May 202015

Daniel Larison of The American Conservative, who is one of my favorite writers on foreign policy, nails the failed War on Yemen while reviewing Chris Christie’s jumbled mess of a speech:

The devastation of Yemen is what can happen when the U.S. foolishly sides with its clients in a conflict in which it shouldn’t be involved. If Christie had his way, the U.S. would be doing a lot more of this. Christie goes on to say that “[w]e need to do more to organize our allies into a strong coalition on the ground in Yemen,” because inflicting more death and destruction on that country is somehow necessary and desirable. Nothing says “leadership” like sending poor conscripts to invade an impoverished, wrecked country that poses no threat to anyone.

Click here to read the whole thing.

I give no quarter to President Obama’s administration in this mess. They unswervingly supported Saudi Arabia’s military adventurism in Yemen at the outset and it has turned into a huge disaster.

Saudi-Arabia-and-US-flagsA couple weeks ago, I listened to a BBC documentary, which talked about House of Saud dictatorship’s new-found muscular foreign policy. As the region has become more chaotic and unstable, Saudi Arabia has become more assertive in its foreign policy. And yet:

The Houthis aren’t acting as proxies for Iran, and their conflict with Hadi’s government is based in local grievances and political rivalries. Whatever has happened in Yemen, Iran didn’t “launch” it and has almost nothing to do with it. The thing that has done the most to “devastate” the country (which also isn’t an ally) is the Saudi-led war that the U.S. supports. Yemen is a perfect example of how the U.S. errs so badly when it feels compelled to back up its clients against supposed regional threats.

The Saudi dictatorship can’t even wage war on a failed state properly, nor can they reasonably justify their actions to those not beholden to their oil wealth (read: the US gummint).

May 142015

Or… Am I about to be banished from popular mass culture?
[Note: contains one minor spoiler so if you haven’t watched the first two episodes, please skip].

For years, I’ve resisted being drawn into the popular HBO series, Game of Thrones. Mostly out of laziness. As with most HBO shows, it has a fanatical following. People who wouldn’t otherwise like Fantasy have been drawn in. People who love Fantasy love it all the more.

I acquired season one a few years ago and then just never watched it. My friends used all kinds of reasons to get me to take it up. Arguments about the quality of the production (whatever the #$%@ that means). The acting. The storylines.  The huge amounts of violence. The gratuitous sex and nudity; apparently Game of Thrones boasts the most boobs per episode of any major television series.

Last fall, I watched episode one. My friends weren’t wrong. The opening sequence is really cool. The acting is good. Attractive people having sex. Yay. And yawn.

A couple weeks ago, I watched episode two. And well, eff that shit. Continue reading »

May 122015

In an article on a scheduled summit between American and the six members of the Gulf Co-operation Council on May 13th and 14th, this blurb caught my eye:

And he [President Obama] cannot meet all the Gulf requests for advanced weaponry, because congressional legislation requires that Israel must maintain a “qualitative military edge” over its neighbours. [Emphasis mine]

That the USA and Israel have a special relationship is no surprise. Israel has been the only consistently functioning democracy in a region of states replete with strife and governmental incompetence.

It also makes some type of sense that the USA would want to ensure that its favored state in the region should have the ability to defend itself. But I find no compelling interest in the USA hamstringing itself because of a requirement that Israel continue to be able to kick its Arab neighbors’ collective arse. Continue reading »

Apr 302015
Girls Sharing Chocolate Milk

Years ago, I interned at a small tech firm in the suburbs of Pittsburgh. When we would go out for lunch, I would invariably order a chocolate milk with my meal. This amused my coworkers and the wait staff. After I left the company, my former coworkers went out to lunch one day and their waitress asked, “Hey, where’s the chocolate milk guy?”

Everyone loves chocolate milk (or at least they should) but it’s seems to be seen as a guilty pleasure, a “tee hee!” sort of beverage when enjoyed by an adult. I wonder why certain foods are seen as regular kids’ foods but don’t really make the transition to adulthood.

nesquik-bunnyIn my experience, chocolate milk is the leading example of something consumed by children which doesn’t really make the transition to a regular adult food. Why shouldn’t a person enjoy it as an adult. It’s a great post-workout drink and well, it’s effing delicious.

hersheys-bottleThe problem likely has to do with marketing. Adults are sold milk. Adults are sold chocolate. They aren’t sold chocolate milk. By and large, the leading marking for chocolate milk goes to children, namely the bunny on the front of Nesquik. Why market chocolate syrup just to children? Bad move, Nesquik.

Hershey’s syrup is just as delicious and just as kid-friendly but doesn’t have a cartoon bunny on it. So as an adult, if I go to buy chocolate syrup, I’m not likely to get Nesquik. I’m going to get Hershey’s.

For the record though, as an adult, I don’t advocate buying chocolate syrup. Most of is just contains high fructose corn syrup. Instead, buy good unsweetened cocoa powder and go to town on that bad boy. You can make your chocolate milk as truly chocolatey as you want and have much greater control over the sweetness. Trader Joe’s Cocoa Powder and Hershey’s Special Dark are great unsweetened cocoa powders and can be used in a variety of cocao-related recipes.

Apr 282015
civil rights - girl and flag

When in doubt, look to Ta-Nehisi Coates to describe the situation in Baltimore so much better than I could:

When nonviolence is preached as an attempt to evade the repercussions of political brutality, it betrays itself. When nonviolence begins halfway through the war with the aggressor calling time out, it exposes itself as a ruse. When nonviolence is preached by the representatives of the state, while the state doles out heaps of violence to its citizens, it reveals itself to be a con. And none of this can mean that rioting or violence is “correct” or “wise,” any more than a forest fire can be “correct” or “wise.” Wisdom isn’t the point tonight. Disrespect is. In this case, disrespect for the hollow law and failed order that so regularly disrespects the rioters themselves.

