Monday, February 7, 2011

Super Bowl Special

Like many Americans, I watched the Super Bowl yesterday. All in all, it was a very good game. The Packers should have been a bit more dominant, a team that gives you three turnovers is practically handing the game to you. However for whatever reason, it seemed almost like Green Bay wanted to make sure that the game was interesting.  Few players actually played as well as they should have. Packers Receivers were dropping balls left and right, killing drives and keeping Pittsburgh in the game. On a final thought, I am sorry Pittsburgh, but that hit was clean, deal with it.

As for the commercials the other reasons that people watch this game. I’d say they were pretty good this year.  One of my favorites was the Doritos one with the pug. A man is trying to call his girlfriends pet pug with Doritos in order to get him to run into Glass. It turns out the Pug is able to knock over the door and take the Doritos from the guy while giving him a crushed face. My mom and step dad’s pet pug approved.  Also up there was the Emeinem commercial featuring Detroit. I liked this one a lot. It is a very in your face and gritty proclamation of pride from a city that has a lot to be proud though it has been struggling lately. My biggest favorite however, is the one with kid in the Darth Vader costume trying to Force Push/Grip numerous things only to have his dad start the car with his key chain and make him think he did it. I know it is cute and all and I was one of many people that wanted to be a Jedi when he was a kid, but seriously. This kid is wearing a Darth Vader costume, do we really want to encourage this behavior. What if he tried to Force choke the dog?
All in all, I had a good time, watched some football, stuffed myself on food that was not good for me and spent time with my family. It was a very good day.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Rocking the Casbah

I know that it has been about a week or so since I made any posts, but the stress of my current financial situation as muddle my thoughts somewhat and distracted me. That being said I have found something that has recently sparked my interest.
It seems as though the unrest in Tunisia has been spreading across the Arab world. Protests have been going on in Algeria, Lebanon, Yemen and most importantly, Egypt. It seems as though that Egypt’s president Hosni Mubarak is not as popular as his 88.6 percent tally in the last Presidential Election would indicate. Perhaps the fact that he has been in power for nearly thirty years and has a habit of cooking election results would have something to do with it.
It is not all that much of a secret that the Arab world is hardly a bastion of Democracy. Nearly all of the leaders there are either corrupt dictators or decadent absolute monarchs. The closets things to democracy in the entire region are Lebanon, where the natural state of being is a hair width away from sectarian civil war and Iraq, which, while better than what it was just four years ago is still not the most stable place in the world. Many of the problems in the Arab world are in m opinion based on this lack of freedom.  The oppressive nature of many Arab governments along with their tendency to horde all of their country’s wealth ha lead to widespread poverty and despair.  In order to deflect attention away from themselves Arab leaders have long used numerous scapegoats, the US, the West in general, Israel, local minorities. The list is endless really. Though I shall admit, many of those above groups would not make such effect scapegoats if they were not at least somewhat culpable. This has also lead to the popularity of religious extremists. The Irony is this last being that a lot of the radical Islamist movements were started by the elite of Saudi Arabia as a way of spreading their country’s influence in the Muslim World as well as to keep at bay one of their main rivals, Iran.
Fortunately so far, there is not sign of the Islamists in any of the protests.  This is simply about a desire for freedom from tyranny. Hopefully when the smoke clears, it shall be that start of a new beginning for the Arab world. One where they can finally put the past behind them  

Saturday, January 22, 2011

This is where I get Banned in China

Well as many of you all know, Chinese President Hu Jintao arrived in the US this week for a summit with President Barrak Obama. What did this summit accomplish? Absolutely Nothing, which is about as much as these things usually accomplish. A summit is in many ways little more than pageant, a means through which individual leaders can look good in front of each other and their constituents with some photo ops to make everyone know they are doing something.
That being said, it is important to note that this summit is indeed a big deal, since it involves, well, China. The US likes to claim that every one of its international relationhips is its most important one. With China, however, this statement is actually true.  The US is the world’s largest importer of Chinese goods.  China is the largest expanding market for US business. China has a near monopoly on rare earth metals that supply most of the world hybrid electric batteries.  China also finances a good portion of the US’s national debt. In short China and the US depend on each other, a lot.
At the same time however, China is also one of the last Communist regimes in the world.  It is clear, however,  that Marxist ideology gets little more than lip service these days. However what has remained in place is a very oppressive authoritarian regime that controls many aspects of life in China. For one thing the worlds fastest growing website Facebook, is not available in China because the Chinese government is afraid of that dissidents might use to communicate with each other and with people abroad. Also the Chinese government has tendency to deal with people they do not like by locking them away in prisons. And let us not forget a little incident that happened about twenty years ago in a place called Tiananmen Square. There is also the issue of their treatment of the Tibetan people as well as the fact that the have pretty much bullied one of East Asia’s most stable and thriving democracies, Taiwan,  into an peculiar state of international limbo. Oh, and they also are the only reason why ongoing crisis on the Korean peninsula did not end with us running Kim Il Sung across the Yalu River sixty years ago.

