Sunday, December 23, 2007

Happy Xmas!

Unfortunately, I'm a bit under the weather. So this will have to be a short post.

I hope everyone is having a wonderful winter holiday and that Mother Nature is not wrecking too much havoc in your neck of the woods. And look on the bright side folks; it will soon be time for some downhill skiing fun!

I hope everyone has a magical, loving, happy Xmas! And, of course, a very merry New Year!

And here are a few rather funny Xmas cartoons:



For the dog people, Happy Xmas!



And for the cat people, all two of you, Happy Xmas!



And for Santa! (Caution, the next cartoon uses vulgarity)



[Cartoons found here and here]

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Happy Turkey Day!




I just wanted to quickly post and wish everyone a very, very happy Turkey Day!





PS - Images taken from Funny Designs.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Checking in ...

I can't believe it's been a month since my last post. My apologies for not posting and, more importantly, not visiting and commenting. I guess when things stay busy for a while, it easily snowballs into a larger issue. In any case I hope to blog more very soon. And even though I have to keep this post a bit short, I must end it with two phenomenal songs:

Now I'm clearly not a fan of pop music. But, some pop musicians are just so talented that, with the right song, they transcend the genre. Alicia Keys is definitely such a talent. And "No One" is such a song.


I'm not sure, but I'm guessing "No One" is getting fair airplay on the radio. Hopefully this next song is getting it as well, but as an indie rock/folk rock band they might not be getting deserved airtime. In any case, this is a mesmerizing song that I could not recommend any higher. "Silver Lining" by Rilo Kiley.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Jon Stewart for President

Jon Stewart is my hero. And while I am, of course, half joking, I am also half serious. I'm not sure exactly how much press coverage Stewart's honest, incisive critique of Chris Matthews' new book (and of Matthews himself to a certain extent) is getting but I think it is a decent amount. Though I would hope it ultimately gets the same attention his 2004 remarks on (and about) CNN's Crossfire got.

In the end it is quite astonishing and also quite sad that the act of courage I am championing (and thrilled to have witnessed) was simply a television host (Jon Stewart) stating his honest opinion, telling the truth, and calling a TV personality (who happens to host a cookie cutter political views program) on the bullshit that so easily pervades cable and network TV (as well as much of the mainstream media).

And for those unfamiliar with Jon Stewart and The Daily Show, this isn't a gimmick ... Stewart and company have a track record of frank, genuine analysis (usually in the form of piercing satire) and inquiry. Before the Matthews interview, there was much buzz amongst the blogs and columnists over the incisively witty satire about Hillary Clinton's cringe-inducing, inauthentic strategy of laughter in her Sunday News Shows media blitz.

Here's the Chris Matthews interview:





Here's the Clinton Laugh Track clip:



In case the above embeds fail or the clips are taken down, you can also find the videos here at the TDS official website (unfortunately TDS' parent company Viacom has taken down the clips from YouTube). You can find the Matthews interview here. Unfortunately you'll have to do a little searching for the Clinton Laugh Track clip under the videos section. You can also try this link to milkandcookies.com and search for the vids.

And for those who can't watch the interview vid just now and want to read about the interview check out these two columns (Jennifer Pozner@Huffington Post and/or Greg Mitchell@Editor and Publisher).

Thursday, September 20, 2007

A Quick Update

I just wanted to post this quick update. As many of you probably already know, there was a rally today in Jena, Louisiana to show support for the Jena 6. News sources stated the rally was about 15,000 to 20,000 strong. That is very impressive. And perhaps I'm late with this observation, but it seems this injustice is finally receiving the publicity and outrage it deserves.

As my previous update post mentions, even with recent actions by higher courts, the Jena 6 still need help. Amnesty International has been organizing great email petition campaigns and they have a new one asking the Dept of Justice (DOJ) to get involved and review the case. If you've acted through Amnesty International before (like one of the previous links in my previous posts on the Jena 6) then you simply enter your email and it will tell you if you have already taken this petition action before or not. The DOJ seriously needs to get involved, if for nothing more than to keep the spotlight (i.e. publicity and transparency) on the case. Also, with the incompetent and corrupt Alberto Gonzales no longer at the helm of the DOJ there is a significantly greater chance the DOJ will actually do something about it. Though the charges and case are indeed in state court. What I mean to say is that the petition is not asking the DOJ to take over the case (that is not possible nor prudent, proper, etc), but that the DOJ can investigate civil rights/equal treatment violations, as well as investigate the other incidents leading up to the Jena 6 fight and the actions the local DA has taken. Though even DOJ involvement might be lacking (though with greater public pressure and scrutiny this is less likely). Earlier the US Attorney for the region conducted a town hall meeting in Jena. While the US Attorney (Donald Washington) did make some insightful points (such as prosecuting juveniles for hate crimes would be completed in such a manner as to be invisible to the public; though I must say I find this a bit suspicious as well and I am having trouble finding sources through internet searches on what is the proper protocol of prosecuting a juvenile for a hate crime), I find some of his statements highly suspicious. None more so than stating at the town meeting that he found no evidence of unfair prosecution or sentencing of the Jena 6 (this isn't a direct quote so let's hope he was misunderstood). Washington also concluded that there was no legal connection with the noose incident and the Jena 6 fight (though he stresses that there was no 'legal' connection a prosecutor could bring up in court, this also sounds suspicious to me, and even without the noose incident there were the string of racially charged fights [white on black] that preceded the Jena 6 incident).

Once again an intended short post has turned long. I'll end it here.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Thank you

I just wanted to say thanks to Sage who was kind enough to pick my blog for a Nice Matters Award. Sage said some very kind things about my blog and I am so very grateful. For the few (if any) of you unfamiliar, Sage writes an amazing blog titled Musings. It is simply a wonderful personal blog that I could not say enough good things about. I think a blog's returning visitors say a good deal about that blog. Over at Musings you will find an incredible, eclectic mix of bloggers who read and comment regularly. It truly says a good deal.

I also want to say thank you to everyone who regularly reads and comments on my blog. I've posted these thank you type posts before so don't get too weirded out, lol. And, once again, my apologies for being a little lax in the blogging department these past few weeks.

And now, I'll end this post with a web video which just might be (in my humble opinion) the cutest web video ... ever. And I don't care if people think I'm gay or a cat person (nothing against cats, I just get along with dogs better), I mean seriously folks, can anyone deny the off the charts cuteness quotient of this lil' fella? (Special thanks to the lovely NYKat on whose blog I first viewed this vid.)



PS - Please read the following update post on the cases of Troy Davis and the Jena 6, two tragic injustices. Thanks.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

An Update Post

Troy Davis - For those unfamiliar with his story please check out this link. Amnesty International has been an amazing resource as it runs a stellar campaign trying to spotlight and correct the injustice Troy Davis has suffered. From what I've read, I believe the Georgia Supreme Court is currently hearing whether or not Troy Davis will be granted some semblance of a new trial (in which he can introduce a plethora of new evidence). In any case, there is an on-going petition one can sign to show support for Troy Davis and his appeal for fairness. Some of you may be wondering if you have signed this online petition before. I am unsure, but the petition doesn't ask for much personal information and will let you know if you have signed it before. Also, if you could help spread the word about Troy Davis, it would be invaluable.

Jena 6 - I had typed most of this update on the Jena 6 a few days ago. Since that time, an important new event has occurred. (Thank you Diane for alerting me to this!) I have placed this news item in the proper chronological place within the total update. However, for those that want to read about this first, scroll down to the "****Good News!" section below.

For those unfamiliar with the Jena 6 please check out the informative wikipedia entry on it. This incident simply boggles the mind. One of the key issues this injustice brings to light is the power a District Attorney has. Clearly in the case of the Jena 6, the DA has abused his power. Unfortunately, it doesn't seem like there is going to be any punishment for this abuse in the near future. The DA is still prosecuting the case. However, the egregious, exaggerated charges have been lowered for some of the Jena 6. Unfortunately, they have only been lowered to still inflated charges of aggravated second-degree battery and conspiracy. Also unfortunate is that this is the same sequence experienced by the first of the Jena 6 to be tried. The judge dismissed the conspiracy charge, but an all white jury found the young black man guilty of the aggravated second-degree battery. Aggravated second-degree battery must include the use of a deadly weapon. In this case the DA claimed tennis shoes worn on the feet were deadly weapons (during kicking in the fight/jumping), and the jury agreed. Sentencing for the first of the Jena 6 to be tried will be decided shortly; he faces up to 22.5 years.