I find myself wondering whether, even someone as titanic as Martin Luther King, Jr would be able to affect the situations we find ourselves in these days? Yes, Dr King faced a lot of hostility from the establishment. But, we have also outsourced the jobs previously done by communities to our police force. Continue reading »

Apr 212015

… And Green Clovers?

It’s easy and sometimes even required in politics to categorize peoples into very simplistic groups. Otherwise it would be difficult to sufficiently demonize whole swaths of the population.

Given its rather binary racialized history, the USA is a nation that is used to clumping minorities by general skin color, rather than ethnicity. Black = black. Yellow or similar epicanthic fold = Asian. Brown = Latino. Brown w/beard = Muslim = Middle Eastern. Red = dead.

There was a time that differences among white people, ie their European ancestry, made a real difference in the body politic of the USA. Italians or southern Europeans stood in contrast to English or eastern European immigrants. Those days have largely passed; mostly culinary differences remain, along with other exaggerated and benign differences (ex. Italians talk with their hands).

Pockets of this-or-that non-white or black ethnicity didn’t move the needle until they started growing in population in the 20th century. But such is the way our country was set, that this increasing diversity has proved to be difficult to categorize and understand by the elite classes.

In the early 20th century, American newspapers were all atwitter over the Dusky Peril:

The negative characterization of ethnic communities that was rampant at the turn to the twentieth century — Sikh immigrants were accused of stealing jobs and even for the emerging use of marijuana in the west during that period — can’t be ignored in how these communities were mistreated.

Though, ostensibly, there is reason other than racial/ethnic discrimination that can be identified as the motive in both acts of violence, a necessary question is warranted around whether the incidents would have been violent, or would have occurred at all, had the victims not been from ethnic communities, and more, whether this tendency is just a relic of the past.

Continue reading »

Apr 152015

I think, if there’s one thing I will like about President Obama’s term coming to an end, it is that perhaps the extreme right-wing of this country will go back to their classic culture wars tropes – wars on the poor, black people and a little misogyny thrown in for good measure. Actually a lot of misogyny if Hillary Clinton is the Democratic nominee. (Yes, the Left has its own classics so shut up).

Eight years of people screaming about creeping shari’a law. Eight years of the President supposedly being a Muslim and facilitating the rise of militant Islam in the USA. Eight years of not understanding what the hell the President Obama’s speech in Cairo meant. Eight years of people posting stupid bullshit taking the President’s tolerance completely out of context while throwing their hands up in the air saying, “No really I don’t hate Muslims!”

Did you hear that [insert geographic location] was bombed the other day? Whodunit? Too late – almost every single Muslim in the USA already thought, “oh please let it not be a Muslim!” How relieved I was when the Oklahoma City bombing was found to be done by a non-Muslim. Praise Jeebus!

But I was struck tonight, after reading another half-assed attempt to tar and feather Islam and President Obama, that this ain’t shit compared to what blacks in this country have and continue to endure. Continue reading »

Apr 132015
Six of one, half dozen of the other

… Or Hillary Clinton for President! Because Rednecks, That’s Why…

Yesterday, Hillary Clinton finally officially announced that she’s running for Pres-o-dent of the Amrika. I’m sure Fox News freaked out and MSNBC spun and spun and spun. I was pleasantly surprised that my Facebook feed didn’t blow up too much; perhaps because it’s still pretty early in the madness election cycle.

There were a few pretty predictable responses. Some folks excited and others already complaining that they (Republicans) would be tarred and feathered for being sexist or misogynist because they oppose her candidacy. I love seeing these sort of “[s]he hate me” laments on both sides.

It’s the culture wars, people! Republican accuse Democrats of being lilly-livered godless communists who hate America. Democrats accuse Republicans of being sexist or racist or homophobic. And if you actually believe all this political palabra, whether you’re slinging it or receiving it, then you’re falling into the trap of being distracted by the parties. Continue reading »

Mar 302015

There’s a series of passages in Arthur C. Clarke’s classic sci-fi novel, Rendezvous with Rama where he talks about humanity’s reaction to its first encounter with an extraterrestrial object – a long, smooth cylinder traveling harmlessly through space, which passes by the Earth on its way to some other destination.

rendezvous-with-ramaEssentially the world decays into chaos for the better part of a few hundred years. Economies collapse, governments fall. The psychic shock to  humanity’s psyche leaves us weakened and grasping for air.

If we could explore this world up close, what’s would be telling is the example of those who sidestep the whips and scorns of the ensuing centuries. Whose families endure and survive and thrive during the long, slow decline. The ability of certain people to thrive in the darking hours of the night when all others are falling about is fascinating to me. Some of them will have thrived by having been born from the previously wealthy. Those smart enough or lucky enough to be able to preserve generational wealth and hand it down until such time as it does finally run out or the world emerges from the doldrums.

But there are also those who rise to prominence and power amid the discord. Who make their fortunes, and fortunes indeed they can be, off the slim pickings of humanity’s lean years.

During the Gold Rush, the people who grew the richest weren’t necessarily hunched-back panhandlers working the claims. Instead, those who supplied the miners with their pick-axes and shovels and pans grew rich; as well as trousers. Ever heard of Levi Strauss?

In 1853, Strauss moved to San Francisco, opening a dry goods wholesale business as Levi Strauss & Co. and imported fine dry goods—clothing, bedding, combs, purses, handkerchiefs—from his brothers in New York. With a business partner, he eventually began producing blue jeans, a new style of riveted denim work pants which he sold to the panhandlers of the California Gold Rush. The rest is history. Continue reading »