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.

The Most Post Mordern Post on this Blog

I know that it has been a while since I wrote in this blog but the thing is that I have been rather busy as of late. I have had a lot of time at work, which is by the way a very good thing. But it also means that I have had a tough time find the mental fortitude to keep writing.
All in all, I have rather enjoyed the idea of having a blog. It has given me something to do on day in which I have not worked. And also it gives me the opportunity to really doing something really smart and creative. Ever since I graduated from school, I have been looking for things that have made me feel, well, smart. But that is kind of hard when you are working in a parking lot, or parroting some survey while trying to make sure the 82 year old lady on the other end of the line understands you. The fact that I have a small, okay very small following right now actually makes me feel rather good.
As many of you have realized right now. I kind of have a thing for current events, which is why most of my posts have been on them. Whenever something on the news draws my attention, I am away at my laptop pounding away. I hope that I add something important to the conversation. And if I don’t at least I am practicing for when I do.
Right now as you noticed this seems to be a very apolitical post. This is because I have been away from my blog for so long that I have been struggling to find things to write about. Well I have already written about the Arizona shooting. Perhaps I can talk about Southern Sudan or the situation in Haiti one year from the day of the quake over there. I have some ideas right now that I have started writing, so perhaps I shall have something later tonight.
This post is actually more about unclogging my writers block than anything. It is me getting into the mode of writing again so that I can actually get used to putting thoughts on paper. So there you have it, the most post- modern post in this blog.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Tragedy in Arizona

Right now I feel compelled to write, though really I am at a loss for words. I have just read that Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords (D- Arizona, along with several dozen others, was shot by a lone gunman while meeting with constituents in Tucson. Six people are dead including a federal judge. The man who did it is currently being held in custody.
While the man’s motives are, at this time, still unclear part of me is almost dreading to learn any more details. I really and sincerely hope that this is just some lone nut who thought that he was following instructions from the mother ship. But part of me is thinking that this might be one of those loons who believe in Black Helicopters and that Obama is a Kenyan Muslim Socialist infiltrator out to destroy America for kicks. It seems as though he is the former though due to the fact that his posting on YouTube seem to be about as coherent as a David Lynch movie, but sadly this does not change a very ugly truth.  The political discourse in this country has been becoming more a toxic each and every day.  The other side is not only wrong, but an evil that must be purged by any means necessary. And, while no one shall ever admit it, there are some who just will not accept that fact that we have a black president.  This country is slowly but sure tearing itself apart. I am afraid of where we are heading.

Casting Aside Childish Things

Today I have done something that I probably should have done a long time ago. I have listed many of my old role paying game books on eBay.
Back in my college days, I was a bit of a geek. As a matter of fact in many ways I am still a geek. I like anime; I played weird Japanese videogames and computer RPGs.  I was also a big player of pen and paper RPGs as well, especially White Wolf’s Word of Darkness Series. I remember having a lot of fun making up adventures with my friends and even playing on online chats, which I still do to this day, even though I do not have as much time as I once did. I generally have a lot of fond memories of my books like many gamers do.
Sadly however, one cannot live on memories alone.  The past two years have been a difficult time for me economically. I am working but none of my jobs are truly full time and hours are sporadic at best. As such, my income fluctuates wildly and I have very little savings.  My books are some of the most valuable possessions that I have in monetary terms. With my current situation, I really have no choice but to sell them.
It is rather sad really, I really enjoyed the times I had in the universes that I once played around in. I still have character ideas in my head, waiting for a game to take life in. But, I shall have to pay my bills first. Hopefully, if my situation improves, I might buy these books back or maybe download them online. If I can do that, maybe I might be able to have some fun with them again. Until than however, I shall have to put away childish things.

Reaping what you sow

Note: I humbly apologize for the lack of posts this past week. Unfourtunately a proofreading arrangement I had in place did not work out as well as I thought it was going to do. So today you shall all get three posts from this past week.