****Good News! (Sept 15) Louisiana's 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals has vacated the aggravated second-degree battery conviction against the first (and so far only) of the Jena 6 to be tried. The court found the black youth was improperly tried as an adult and in a case that raised many questions of racial fairness and justice. Unfortuantely, this still is not the end of this social and legal travesty. The DA released a statement saying he would appeal the decision to the Louisiana Supreme Court. Also, if the Louisiana Supreme Court (and, potentially, the US Supreme Court afterwards) were to uphold the state Circuit Court ruling, the DA must decide to then drop the case or refile in juvenile court. For more information, please read the Chicago Tribune report linked to earlier. It seems the specter of an organized upcoming rally to show support for the Jena 6 had an impressive impact. It is quite the accomplishment that people across the nation have joined together to support and aid the Jena 6, though it is still chilling to the bone that an injustice of this magnitude occurred in this nation, in this day and age. And, unfortunately, this travesty is still not yet over for the Jena 6.

(The rest of this update was written before the Sept 15 news. It may seem a slight bit off context but I am still going to post it. Plus it ends with links to two solid petitions/actions that may be of interest.)

Whether the Jena 6 assault incident (on Dec. 4, 2006) was a fight or a jumping, it was the culmination of three months of intense, inflamed, unjust racial strife (for those that haven't, please check out the Jena 6 wikipedia entry or simply do an internet search for more info on the events leading up to the incident; they will incisively shock you). I am enormously sympathetic to the Jena 6, and yet I agree the court should find out if this was more of a two-sided fight or a one-sided jumping. Yet, even in the worst case scenario for the Jena 6, this is simple assault in the heightened environment of racial strife (they didn't jump the white kid for no reason). And they surely have served their time, if they needed to serve time at all. And after the court fairly adjudicates this incident, it must go back and fairly adjudicate all the events and incidents leading up to the Jena 6 assault (including the gross abuse of power by the DA). Unfortunately, that is most likely not going to happen. And the story of the Jena 6 showcases just how troubling race relations and how tenuous minority rights are in certain areas of our great nation. However, this incident is also a call to action: To show that most of the citizens in this nation find the injustice of the Jena 6 (and the preceding events) unbelievable. Unfortunately, I am still uncertain of what is the best way to act and show support. There are numerous petitions. This one is closing in on 200k signatures. I first learned about the Jena 6 through ColorOfChange.org. They also have a great petition (with a little over 150k signatures) which also sends emails to the Governor and a critical one to the Jena DA (yes, the one who is abusing his power). Those of you who have read my previous Jena 6 posts might have already signed this petition and email campaign. However, please still click on the link and enter the minimal personal info needed. The petition will let you know if you have acted before or not.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Summer TV - Parte Uno

It's still summer. Over here it has been hitting the high 90s recently. I know I'm a spoiled Northern Californian when I hope September brings cooler temps. And all the more so when my thoughts (and prayers) wander to our troops, who must do their difficult jobs in 115+ degree heat.

I haven't posted in about 2 weeks and I'm really sorry about that.

While I was gone (well, it happened yesterday, but technically that is while I was gone) Dan was very kind and tapped my blog for a blogger award. I just want to thank Dan again, especially for the kind words in his post, and let everyone know to check out his post (which lists the 4 other blogs he tapped, as well as who tapped him). In any case, it's wonderful all-around blog fun and a great way to be introduced to other blogs.

And now to the main point of this post: Summer TV. TV is pretty crappy year round (well, that's my opinion). At the same time, there are shows I truly adore and respect (The Daily Show, most of PBS, 30 ROCK, LOST, THE OFFICE, HOUSE, THE UNIT, etc). Unfortunately, most of these shows go on hiatus during the summer, allowing me to experience (or have the chance to experience) more of the crappy TV. However, my recent crappy TV viewing will be the subject of my next post: Summer TV - Parte Dos. Yes, I am a master of the ratings cliffhanger.

While I am pessimistic of TV as a whole, some TV isn't really crappy as it is just plain silly. But I see the appeal of silly; especially in regard to one particular type of show. That's right, the karaoke game show. Who watches the silly "Singing Bee" on NBC? Ayup, I do. I'm not the biggest fan of pop music either, but I'm one of those people who really shouldn't (because he cannot) sing but I'd go to great lengths to have a strong singing voice. However, success on the "The Singing Bee" isn't really about singing well (though I must say I'm jealous shocked that so many of the contestants are decent singers). It is actually about pop music lyrical knowledge. If you can remember the correct song lyrics, you'll win. I'm not sure how many other people out there are enjoying "The Singing Bee" and to those of you who find such a show, well, silly ... you're right. But I must admit that it is silly fun. The pop songs range from the 60s to present day, so while you'll have to endure some Backstreet Boys or Britney Spears, it is seldom, and soon balanced out by some Elvis or The Temptations. In the end it's a fun 30 minutes and, at least for me, it's rather easy to get into the show and root for the contestants (some of whom will surprise you with their pop lyrics knowledge).

Saturday, August 18, 2007

The Victims of Katrina

It is almost two years since Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans and other areas of the Gulf Coast. And, unfortunately, the victims of Katrina continue to suffer. For me, most of the blame falls at the door step of two entities. First and foremost I blame the politicians. Much has been made of the incompetence and malaise of the Bush Admin, FEMA, State/Local Officials, and Congress in reacting to Katrina. But even after these early gaffes and mistakes, neither the Bush Admin/Republicans nor the Democrat Leadership have made the victims of Katrina a priority. After the politicians, I blame the mainstream news media. Anderson Cooper got major pub and cred from his Katrina coverage, but has he revisited the story recently (say, in the last 8 months)? I don't consider FOX NEWS a legitimate news source, but have they covered the story recently? Did they even cover it when it first happened, lol. CNN and MSNBC gave what seemed like wall to wall coverage of Anna Nicole and Paris Hilton. I guess these subjects are more important than what's going on in the aftermath of Katrina. And what about the broadcast networks. I'm not sure, but has there been a recent segment on any of the network Nightly News reporting on Katrina victims?

At the same time, there is some genuine journalism on the aftermath of Katrina. One such piece is a recent interview on Bill Moyers Journal. Moyers interviews two informative and insightful panelists on the Katrina aftermath. It is simply a great interview, and if anyone is at all curious or interested, I highly recommend it. In total, the interview is about 25 minutes and you can view it on the website or read the transcript. One of the points that stuck with me, and that I've read about before, is how little rebuilding has actually occurred in many places hardest hit; neighborhoods of lower incomes and darker complexions. As one of the panelists mentions, search for recent New Orleans' vids on YouTube; you'll think the hurricane happened last week. One of the panelists makes a very insightful point of how poverty (and therefore race) has a major impact on the continued suffering of Katrina victims. Many of these victims were homeowners. Homeowners who lost their homes; left only with a mortgage. And since the wonderful insurance companies claim the damage to their homes was caused by flood instead of hurricane wind, these victims have yet to receive (and may never receive) any monetary help from their insurance policies (sources: USAToday and ABCNews). However, the US Government did provide Katrina victims with some monetary aid. Unfortunately, all these victims still had mortgages to pay off, so the money they received went to pay off this debt. This still leaves many other major costs [new housing, relocation, new job, training/education, lost possessions (which are numerous), regathering of family and friends (lost social network), etc]. The panelist makes an apt comparison between these Katrina victims and the S&L (Savings and Loans) Banks that went bankrupt in the late 1980s. The S&Ls were bailed out by the US Government at great taxpayer expense. Without the bailout, a variety of individuals across the nation would have lost a good deal of their savings. This, in turn, would have had terrible, immediate consequences economically and politically (at least for the political party in power, the Republicans). As the panelist remarks, the victims of Katrina should have not only received monetary aid, but also some equivalent of mortgage absolution, so they may start their arduous journey back to normalcy with both feet above water. Unfortunately, these victims are impoverished, homogeneous, and isolated. They don't greatly impact the economy (through no fault of their own) and live (or did live) in the hardest hit portions. They don't have the political clout to demand the attention of the politicians. And so their journey back to normalcy is ever more difficult, filled with high crime and government offered trailers which may be toxic (unsurprisingly, once again FEMA is involved; source LATimes and AP).