In short, China is neither really a friend nor an enemy. Both of our economies depend on each other, while at the same time.  It is a very complicated relationship that offers no simple answers in how to deal with them. There are some who say the China is destined to take over the world. However those people seem to ignore that twenty years ago, people said the same thing about Japan.  China already seems to be showing signs of slowing down. The gap between the wealthy coasts and the poorer inland is becoming more pronounced. There are also concerns that China’s economy will not expand enough to spread the prosperity around to all, to say nothing of the fact that China’s new middle class might find itself longing for new freedoms.  All in all, it is hard to say for certain what the future holds for the world’s oldest continuous civilization.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

So Where's Peter?

Humor me for a moment as I take a small amount of your time to talk about something that most of my readers have most likely never even heard of.  It is no shock really. It is one of the last big stories in Hawaii to break before I left the Islands to go to school. As much as I would like to say that it is a happy one, it most certainly is not.
In January of 1998, a six-year old boy from Hilo, Hawaii named Peter “Peter Boy” Kema Jr. was reported missing by his parents. His father, Peter Kema Sr., claimed that he had taken his son with him to Oahu when he went to look for work. There he claimed to have left his son with an older relative in order to take care of him since he and his wife were to poor to do so. Seems like a very typical story right, wrong, DEAD WRONG. First, Peter Boy had not been seen by anyone since July of 1997. His grandparents and social workers (we will get to this one later) had not been able to get him on the phone or see him during this time and his parents only reported him five months due to family pressure. Second, the relative with whom Peter Sr. supposedly left his son, no one has ever found any evidence to believe that she even exists. Third, it turns out that there is no evidence that the Kemas were ever on Oahu. And finally, the Kema children had a very long history with Child Welfare authorities in Hawaii. With Peter Boy being subjected to abuse that was particularly horrific.  If you want to know the gory details, there is a link at the end of this article.
Why I am I writing about this, because this months marks the 13 year anniversary of this boy’s  being reporting missing. He was six years old when he disappeared and would have turned 20 this year, just one year shy of being able to buy beer. He would be about the same age as some of the college students that I work with at the call center. It is a shame really; anyone with two brain cells to rub together can deduce what most likely came of this little boy. But since no one ever found his body and since his low life parents have stuck to their story, there is just not enough hard proof to bring these monsters before a court of law. I remember early one watching a news report with my mom who said simply, “They killed him”.   Bumper stickers that bore the slogan that is the title of this post were a common sight in Hawaii. And after all this time, the question still remains.
So where’s Peter?

Monday, January 17, 2011

Thoughts on a Dream

As of the time that I have started writing this, there is about two hours left in Martin Luther King Day. I shall admit that I almost never give this day any more thought than as, say a day off from work. However for lack of anything else to write about at the moment, I have chosen to write about this.
Dr. King’s message of equality and peace was at it’s time a very radical one. It is very hard to imagine that there was a time when African Americans were not even allowed into dining rooms, drink from the same fountains or even use the same bathroom. Furthermore, this was considered by something people to be not only acceptable, but right and even God-ordained. It took courageous men like King to stand up to such injustices and make equality a reality in this country. Barrak Obama’s historic presidency is a sign of how far we have come. Despite not agreeing with a lot of his politics, I consider the fact that we now have a black President to be something of which this country should be proud.
That being said one must be forced to acknowledge that we have hardly achieved prefect equality and that in many ways Dr. King’s Dream has yet to be realized. The legacy of over three hundred years of racism still persists and less settle forms of racism and discrimination can be found. Sadly, one should say that the bigots in this world have become more subtle these days. Do not think, even for a second that much of the ire that has been directed at Obama by the hard right in this country is not due to the fact that he is Black. When I first heard all this “birther” nonsense, along the Muslim rumors that came before it, I knew that that was what it was all code for. Because of this, one must say that I have begun to question my political allegiances.
That being said, I have always believed in the inherit goodness of people. As such, I am more inclined to believe that we are now much closer to the goal that we are to where we started. Hopefully we shall continue to make progress, and that King’s dream shall soon become a reality.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

