japanese Sword builder clan uses two materials, which couldn't be any more different, metal and flowers. More on The Avant/Garde Diaries. The Avant/Garde Diaries is an online interview magazine and global event series initiated by Mercedes-Benz in 2011.

Directed by Takeshi Fukunaga / Cinematography by Ryo Murakami / Music by Ken Kaizu / Special Thanks to The Kitano New York Hotel & Ellie Grace

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Observations 6.5

I should start by saying this is made up of thoughts I had over the past few days as protests erupted in Turkey. I'm not trying to go anywhere with it, just connecting some of those random thoughts.

Ozan Kose, AFP/Getty Images
Watching Morning Joe yesterday I was struck with a thought. Thank the gods talking heads and pundits didn't exist 200 years ago or we would be a territory of Canada. After spending an hour discussing the IRS non-scandal, non-scandal because imbecilic job performance does not make a scandal, the topic turned to the protests in Turkey. They praised Turkey's Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan for keeping Turkey from becoming an Islamic Republic, made note that he was democratically elected, than briefly turned to the protests themselves. What I got out of their discussion was that some felt that Erdogan was a good leader who had maybe gone to far in pulling Islam back into Turkish politics. The protesters were regarded as mostly young secularists and idealists who have numbers, social media, but no real plan or power to change things after they mess up the staus quo. After five minutes they moved to the next story.

What Erdogan exemplifies to me is arrogant power on the verge of running amuck. I'm not saying Turkey needs to change or that the protesters are completely right. Unlike the Arab springs this is being compared to Turkeys protests are more of a warning than a revolution but in that region of the world there is a fine line between the two.

I heard somewhere that John McCain called Erdogan the most arrogant leader he has ever met. To live up to that Erdogan went on an official trip to Algeria as his country entered a two day general strike and protesters filled its cities. Also, unable to run for a fourth term as Prime Minister Erdogan, who was first elected in 2003, plans on running for President which is a path first taken by that other famous democrat, Russia's Vladimir Putin. Erdogan would like to change the office before he does because currently it has no real power. It should be noted that Erdogan was first elected in 2003 and is into his third term as Prime Minister. Even Iran limits its President to two terms in office.

The are a few lessons Americans can learn in this if they want to listen. The conservative talking heads forget a simple fact in their passion for all democratically elected leaders. Barrack Obama was elected with over 50% of the popular vote not once but twice.

The other lesson is a bit scarier to think about. What you have in Turkey is a now predominately secular democracy being spoon fed religion by a wealthy ruling elite which thinks it knows better. Turkish life and politics has become polarized to the point that the Turkish people think they have no option other than taking their grievances into the streets. Now you might think something like that couldn't happen here but sit back and think about the polarization of American society today. If the current pro-wealthy, anti-government, and very nonsecular version of the Republican Party ever gained total control (the House, Senate, and Presidency) it could very easily happen here.

In an article today The Guardian asked 21 year old Mervenur Erol what she had been doing when the Turkish police charged into Gezi Park. "I was reading my English literature books," she said.

A quick note, I used the photo above because when I first saw it my immediate thought was "holy crap how did my sister get to Turkey?" It just reminded me of her so much.

update - For anyone interested I found this very good paper written by Turkish journalist Anna Wood. It's an analysis of the Gezi Park protests she wrote to try and explain the events to those outside Turkey. You can read or download the paper here.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Observations from the Coffee Shop 6.3

Over the past few days Turkey seems to have exploded in protest but you wouldn't know it by following the major American networks. They would much rather cover the DC non-scandals, Senator John McCain's latest attempt at starting a war, or whatever wingnut Rep. Darrell Issa fabricated today. Yesterday Issa called White House Press Secretary Jay Carney a "paid liar," but when asked why he said that he couldn't answer. "We're getting to proving it," is all he said.

It's easy to understand why the major networks aren't covering the Turkish protests very much. I had some trouble thinking of any reasons they should but I did come up with a few. I could start by saying Turkey is an American ally but given some of the countries we call allies I wont count that one. But Turkey is, or seemed to be, an actual secular middle eastern democracy, it is a member of NATO and the European Union, and counts among its neighboring countries Greece, Syria, Iraq, and Iran. Turkey is host to 350,000 refugees from the Syrian Civil War, a number that is expected to swell to over a million before summer's end. Finally Turkey has one of the largest standing armies in Europe and, before I forget, the U.S. stations 90 nuclear weapons at the Incirlik Air Base.

It should be easy for you to see why Issa is so much more important to cover.

While I'm on the subject of Turkey I want to mention this from the 'you can't make this shit up' file. Yesterday Syria's Foreign Ministry advised Syrians "against travel to Turkey for the time being for their own safety, because of the deteriorating security." Honestly this would be hilarious if not for the 90,000 Syrians who have died in the Syrian Civil War.

I'm not going to get into why the protests started other than to say Turkey isn't quite as democratic as the wizards inside the beltway like to think it is. If you want more background here is a very good article from Jadaliyya you should start with.