PS - Some good news! Not sure if the panelist was aware of this, and I'm also uncertain how much this new monetary aid compares to the average mortgage debt a Katrina victim is facing, but it is still some major aid. The Road Home program will soon be awarding up to $150k (average award is about $70k) to individuals who lost their (owned) home to Katrina. Unfortunately, this program doesn't directly help Katrina victims who were renting, especially those renting in more affordable and lower cost neighborhoods, since the current New Orleans' renting market is 2 to 3 times higher than it was pre-Katrina. More on this in the NY Times article below.

Another amazing resource for great, and up to date, journalism on Katrina/New Orleans is the New York Times which has a section of its website dedicated to the topic. Here you will find some exceptional articles. Like this one which details how hard and bleak it is for many of the displaced victims. In late May of this year, more than 30,000 families were still displaced. These "lucky" families are setup in apartments paid for by FEMA. Another 13,000 families are living in those FEMA trailers which may be toxic. The article shows just how hard it is to recover from such a disaster and tragedy. Many of the victims were lower wage earners, but they had a steady job and a large social network which allowed them a normal life. Now they must live in large trailer parks, with no savings, no car, the nearest supermarket 18 miles away, a bus stop serviced 4 times a week, few job opportunities thanks to the transportation problems, and lines to obtain free food from the food bank truck. This NY Times article is simply a must read. The stories of the victims are beyond heartbreaking and it is truly a sad example of how this great nation does fail some of its citizens ... which, of course, is too many.

PS - Unfortunately, I'm at a lost for ways in which regular folk (like you and I) can directly help Katrina victims who continue to suffer greatly. I believe our elected officials need to act, and they won't be prodded to do anything until there's enough media attention. However, if anyone reading this knows of solid ways to help, please comment about them. Thanks!

PPS - A major salute to Sage. Many of you visit his blog, Musings. Perhaps most of you know this, but a couple months after Katrina hit, Sage went down to New Orleans to volunteer with the relief effort. Here's a link to his posts that mention "New Orleans"; scroll down a bit to find his week of volunteer work, plus a couple picture posts. Once again, major props Sage.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Hey Folks!

First of all, my sincerest apologies for not being around the last week or two. Things have been really hectic.

In any case, I am back to posting and here's the first post of August.

First an update on Troy Davis. For those unfamiliar, check out this previous post and also this post over at Looking for Sunshine. I just checked out Looking for Sunshine and Yllwdaisies has also posted an update. Good news folks! The Georgia Supreme Court ruled (4 to 3, which is a bit frightening) to hear Davis' appeal to present new evidence. This is still a few steps away from actual justice, but it is a major step. Davis will be allowed to present the new evidence which greatly bolsters his claim of innocence. Anyway click on the link above, it takes you to Amnesty International's section on the Davis case and how to take action. I'll definitely update the Troy Davis case in the future. And I'm sure Yllwdaisies will probably update first, so be sure to check out her blog, Looking for Sunshine.

And to end, let me rant for a second. I'm no fan of mainstream commercial advertising. It's mainly fake, manipulative, and revolves around image and branding. I'm sure I'm not alone when, years later, I wondered how much of my childhood affection for fast food, like McDonald's, had to do with the image and brand the company had built through advertising. Well a professor at the Stanford School of Medicine has conducted research that has something rather interesting to say on this topic. The professor (and team) gave 63 kids (aged 3 to 5) two identical foods from McDonald's. One was wrapped in McDonald's brand packaging while the other identical food was wrapped in plain packaging. The kids were then asked which food tasted better or if they tasted the same. The results: About 60% of the time the kids said the food in the McDonald's brand packaging tasted better. I wonder why they haven't done this type of taste test on teens and adults. Perhaps the results would not be identical, but I think they might be similar.

I want to add that while McDonald's does serve some unhealthy foods, as far as fast food chains are concerned, McDonald's has also done a good deal to serve healthier foods as well. And the article linked to above does mentions this. Having said all this, I'd like to end by stating that McDonald's, like other fast food chains, still has a lot to do. Years ago McDonald's promised to go trans fat free. They have yet to do that.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

An Update Post and Guess How Much Coin Judge Judy Pulls?

For those of you who haven't heard of the Jena 6, please, please read the previous post. Thank you.

Jena 6 Update: Kelly and Diane have respectively mentioned (in the comments of the Jena 6 post) that NPR once again aired a news story on the Jena 6, and that the Jena 6 will finally see some prime time coverage on the CBS Evening News with Katie Couric. Also, the NAACP has joined to help defend the Jena 6. I believe today was supposed to be the day for an organized march in Jena in support of the Jena 6, but perhaps that got delayed or postponed because the sentencing of one of the Jena 6 has also been delayed. For more info check out this great piece from the Blogger News Network. Among the things it mentions is a recent forum in Jena organized by the DOJ. One would think the US Attorney for the region would be outraged, though diplomatically so. Unfortunately that's not the case. Check out the BNN piece, some of the quotes from the US Attorney are baffling.

Troy Davis Update: On the 4th of July I posted about Troy Davis who is on death row despite the strong case that he is innocent, and certainly deserves (at the very least) a new trial. For more info, check out that post. Once again I must state that I learned about the plight of Troy Davis thanks to the wonderful Yllwdaisies who blogged about it. Well, the supercool Yllwdaisies has posted an update. Less than 24 hours before his execution date, Troy Davis was granted a stay of execution. Unfortunately this stay lasts a maximum of 90 days. The stay was granted on July 16. For those of you who feel, as I do, that Troy Davis is living a nightmarish injustice, please take action asking the Georgia State Board of Pardons & Paroles to take further action on his behalf. Thank you. (Once again special thanks to Yllwdaisies for posting about this.)

I've mentioned wrongful convictions before and I truly feel it is an incredibly important issue. I really cannot under stress it. Anyway, I just wanted to link to a recent case in which 4 men were awarded $102 million dollars for being framed by the FBI and spending over 30 years in prison. Unfortunately, 2 of the men died in prison. While the award is a pittance compared to what the men endured, it does roughly come out to $1 million dollars for every year sentenced. Unfortunately this type of compensation is rare in wrongful convictions. Currently, only 22 states even have compensation statutes. Though even these vary from state to state. Some include stipulations invalidating compensation for those wrongfully convicted by coerced confessions. There is also no fixed sum or range of sum for compensation. Recently, Congress and the President recommended $50k for every year of false imprisonment, and an additional $50k (so $100k total) for every year on death row. Let me reiterate that this is only a recommendation and the 22 states that due have compensation statues vary in their sum/range numbers. I'm not sure about you, but if I was wrongfully incarcerated I'd be demanding a lot more than $50k a year, and way more than $100k a year for being on death row. There are also many other issues such as public acknowledgement of the wrongful conviction, some states have inmates waive their right to sue in order to take a DNA test or do not expunge their record, as well as job and life training to catch up for lost time. As you may have guessed, I summarized the above (regarding post-wrongful conviction issues) from the Innocence Project. They have a great section dedicated to such an important topic of the wrongful conviction issue. For those interested, please check it out (it's actually a quick read, though you might be dumbfounded by some of the facts presented).

<> <> <> <>

This is a bit random, but I had to share it. The other day Reuters posted a list of the top salaries on television. Before I begin, I must ask, how much do you think Judge Judy makes a year? The mighty Harpo of course took the top spot with a whopping $260 million. This might be a little bit out of context since she owns/produces the show, but yeah, this seems to be just her profit from the show (not including the parts of the empire: magazine, Dr. Phil, merchandise, radio, etc) -- scary. In second place is Simon Cowell from American Idol who brings in $45 million a year. Cowell also does some "producing" (music and otherwise) so I'm not sure if the entire sum is for his appearance as a judge, but it is probably safe to say much of it is. Once again pretty scary. And in third place we have, that's right people, Judge Judy herself. Believe it or not, Judge Judy takes down $30 million a year. I'm not sure what her off-camera duties are, if she owns the show like Oprah or what, but no matter how this is drawn up, it's still $30 freakin' million dollars. Wow, Judge Judy pulls down more than A-Rod.