A Nice Scent of Jasmine

 Ah, the stuff you learn whilst peaking around on Just before today I shall admit to the fact that I never really read up all that much about Tunisia or paid all that much attention to it. So I shall admit that I was rather surprised when I heard that the protests in that country had gotten so bad that the country’s long time president, Zine El Abdine Ben Ali, has been forced to leave the country.  Again I shall say that I am still doing my research on this subject as I am writing about it, but what little I have been able to learn has me smiling.
Tunisia for those of you that are even later to the party than I, is a country located along the Mediterranean coast of Africa, just a stone’s throw are from Italy. It is most noteworthy of being the location of the classical city state of Carthage and the place where that filmed the Tatooine scenes in the Star Wars saga.  It has also been rule by one of the most repressive regimes in the world.
How bad is it? Well, according to The Economist, the country ranks 149 out of 167 countries in terms of the state of democracy. According to Reporters without Borders, it is 164 out of 178 in terms of press freedom. It is ranked along with such regimes as North Korea, Saudi Arabia and Turkmenistan as “Enemies of the Internet.” In the most recent presidential election in the country, two of the candidates running against Ben Ali actually said that they supported Ben Ali. The third candidate was not allowed to put up any sort of posters and hold any sort of meetings while state media declared Ben Ali the greatest thing since slice bread. Ben Ali won re election with over 80% of the vote.  The President, his family and his political allies live lives in almost unimaginable luxury whilst many Tunisians have been struggling. As someone who himself has been struggling, I can sympathize.
Things began to come to ahead on December 18th when people in the Sidi Bouzid began to protest. The wanted simple things really, jobs, freedom, better standards of living. The government responded with force, but the people were not discouraged. More protest began to emerge throughout the country. Finally on the 14th, Ben Ali announced that the government was dissolved and that he was going to be taking a vacation. Well, the government must not have gotten the first part; since the Prime Minister decided that he was going to be running things until at least the next election.
We still do not know how things in Tunisia are going to turn out. While Ben Ali is gone, many of the other actors are still in place and there is still a curfew and tanks on the streets. The not ironically named at all Constitutional Democratic Rally remains in power as it has had for over fifty years and if anything, the previous presidents of Tunisia were worse that Ben Ali. But I have faith in the people of Tunisia and their Facebook/Twitter/iPhone organized “Jasmine Revolution” . I hope that they get all of these *ssholes out once and for all and start making a better life for themselves.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Haiti: One Year Later

As I mentioned in my previous post, it has been nearly a year since Haiti had been devastated by a 7.0 earthquake that killed over 100,000 people. Do people even understand that number? There are countries whose entire populations are equal to the death tool of Haiti earthquake. The worst part about it is that this was only the latest chapter in the misery that has plagued this country. In additional to the Earthquake, Haiti has suffered from a cholera epidemic and has had a presidential election that is still in dispute.
The history of Haiti has been one of misery. It is a country that has gone from one seeming calamity to another. From dictatorships, to famines, to hurricanes to earth quakes to epidemics and instability, if it has not been one thing this country, it has been another.  The worst part about all of it is that it does not look as though anything will get better anytime soon.
Haiti is the poorest country the Western Hemisphere and has been for quite some time.  Its government is insanely corrupt and weak. Nearly two thirds of the population is unemployed (and we think that 10% is bad).  The only real economic activity for many years was an illegal drug trade. The already weak government was decimated by earthquake, with nearly all of its most important buildings destroyed. Just reading about Haiti is enough to get the feeling that they are the Charlie Brown of countries. It looks as thought they might make it and kick the football this time, but it gets yanked away again.
Things are so bad in Haiti that the hardest part about trying to fix this country’s problems, is figuring out where to begin. There are just so much of them and they are all so big. One wonders if the first Black Republic will ever see the light at the end of the tunnel.