To tell you the truth, I'm not sure which of the three is the most shocking.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

The Jena 6

I like to consider myself an informed individual. And yet I had never heard of the Jena 6 until a few days ago when I was lucky enough to receive an informative email from ColorOfChange.org. I'm not sure how many of you have heard of the Jena 6, but for those of you who have not, please brace yourself. Before I continue, I just have to state that it is an absolute travesty of justice, and an ignominious mark on this great nation that the story of the Jena 6 is not leading network and cable news. That a socialite's jail saga has received N times the media attention the Jena 6 have, is something beyond unfathomable.

I believe the best way to tell the story of the Jena 6 is by simply cutting and pasting the email I received from ColorOfChange.org. The email has links to other sources and I highly recommend reading them as well. I will also cut and paste a couple quotes from these other sources below the email.

Dear V.,

Last fall in Jena, Louisiana, the day after two Black high school students sat beneath the "white tree" on their campus, nooses were hung from the tree. When the superintendent dismissed the nooses as a "prank," more Black students sat under the tree in protest. The District Attorney then came to the school accompanied by the town's police and demanded that the students end their protest, telling them, "I can be your best friend or your worst enemy... I can take away your lives with a stroke of my pen."1

A series of white-on-black incidents of violence followed, and the DA did nothing. But when a white student was beaten up in a schoolyard fight, the DA responded by charging six black students with attempted murder and conspiracy to commit murder.

It's a story that reads like one from the Jim Crow era, when judges, lawyers and all-white juries used the justice system to keep blacks in "their place"--but it's happening today. The families of these young men are fighting back, but the odds are stacked against them. Together, we can make sure their story is told, that this becomes an issue for the Governor of Louisiana, and that justice is provided for the Jena 6. It starts now. Please add your voice:

http://www.colorofchange.org/jena/?id=2203-181999


The noose-hanging incident and the DA's visit to the school set the stage for everything that followed. Racial tension escalated over the next couple of months, and on November 30, the main academic building of Jena High School was burned down in an unsolved fire. Later the same weekend, a black student was beaten up by white students at a party. The next day, black students at a convenience store were threatened by a young white man with a shotgun. They wrestled the gun from him and ran away. While no charges were filed against the white man, the students were arrested for the theft of the gun.2

That Monday at school, a white student, who had been a vocal supporter of the students who hung the nooses, taunted the black student who was beaten up at the off-campus party and allegedly called several black students "nigger." After lunch, he was knocked down, punched and kicked by black students. He was taken to the hospital but was released and was well enough to go to a social event that evening.3

Six Black Jena High students, Robert Bailey (17), Theo Shaw (17), Carwin Jones (18), Bryant Purvis (17), Mychal Bell (16) and an unidentified minor, were expelled from school, arrested and charged with second-degree attempted murder. Bail was set so high -- between $70,000 and $138,000 -- that the boys were left in prison for months as families went deep into debt to release them.4

The first trial ended last month, and Mychal Bell, who has been in prison since December, was convicted of aggravated battery and conspiracy to commit aggravated battery (both felonies) by an all-white jury in a trial where his public defender called no witnesses. During his trial, Mychal's parents were ordered not to speak to the media and the court prohibited protests from taking place near the courtroom or where the judge could see them.

Mychal is scheduled to be sentenced on July 31st, and could go to jail for 22 years.5 Theo Shaw's trial is next. He will finally make bail this week.

The Jena Six are lucky to have parents and loved ones who are fighting tooth and nail to free them. They have been threatened but they are standing strong. We know that if the families have to go it alone, their sons will be a long time coming home. They will lose precious years to Jena's outrageous attempt to maintain a racist status quo. But if we act now, we can make a difference.

Please add your voice to the voices of these families in Jena, and help bring Mychal, Theo, Robert, Carwin, and Bryant home. By clicking below, you can demand that Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco get involved to make sure that justice is served for Mychal Bell, and that DA Reed Walters drop the charges against the 5 boys who have not yet gone to trial.

http://www.colorofchange.org/jena/?id=2203-181999

Thank You and Peace,

-- James, Van, Gabriel, Clarissa, and the rest of the ColorOfChange.org team
July 17th, 2007

References:

1. "Injustice in Jena as Nooses Hang From the ‘White Tree,'" truthout, July 3, 2007
http://www.truthout.org/docs_2006/070307B.shtml

2. "Racial demons rear heads," Chicago Tribune, May 20, 2007
http://tinyurl.com/yvh7t5

3. See reference #1.

4. See reference #1.

5. "'Jena Six' defendant convicted," Town Talk, June 29, 2007
http://tinyurl.com/ysxtgg

Other resources:

NPR: Searching for Justice in Jena 6 Case (streaming audio)
http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=11756302

Democracy Now! - The case of the Jena Six ...
http://www.democracynow.org/article.pl?sid=07/07/10/1413220

Too Sense: Free The Jena Six Now
http://halfricanrevolution.blogspot.com/2007/07/free-jena-six-now.html

While Seated: Jena Six
http://www.whileseated.org/photo/003244.shtml

Nooses, attacks and jail for black students in Jena Louisiana
http://www.dailykos.com/story/2007/6/28/144445/384

Justice In Jena, by Jordan Flaherty
http://www.zmag.org/content/print_article.cfm?itemID=12783§ionID=30

The Perpetrator becomes the Prosecutor (and other related entries)
http://friendsofjustice.wordpress.com/blog/

'Stealth racism' stalks deep South
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/programmes/this_world/6685441.stm

I also recommend reading the Chicago Tribune's report on the Jena 6.

Bill Quigley, a human rights lawyer and law professor at Loyola University in New Orleans, has written an insightful piece on the Jena 6 for truthout.org. It is a great piece with incredible quotes that illustrate the type of community Jena is:

Whites in the community were adamant that there is no racism. "We don't have a problem," according to one. Other locals told the media, "We all get along," and "most blacks are happy with the way things are." One person even said, "We don't have many problems with our blacks."

For those who like to listen to their news, check out NPR's report on the Jena 6. Another reminder that the best radio and tv news reporting is usually public broadcasting.

Illustrating that our network/cable tv news are not only lacking in international coverage but also in domestic coverage, the BBC aired a news program on the Jena 6. Here's a great quote from the article also illustrating the type of community:

Billy Doughty, the local barber, has never cut a black man's hair. But he does not think there is a racism problem in Jena.

Caseptla Bailey (her son Robert is one of the Jena 6) who is 56 and a former Air Force officer, has a degree in business management, but she cannot get a job as a bank teller. She lives in an area called Ward 10, which is where the majority of blacks live in trailers or wooden shacks. She says no whites live there at all.

That's right people. This incredible injustice is happening in our nation, in this day and age. But we can fight this injustice and help the true victims, the Jena 6. First, I highly recommend checking out the other resources linked above. Also, do an internet search on the Jena 6 if you like. Second, please take action through the ColorOfChange.org link. And finally, I believe the best way to fight this injustice is to simply publicize what is going on. Email others, blog about it, etc. I think I will email important news agencies (NYTimes, LATimes, The News Hour, WaPost, WSJ, Slate, Salon, etc) asking them to report on this enormously important story. In any case, we must spread the word.

Thank you for reading this.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

More Vids

First, my apologies for not posting in the last 10 days. Things have been hectic. Plus I've just sprained a shoulder/back muscle. So I'll have to phone this post in by simply linking to more internet vids. I learned of the first two vids from Slate's new video site: Slate V.

Perhaps some of you have already seen this, but Obama Girl is back and this time she and her crew are throwing down (bubble pop style) against the Giuliani Girls.



Next we have the best impressionist on the web, Piotr. I must admit, this guy is pretty good. I believe he's really big on YouTube and has a few clips. In this clip he does Gandalf, Doc Brown, Han Solo, Stan Lee, Don Pardo, Patrick Stewart, Emperor Palpatine, and Jim Carrey. The cool twist is that he impersonates them as though they were answering for an advice column.



This last one is really more shocking than funny. I still don't want to believe it but if it is true, it really illustrates a major problem of our "modern" society. I'll say no more. The entire clip is John Krasinski's (From NBC's "The Office") interview on Conan. But what I'm specifically talking about is a story he tells that starts at 1:16.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Obama-mania

Last Monday it was announced that Barack Obama raised a whopping $32.5 million dollars in the second quarter. I understand that Obama is a charismatic and engaging public speaker, but I think I know the real reason he raised so much money, he's the subject of a hit ballad:

(**Poster's Note: The following are internet vids which tend to be a little raunchier than regular tv. This is still basically PG-13, but for anyone who wouldn't watch a hip-hop video at work, perhaps it will be best to watch this at home.)

"I Got a Crush on Obama" by Obama Girl


The hot model in the video is actually lip-syncing and not the actual singer. If the singer's voice sounds familiar you probably heard it on the spoof music vid "My Box in a Box". Which is of course an internet vid reply/homage to the SNL "My D$%K in a Box" spoof vid.

Anyway, the singer's name is Leah Kauffman and she can really sing (which makes both spoof vids so great). For those curious, here's an interview of her (and lip-sync model from "My Box in a Box") on Keith Olberman's MSNBC show. Anyway, I hope Kauffman puts out an entire album.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Happy 4th of July!

I hope everyone had a happy 4th of July! I hope you saw some fireworks, heard some great songs and renditions of the Star Spangled Banner, and had some BBQ (maybe even a hotdog or two, though I hope not 66).

Now, sorry to bum everyone out, but I kind of must. We have a robust and working justice system. However, it is clearly far from perfect. Wrongful convictions are a major issue and problem, especially for the indigent and poor. The Innocence Project has been uncovering wrongful convictions for years and has helped exonerate 204 wrongfully convicted individuals (15 of which served time on death row). For additional info please check on this incisive and informative FRONTLINE documentary and website: The Case for Innocence.

The other day the wonderful Yllwdaisies posted about Troy Davis on her very cool blog Looking for Sunshine. I hope you take a gander at her post and read about Troy Davis. (And to add to the Amnesty Intl and Abolish the Death Penalty blog pieces, here's a great piece by TheHill.com which talks about Troy Davis and details how difficult it is to get media and congressional attention in troubling death penalty cases like this). Troy Davis' appeal to the US Supreme Court was recently denied. His execution date has been set for sometime between July 17 and July 24. I beg everyone to read about Troy Davis and for those of you that believe he deserves a new trial, that the evidence which convicted him is very suspect and troubling, please visit Amnesty International's take action page (use the fax option).

Thank you so very much for reading this. And mucho props and thanks to Yllwdaisies for posting about Troy Davis.

Saturday, June 30, 2007

CHINA BLUE

My local PBS station (KQED) pairs FRONTLINE with INDEPENDENT LENS. It makes for a very stimulating, thought provoking evening of tv. IL basically showcases amazing indie film and video from around the globe. As the website mentions, an episode can feature a variety of programs from documentaries to dramas to comic shorts to animation. While one may not know what exactly to expect in each episode, rest assured you will be viewing some of the finest independent film and video around.

Which brings me to one particular independent documentary I viewed on IL a few months back, CHINA BLUE. CHINA BLUE follows the story of Jasmine, a 17 year-old Chinese girl who (like many of her compatriots) leaves her rural family to look for work in the booming Chinese cities. She, like many others, finds work in a export oriented factory. In this case, a jeans factory. Made surreptitiously and without the approval of China's one party, totalitarian government, CHINA BLUE details just how harsh and repressive the environment is in which Chinese factory workers work. They work 12+ hours a day, 7 days a week, sometimes in unsafe conditions, with very little (if any) labor rights and protections. In Jasmine's case, she and her fellow workers are placed on a 8am to 2am shift (16 hours) in order to complete an upcoming deadline. This in addition to a recent cut in pay. They work so hard, for such long hours, and without enough sleep that Jasmine and some of her coworkers use clothespins to clip their eyelids open.



And if you think you have a terrible boss, imagine working for the factory owner in CHINA BLUE. Not only does he overwork and underpay his employees but he nonchalantly calls them inferior criminals (murderers and thieves) from the countryside. It is the type of social prejudice that makes one shudder. For those curious, his previous occupation was as the city's Police Chief.

And yet the factory owner makes an insightful point when he states he doesn't make the big profits (he, however, does quite well driving a Mercedes) because the big profits are made by the multinational corporations which buy his jeans. As the CHINA BLUE website details, companies like Levi Strauss, Guess?, The Limited, Wal-Mart, etc get their jeans from these sweatshop factories. The website has some startling information, I highly recommend it for those curious. Yes, these multinational corporations state they have a "code of labor ethics" they demand their contractors to enforce and utilize inspectors. Yet, the repercussions are only for gross, repeat offenders and, more importantly, factories obtain advanced warning of an inspection allowing them to manipulate the working environment and coach the employees.

So what's the solution? Well, for me, there seems to be only one main solution. We must pressure the multinational corporations to do more to prevent sweatshop environments. If the companies actually do more, they will most likely get some added help from the US and Chinese governments. Unfortunately I really have no clue how to help apply this pressure. But the CHINA BLUE website does have some very valuable resources. One of the websites is Behind the Label, a great place for labor related news and currently spotlighting two campaigns (one of which is directed toward American Eagle Outfitters which allegedly harassed some of its Canadian employees when they wanted to form a union). There are also links to companies that produce sweatshop free jeans.

And equally as important in combating sweatshop labor practices is to simply get the word out. Piercing documentaries like CHINA BLUE do just that. I'm not sure when IL will rebroadcast CHINA BLUE, but it is a film I could not recommend more highly. For those interested, DVDs are available from the non-profit production company Teddy Bear Films.

It's a documentary that will stay with you for a long time. It has been months since I saw it, but I still remember the opening scene vividly. A group of representatives from some US company is taking a tour of the factory. One of the reps, an older, well-dressed woman, comments in an eerily faux-genuine manner at how "nice and convenient" it is that the workers live in dorms adjacent to the factory and eat at a cafeteria right in the factory building (the dorms are, of course, extremely crowded and both rent and food are taken out of each worker's paycheck). Strangely, the tour guide (a yes-man employee, most likely payed a bit better than the workers) repeatedly asks the older woman rep if she would like to try a dish at the cafeteria (no doubt the food is better than what is normally served in order to impress the representatives or in case they brought along an inspector). The older woman rep finds the offer beneath her and her condescendingly polite "no" soon turns into a slightly grimaced face trying hard not to shout "NO!" as the tour guide repeatedly offers to stop by the cafeteria. Of course this purported "slight" doesn't hinder the business deal. How big of her.

It is this type of ignorance, venality, and prejudice (the same type displayed by the factory owner, though quite a bit uglier) that needs to be combated. It's a view that gives a wink and a nudge (if not more) to inequality. And it is a view that is completely un-American.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

SO MUCH SO FAST

This post and the next are about two wonderful documentaries I viewed in early 2007.

The first, SO MUCH SO FAST, is a documentary I saw thanks to FRONTLINE. I've lauded FRONTLINE in the past and I'll be doing so in the future. For me, it is perhaps the best television has to offer. FRONTLINE broadcasts incisive, riveting, and thought provoking documentaries each week on PBS. Each episode (post 1995 or something) also has a companion website filled with insightful information and analysis. They're all organized at the main FRONTLINE website, which also has a section listing the episodes of FRONTLINE you can view online (currently 64).

Most of FRONTLINE's documentaries are piercing investigative journalism dealing with political, social, economic, and cultural issues. But frequently, FRONTLINE showcases probing, personal documentaries. These docs still deal with the same issues, but do so through intimate, full portraits of there very human subjects. A great example of this type of doc is COUNTRY BOYS which FRONTLINE aired in 2006. The doc displayed the complex struggles and joys of living in Appalachia through the lives of two young boys. It is an exceptional film and I highly recommend checking out the website and the film itself (which can be viewed online).

SO MUCH SO FAST is a doc in the same vein. The film follows a young man, Stephen Heywood, and his family, as they discover Stephen has ALS (aka Lou Gehrig's disease), take care of him, and even try to find a cure. It is a tour-de-force filled with profound insights into how a young man deals with a horrendous disease, and how a family deals with such a tragedy. Not lying down.

If you're at all curious about SO MUCH SO FAST I highly recommend checking out the website. Unfortuantely, you cannot view the documentary online. But FRONTLINE does rotate which docs are available for online viewing. So I'd suggest bookmarking the website and regularly checking it; I'm not certain, but my guess is that the doc will be available online in the coming months (either that or it will be released on DVD and available for rent and purchase). And in the meantime there are clips. Plus the website has a wealth of information.

All I can say is that it is a tremendous film and something you're probably not expecting. A truly remarkable documentary.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

I can sees Lolcats

The internet is really a wonderful tool. From its birth, it has helped blossom numerous communities. People who share a common passion, interest, or activity can join together and communicate with each other, no matter where they are located geographically. And, of course, these communities are interconnected as some members join more than one community. In any case, what I am ineloquently trying to say is that it is no surprise word-of-mouth is quite effective across the internet. This of course has led to many internet trends or memes. I am no expert on this subject matter, not even close. Frankly, I'm a bit amazed how quickly these things spread and how strange some of them are. But I must admit there's a recent (well, recent to me) internet meme that I, a bit embarrassedly, find difficult to resist. They're called Lolcats. I'm guessing most of you reading this already know about them, but for those of you who are Lolcat newbies (as I was, a short while ago), there is no better way to learn about Lolcats then to check out this wonderful, informative slide-show essay on Lolcats in Slate.

More Links:
Lolcat Wikipedia Entry
ICHC?
Loldogs@ICHC?

PS - Who will be the first to admit that they have actually created a Lolcat (or Loldog)?

*Lolcat image from ICHC?

Monday, June 18, 2007

Um,

David Hasselhoff, Sharon Osbourne, Piers Morgan.

Why does a show with the words "Got Talent" in the title have some of the most untalented individuals as it's judges?


FIN.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

A Good Read (continued)

This is simply an update and addendum to my previous post. In it I was to recommend three great articles I've recently come across. Unfortunately, I only got around to posting about two of them. In any case, here's the third.

"Some people have said we ought to close Guantanamo. My view is we ought to double Guantanamo."

-Mitt Romney (Republican Candidate for President)



The problem with this asinine statement is that there is no current process to reliably, legitimately (in my opinion) filter out the innocent prisoners in Gitmo. The Bush Administration knew this and simply wanted to hold them all indefinitely. Fortunately the US Supreme Court found this a wee bit unconstitutional and allowed the prisoners to challenge their incarceration. Next, the Bush Administration created special military tribunals to (haphazardly) try the prisoners. The US Supreme Court found these tribunals unconstitutional because they lacked protections required by the Geneva Conventions and the US Uniform Code of Military Justice. So Bush urged Congress to basically bypass the Supreme Court and get the tribunals back. Which happened with the passing of the MCA. The passing of the MCA illustrates the Bush Admin's intent to strip away the few legal rights the Gitmo prisoners have. The fundamental problem with this is that legal rights (i.e. some semblance of a fair trial) are the only way to reliably filter out the innocent from the guilty.

And for those, like Romney, who think there are no innocents in Gitmo, a brief investigation into who is being held at Gitmo and how they got there will change your mind. Now, I'm not saying that every prisoner in Gitmo is innocent. Yet, from what I've read, I am pretty confident that many are innocent. One reason is because many of the Gitmo prisoners were simply kidnapped by tribes people in Afghanistan for the bounty the US supplied. Afghanistan is filled with ethnic tribes (Pashtun, Tajik, Turkmen, etc) who aren't the best of friends. Prior to Taliban rule, Afghanistan was in the midst of a power grab between these ethnic tribes. That these tribes would simply kidnap and turn in their enemies in order to gain US bounties is clearly not far fetched. Another reason it is fair to say some (perhaps many) Gitmo prisoners are innocent is because they have been able to tell their stories of innocence, with collaboration (thanks to legal counsel, something the Bush Admin wants to restrict). Take for instance the story of Adel Hamad. Project Hamad, the deeply informative website dedicated to Hamad's release, details how weak the case against Hamad is. Hamad was a teacher and hospital worker who was arrested in the middle of night by the ISI (Pakistan's Intelligence Agency). For those not familiar with the ISI, it is a suspicious, notorious agency which knowingly supported the Taliban in the past (and still has some ties). The ISI really needs its own post, but the point I want to make is the ISI is hardly a trustworthy agency. Anyway, take a good look through Project Hamad. It is a great resource, like this page full of US government quotes acknowledging that many Gitmo prisoners are likely innocent.

And even the Bush Admin knows that Gitmo is holding many innocents. Therefore they have, quietly, released around 300 to 400 prisoners (I do not know the peak number of prisoners, but it might be around 700 to 800 according to wikipedia and/or Slate).

Unfortunately, even after release the hellish nightmare does not end for innocent Gitmo prisoners. Take for example the heartbreaking, kafkaesque story of Chinese Uighurs who were imprisoned in Gitmo. The Uighurs, who are muslim, are an ethnic minority in China who, not surprisingly, have had their fair share of oppression from China's Communist government. Before they found themselves in Gitmo, the Uighurs traveled to Afghanistan to find work and escape Chinese government harassment. When we (the US) bombed Afghanistan to fight the Taliban and Al Qaeda, the Uighur village was simply collateral damage and the Uighurs fled to Pakistan. The Pakistani villagers initially fed and sheltered them, but then turned them over to US Military (in exchange for a bounty no doubt). After their ordeal in Gitmo, they were released to Albania. The Chinese government considers them terrorists due to a Uighur separatist movement, therefore sending them back to China would end very badly for the Uighurs. The crackerjack solution seems to be to hand them over to Albania, a staunch US ally. Unfortunately this is only the start of the Uighurs kafkaesque episode: they're unable to find work, or even leave their refugee center. Most of these men have families; families they are desperate to return to. It is truly a sad and grave episode that illustrates the tragic symbol Gitmo has become in the eyes of the international community.

PS - I'd just like to add that I have not mentioned anything about the alleged torture and humiliation many Gitmo prisoners endured. It is a post in its own right. For more information, wikipedia isn't a bad place to start here and here.

The NY Times article on the tragic plight of the Uighurs is a solid, sobering read. Please also swing by Project Hamad which is a deeply informative website. And check out this excellent Slate piece by the outstanding Dahlia Lithwick, a great article on Gitmo that I've linked to earlier in the post.

And, for those wondering what others have to say about Romney's quote, check out this the Onion "American Voices" piece.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Good Reads

Here are three great articles on important issues I am rather passionate about and find very interesting. Enjoy!

People are dying in the Darfur. We all know this. And yet it has turned out to be quite difficult for the violence, genocide, ethnic cleansing to be stopped. The issue of Darfur illustrates how complex the realpolitik of geopolitics (or international relations) truly is. And at the same time it showcases how difficult it is to deny the clich├ęd statement: Money rules the world. The violence in Darfur is supported by the Sudanese government. So the question naturally arises, How do we pressure the Sudanese government to change its behavior? One way would be economically. We can prohibit US and European companies from doing business with the Sudanese government. And for the most part, this already occurs. But Sudan is oil rich and getting the vast majority of its foreign investment from the oil sector. And one of the nations doing business with Sudan is China, which needs a lot of oil for its booming economy. And China, ever the bastion of human rights, doesn't want to pressure Sudan (and perhaps lose a lucrative, steady oil deal). So the next step is to pressure China. This, of course, is quite a bit more difficult. Yet, we could try to simply focus on the China-Sudan oil business. And here is where it gets a little more interesting. Because one of the biggest companies in the world is, indirectly, invested in the China-Sudan oil business. The company is based in Omaha, Nebraska and trades in many mutual funds. The company is Berkshire Hathaway (BRK) and is run by Warren Buffett, considered one of the greatest investors of our day. BRK is considered a great investment and has an outstanding track record. And BRK shareholders aren't your average investors. So much so, that a group of them organized a shareholder petition calling on company management to divest its controversial (and lucrative, turning $500 million into $3 billion) investment (PetroChina). Unfortunately, Buffett and most shareholders voted against this divestment. Now I don't want to call Buffett venal and callous, but from what I've read it is hard to view Buffett in a decent (if not good) light. But I'll let people read this informative piece by the Motley Fool and do their own google and lexis searches. But the point I'm trying to make is that it is hard to believe that money isn't an issue and an obstacle in getting pressure where it needs to be to improve the crisis in Darfur. For a good read about how shareholder activism and/or organized divestment can help the Darfur crisis, check out this piece from Domini Social Investments.

PS - Also check out sudandivestment.org for more info and a handy mutual fund screener which will let you know if a particular fund has ties to the Sudanese government.

Clearly I have to mention a Slate piece. I've posted before how I find it beyond absurd that AG Alberto Gonzales is still in office. My post was before all the Senate testimony. That Gonzales is still in office, after the enormous evidence showcasing his amazing ability to lie and fire people for political reasons (the latter, an ability which he shared with counterparts in the White House), is devastating to those of us who believe in accountability and a government of the people. While it is a bit difficult to admit, it seems to be true: Gonzales has outlasted this scandal. W is probably doing this to protect White House officials, and is able to do this because how can his approval rating go any lower (though if anything could lower that rating, I really wouldn't be surprised if it was US Attorney-gate). The great reporters at Slate seem to agree and have ended their "Gonzo-meter" (a regularly updated column counting down to Gonzales' departure). For those interested, they have an incisive "ending" column which states their "giving up" and details some of the major points of the scandal.

I'll post about the third article over the weekend.

Friday, June 08, 2007

It's just not the same.

TheIdleReceptionist writes a great blog. She doesn't post as much as she used to, back when she was an actual idle receptionist. But she'll still churn out an entertaining gem like this recent post on the straight girl's favorite place: the gay bar.

As Idle mentions, hetero women really enjoy gay bars. Unfortunately, I don't hear so much about straight dudes hitting up the lesbian bar circuit. It's just not the same. Though I kind of wonder what it might be like ....

I'm a skinny guy; I have a thin frame. And while I do work out, my arms are still going to be rather slim. I think it would be kind of cool to walk into a lesbian bar with a sleeveless t-shirt and have some of the buffest arms in the room. Maybe Bernice* will walk up to me, playfully punch me in the arm, and say, "Hey! Check out the guns!" And I'll be all, "Oh, stop it Bernie! I barely work out." And then we'll talk about the NBA and WNBA. And it would be cool to hear the ladies ask me about my facial hair and call my shaved head 'cool' --- instead of asking why I have a lot of hair on my face and not much on top of my head, like the straight gals do.

Or maybe one day my car will blow a gasket near the bar. And not only will the lesbians at the bar be kind enough to fix my car, but they'll soup it up and add some rims. And then we'll all pile in and head to a STAR TREK:TNG marathon viewing.

Yeah, I gotta admit, that would be pretty rad.

But yeah, that's probably not what happens when a hetero guy walks into a lesbian bar, but a boy can dream. Hah.



*My apologies to lesbians and people named Bernice everywhere. I know it is a bad stereotype to think women named Bernice are lesbians. And I don't. I'm just using it for humor, and duly noting it.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

The NBA Finals

I know for many blog neighbors, basketball isn't exactly your thing. So check out this stellar anti-Hummer H2 website that was recommended by the fabulous Princess in Galoshes (and check out her blog as well, it's a bundle of wit, fun, and, um, sinister high maintenance cats).

The NBA season is coming to a close. The San Antonio Spurs will battle the Cleveland Cavaliers for the NBA Championship. To show my basketball acumen, I picked neither team to make the finals. Hooray. Basically I underestimated LeBron James (something I will not do again) and I picked the underdog Utah Jazz because the Spurs have a tainted season after suspension-gate. So, clearly, I'm going to pick the Cavs in 6. Yeah, the Spurs are the smart pick, they have the experience, the dominant big man, the star supporting players, and they play great defense. But the Cavs have LeBron James which means the Spurs are definitely going to have their hands full. The Cavs are also a bit underrated. They play decent defense themselves, and are an excellent rebounding team. And in the rise of rookie Daniel Gibson they seem to have filled out a solid cast of supporting players as well. How well Larry Hughes (and Gibson to an extent) guard Tony Parker will be a major factor. I think Hughes (if healthy) is up to the task. I'm not sure who will guard Manu Ginobli, but if need be, I think LeBron will slow him down. This is definitely going to be a long series in my opinion. I think (and hope) the Cavs have just enough to win this battle. In any case, it looks to be a very exciting series and with LeBron making his finals debut, a lot of people are going to watch.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

The Showmercial

I dislike advertising. I admit we do need advertising. Many companies make wonderful products and they need to advertise their wares. The problem is that mainstream advertising treats us (the public) with such disregard and callousness that print ads and tv commercials are not only annoying, but ultimately insulting.

I recently viewed an H2 Hummer commercial in which the vehicle's highway mileage ("20 MPG Highway") was flashed on screen. At a time when gas prices are near record highs and many of us are going to great lengths to curb CO2 emissions, it's a little insulting to flash the H2's MPG. As if we're dumb enough to think 20 MPG Highway suddenly turns the H2 into a Prius.

I must admit I do enjoy a few commercials. For example, the GEICO Cavemen ads. What can I say, I find them funny. The self-referential nature of the ads, the quirky humor, and the lightweight satire (of tv pundits, for instance) all add up to a pretty entertaining 30 seconds. But what about 30 minutes? As you may have heard, ABC will be debuting a half-hour sitcom called "CAVEMEN" in the fall. The sitcom is completely based on the GEICO ads. I doubt this is going to work, but the notion of the sitcom stemming from the tv commercial doesn't bother me so much. At least in this instance. From what I've read, GEICO seems to have nothing to do with the sitcom. So it won't be one long commercial for GEICO. In any case, whether it succeeds as a sitcom will not depend on its provenance but will depend on the talent associated with the show. Because a sitcom isn't funny and smart due to a clever idea for a sitcom, it's funny and smart because of the people who create it. So, if the people behind "CAVEMEN" are talented enough, it'll be funny. ABC has posted a 30 second clip from one of the shows. It's really not that funny, for me at least. But I'll withhold judgement until I see a complete episode. There is a bit of irony about the clip though. In the clip, as in the GEICO ads, the discussion the Cavemen have lightly touches on race/ethnicity* relations. Now I understand it is very difficult to talk about race/ethnicity* relations in general, doubly hard on a broadcast network. But it is a bit ironic that a network sitcom is broaching the subject by not actually talking about it since "Caveman" isn't a real ethnicity.*

I remember thinking tv was in major trouble several years ago when Dick Wolf (creator-producer of the "Law&Order" franchises) went into a multi-million product placement contract with Coke. Product placement has steadily crept into much of television and I think it is especially dangerous and egregious because it insidiously blurs the line between the artistic and the commercial. Though it would seem even product placement has its limits, the sponsor/advertiser doesn't get to shape the story and characters. Well they do now. The USA network recently debuted a 6-hour miniseries called "The Starter Wife" starring Debra Messing. The miniseries is "presented by Ponds" which actually turns out to mean Ponds had a lot of say into how the story and character would progress and how best to place their product into the miniseries. The Slate piece is rather fascinating and a good read. I understand that there is some relief in knowing this type of undue corporate influence is only finding its way into a third-rate mini-series that Lifetime probably rejected. But the problem is that people are watching "The Starter Wife" and they have no idea that Ponds went to great lengths to shape the entertainment with its products. It's something they deserve to be told.

* I must note that I do not believe in "race" as a term with any scientific merit. There's only the human race and the overlapping ethnicities that inhabit humanity. The term "race", as we use it in mainstream language is a social construct that is overly simplistic (therefore its wide use) and ancient. For more info please check out this wiki entry on race as social construction, and this excellent book by Dr. Spencer Wells, The Journey of Man: A Genetic Odyssey and it's wonderful companion PBS documentary.

King Humility

I'm not sure if anyone remembers my NBA Playoff posts. Even though I injected some humor in them, I was a bit serious with my predictions. You see, I actually think I know a thing or two about basketball. Therefore I should make some reliable predictions. Unfortunately that hasn't really been the case, especially after the first round of the playoffs. For example, let's take the Conference Finals:

In the West we had the San Antonio Spurs vs the Utah Jazz. I thought this would be close, at least 6 games. I also had the Utah Jazz winning. And while emotion played a factor in picking the Jazz (I still claim the Spurs' win over the Suns is a bit tainted thanks to the suspension incident), I actually thought the Jazz would win 3 games rather reasonably. They ended up winning 1. They did suffer a major setback when their star point guard Deron Williams had to play while ill and, later, with a bum ankle. Still, they were resoundingly beaten by the Spurs in 5 games. So, I was wrong.

In the East we, still, have the Detroit Pistons vs the Cleveland LeBrons Cavs. I thought this would go easily in favor of the Pistons. Tonight will be game 6 in Cleveland with the Cavs up 3 games to 2. Yes, the Cavs were in a similar position last year only to lose the last 2 games and go home. But this year seems to be different for one major reason. The Cavs won game 5 in Detroit thanks to an amazingly spectacular performance by LeBron James. I'm not sure how many people saw the game or highlights, but it was a performance for the ages. LeBron simply willed his team to victory by scoring the last 25 points for his team, and the last 29 out of 30. King James came to play in game 5. I highly doubt BronBron will drop 48 tonight. But his previous performance should inspire his teammates to outperform, giving LeBron a chance (at the least) in the 4th to seal victory. Of course, his teammates could simply expect another incredible performance and stand around watching him all game long, which would result in defeat. But I doubt that will happen, mainly because LeBron is an amazingly unselfish player who will make sure to get his teammates involved early in game 6. And that's why I think the Cavs will win tonight and beat the Pistons in 6 games. Which, once again, would prove my prediction to be strikingly wrong.

So the question clearly arises, why am I so wrong. I believe one of the reasons has to be that basketball, as any professional sport, is a very complex activity filled with nuance and information that the dedicated, but casual viewer will find difficult to thoroughly account for. There's also the possibility that maybe I don't know as much basketball as I like to think I do. Now, let's not jump to any rash conclusions.

Monday, May 28, 2007

AC Slate

I simply love Slate. Sorry for being repetitious, I have mentioned this before and I'll certainly mention it again. I haven't been reading as much Slate as I would like, certain decisions have taken a good deal of my time. Fortunately the Slate I have been reading has been superb.

Slate's TV critic, Troy Patterson, writes with a smugness that is both an obnoxious TV critic trend, and a necessity when writing about TV. He is, however, quite funny and his columns will clearly hold your attention, if not thoroughly entertain. He's clearly won me over (for the most part). Check out his insightful and probing column on a recent episode of Entourage and the large blip of melodrama and not funny that was Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip.

For anyone wondering how silly and inane the network upfronts (their new shows for the upcoming television season) are, and simply curious about them, take a gander at Patterson's recent writeups from the events:
NBC Upfront
ABC Upfront
CBS Upfront
CW/FOX Upfronts

For me, Patterson seems to be at his best when he's skewering the empty, crass absurdity that is, unfortunately, much of modern television. The E! Network, always a sign of the apocalypse, recently debuted a reality series about a tanning salon. In his latest column, Patterson reviews Sunset Tan. It's a funny, sobering read. A mother takes her pre-teen daughter to the salon in preparation for her school pictures. Learning that Lindsay Lohan uses a particular procedure, the mother asks the young'n if she'd like to look like Lohan. The cost? $1300. I don't know whether to laugh or cry.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

A little help ...

So after I get a six-pack lose a few more pounds, I'm going to be heading back into the wonderful world of online dating. Yeah, I know what you're thinking, "online dating is for weirdos", "everyone lies", "yadda, yadda, yadda". First of all, that's not what you should be thinking. You should be thinking, "What? Doesn't a suave, charming, sophisticated man with a glorious hairy belly like yourself only date fashion models?" Sadly dear reader that is not the case.

Moving on. While my experience with online dating has been short, it has been rather normal. This might sound a little sad strange, but I actually like the idea behind online dating. You get to potentially meet a variety of people you might not otherwise run into at a local bar or similar place. It takes some time to get familiar with (for lack of a better term) reading profiles and tweaking your own profile (though some of us are far more clueless than others: I wasn't even smiling in my first photograph).

Anyway I still consider myself an online dating novice. I've only signed up for one website in the past, a medium sized network that affiliated itself with some popular, quality websites (The Village Voice, The Onion, etc). I believe a year or so ago it was bought by another company and changed quite a bit. They actually have a "most viewed profile" list now and while the men's side is peppered with professional 40-somethings with all their hair---Actually I just re-logged in to see how the lists look like now. Things have changed. The men's side actually has a majority of 30-somethings and in the top slot is a buff bartender (complete with tight t-shirt photos) who's looking for "Women for a short term relationship, a friend or play." Lol. The women's side is also filled with 30-somethings though skewing a little younger. The last time I regularly checked this website, the women's top spot was solidified by a very attractive lady in her late 20s who entered fitness model pageants and was a doctor --- I kid you not. She's no longer on the list. Looks like she found someone. I guess there's hope for us all.

In any case, I'm not sure if I should stick with this site (it's run by a company named FastCupid) or try a more popular site like Match.com or Yahoo! Personals. I know this is a personal matter, but if anyone out there has some advice or personal experience with dating websites than please leave a comment. Also, while I hate to admit it, what do people think of "match-making" sites like eHarmony and Chemistry.com? Chemistry.com is Match.com's answer to eHarmony --- basically using a personality profile/quiz to match people up. I wouldn't use eHarmony because for some insane reason they don't match homosexual (or bisexual) people. Even though I am heterosexual (enter clever emasculating joke here) I'm not going to affiliate in any way with a company that blatantly discriminates. But what about Chemistry.com? Right now I think it seems a little too serious. But I guess I am a little intrigued by the idea of matching on similar views and interests. Though a well written profile should help do just that.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

My Fellow Americans

This is a bit of a political post. I thought I would just state that from the outset.

I'm not sure what Europeans, Asians, Africans, South Americans, my age specifically think about when they hear the words "American" and "USA." I don't know many people outside of North America, so it is difficult to tell what they must specifically think. I'm sure they see President Bush and other administration officials, and must be quite angry and cynical (and rightfully so) at the incompetence and corruption this administration has so successfully executed. I wonder if they conclude the administration is typical of the US, we did after all vote this administration into office twice (well, at least once). But I hope their view isn't so monolithic.

Broadcast laws in the United States have an Equal Time rule that makes sure if one political candidate gets air time, the other candidates get equal time. I wish there was something similar when it came to American voices overseas. For every time a Bush administration official would douchebaggedly opine things are going well in Iraq, equal time should be given to an American who genuinely upholds this nation's values.

Off the top of my head, I'd have the Tillman family, Jessica Lynch, and members of C.I.V.I.C. slotted in the counter programming.

The Tillman family and Jessica Lynch testified last month as to how the Army and Government lied about and manipulated events in order to quell the potential for military criticism (in the case of Pat Tillman) and to propel a military PR bonanza (in the case of Jessica Lynch).

Most Americans know at least a little about the everyday heroism of Pat Tillman and Jessica Lynch. While Pat Tillman died by tragic friendly fire and not in the Rambo-esque, so-called "heroic" manner the military first claimed, he was already a hero. Here's a man who gave up a multi-million dollar NFL contract and joined the military to bring justice to the perpetrators of 9/11. He was a genuine everyday US hero, who like many Americans continued to read about his government's policies and, as his mother mentions, came (or seemed to be leaning) to the conclusion that the (at the time) nascent Iraq War was illegal and/or not in the US' best interest. (For more info on Tillman's political views during his stint in Afghanistan check out the wiki entry on him.) His family now heroically fights to get a thorough investigation of his death.

Jessica Lynch received a hero's welcome and rightfully so. Yet the publicized events surrounding her capture and rescue were greatly exaggerated by the US military, government, and news media. And we know this in large part because she told the truth and testified to it. It's a stark contrast to the "I don't recall" of the testimony of Attorney General Gonzales.

This past April 16th marked two years to the date that the world lost someone incredibly special. Marla Ruzicka would have been 30 today. She was a young firebrand who started the Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict (CIVIC). She tirelessly advocated on behalf of the civilian victims of war and before her death was able to secure US Government funds for civilian victims in Iraq and Afghanistan. Her wonderful mission continues today through the amazing organization she started.

Marla died along with CIVIC's Iraqi head Faiz Ali Salim by suicide car bomb in Iraq on April 16, 2005.

PS - If you do any online shopping from websites such as eBay, orbitz, shoes.com, staples, target, amazon.com, macy's, drugstore.com, etc. then check out CIVIC's FreePledge page. If you buy your merchandise by clicking through FreePledge, CIVIC will receive a portion of your purchase. FreePledge can be used with other non-profits as well.

PPS - Also check out Mixed Market. Mixed Market does the same thing as FreePledge but you cannot choose which charity your proceeds will go to. They evenly donate amongst 5 charities (4 permanent, 1 revolving). Special thanks to Yllwdaisies for suggesting Mixed Market.

PPPS - By the by, both FreePledge and Mixed Market are for-profit companies themselves. But they are doing a good deed and from what I've read, they're more efficient than those "good cause" ad campaigns retailers run ever so often. So the next time you shop online, think about FreePledge and Mixed Market ... I definitely will.