Pakistan is a country that is a lot like a little boy that plays with matches and keeps getting burned and continue to play with matches anyway.
For those of you who haven’t heard yet, today the Governor of Pakistan’s Punjab province was assassinated by his own bodyguard. The reason why he did this: because his boss spoke out against his country’s anti-blasphemy laws, which make it a crime to “insult” the Prophet Mohammed. These laws have been used to target religious minorities in Pakistan.
Pakistan is a country that really exists for only one reason, Indian Muslim politicians who did not like British rule did not care that much for living in a Hindu majority independent India either.  This fact is made all the more plain by the fact that Pakistanis look like Northern Indians, have similar customs and cuisine and even have languages that are for all intents and purposes indistinguishable from each other except for the scripts in which they are written. The only real difference between Northern India and Pakistan is that one is secular, Hindu Majority country and the other is a Muslim nation.
Pakistan has also been in a state of conflict with India ever since the two were partitioned from each other, mostly over the disputed regions of Jammu and Kashmir.  As part of their struggle against India, the Pakistani government has supported numerous militant groups the Northwestern Tribal Regions bordering Afghanistan. The most notable of these groups is the Taliban, and organization that ruled Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001 and sought to purge their country of such immoral things as music, television, equal treatment of women.  They were also notable for extending their hospitality to wealthy Saudi businessman by the name of Osama bin Laden.  We all know what happened as a result of that.
After NATO finally ran these losers out of town on a rail, the Taliban tucked their collective tails and went into hiding in the wilds along the Pakistan border.  After lying low for about five years while the US decided to go off on what turned out to be a fool’s errand into Iraq, the Taliban came back with a vengeance.  However not only were they causing trouble in Afghanistan but the eventually starting trouble in Pakistan as well, striking in the border regions, blowing up a mosque of a minority Muslim sect in Lahore , attacking the Sri Lankan cricket team, also in Lahore, assassinating a former Prime Minister, (who was by the way a woman) , blowing up a police station in Islamabad, blowing up another police station, again, Lahore. I could go on forever.
Pakistan’s chickens have come home to roost. They back militant jihadists in order to further their own aims and now those jihadists are deciding to make Pakistan in their image. Most people in Pakistan prefer to live a more modern form of life, one where they can watch TV, listen to music and not be treated like garbage for being female.  The match that they have been playing with is burning them. One hopes they learn to stop before their country falls to these Neanderthals, and these Neanderthals get nuclear weapons.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Must we PC everything

I just read an article on which says that there is a new edition of Mark Twain’s classic work The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. This would not normally be noteworthy except for one thing, this particular work has all reference to the n-word removed and replaced with the word “slave”.
This is ridiculous, people. Must we dumb down and bowdlerize everything? The book is actually a scathing critique of the racial attitudes of the era, one which put for what was at them time a bold message, that blacks were human beings.  The n-word was to put it simply, how many people referred to blacks back than.  It is shocking now, but times were different back than. Sadly it seems that we are too dumb to understand context these days. Thus, we seek to sanitize anything that we regard as being vaguely offensive. It is sad really.

Longing for April

No profound comments on geopolitical affairs tonight I’m afraid. All I have are some ramblings in the oh my God about life general and about the season of winter.
I grew up in the great state of Hawaii, a place that has no real seasons of which to speak.  For the first eighteen and a half years of my life I knew nothing but nice sunny weather.  That would remain the case until I decided to leave the islands to go to school at Creighton University, in Omaha, Nebraska, that was my first taste of fall and winter and believe me when I say it was a shock.  I have endured five Midwestern winters and believe me when I say that I would be glad if I never have to endure another one.
I now hang my hat here in Carmichael, California, a suburb of Sacramento. While things are not as bad as they were in my time in Oh My God Nebraska.  It is hardly the pleasant tropical paradise of my childhood. (I can hear my Southeast Asian readers gloating right now about how wonderful it is over there). Right now the Temperature is about 50 degrees Fahrenheit outside and even with the heat it feels like 60 in here (The heat was up to 70 but we had to turn it down due to the electric bill) To top it all off it has been raining non stop which has been good since we have been having a drought. But still it does make things a pain. I am glad I did not have to work tonight.
Winter is nice when you are leading up to Christmas and New Years. If you are an American Football fan you might also have the NFL playoffs and the Super Bowl to which to look forward.  But for the most part all it now is cold and wet that I just want to go away. I cannot wait until mid-March to early April when it shall start to get warm again.
I miss summer.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

It's like Florida, but with bullets.

It seems as though that rumors of coming peace and stability in Ivory Coast have turned out to be greatly exaggerated.  It seemed as though a few months ago that the government of President Laurent Gbagbo had come to a deal with the rebels seeking to end hostilities in exchange for allowing the rebels  to participate in presidential elections. Every thing seemed to be going well, until the vote actually happened.
How things turned out depends on who’s doing the telling. According to the country’s independent election commission, opposition and rebel leader Alassane Outtara won the election by a relatively narrow margin. However, the country’s constitutional commission had invalided several votes that had been cast in areas where support for Outtara was strongest and the amount was just enough to re elect Gbagbo.  Did we mention that the constitutional commission is packed with Gbagbo’s political allies?  Needless to say, Outtara hasn’t taken this very well.
So since about November, these two Presidential hopefuls with names that make Barrack Obama look normal have been engaged in a stand off that had made with the closing days of Bush vs. Gore look tame and civil. Both men have had themselves sworn in as President of Ivory Coast.  Outtara and his government have holed up in a hotel where they are enjoying free HBO, complimentary continental breakfast with waffles and the protection of UN peacekeepers against government troops and pro-Gbagbo mobs.  Ivory Coast’s neighbors, including the President of regional power Nigeria and winner of the Coolest Name Ever For a World leader, Goodluck Jonathan, have been trying to politely but firmly tell Gbagbo that is it past closing time and it is time for him to leave. However, the man seems to not be taking a hint. Taking a page from the Kim Jong Il school of thumbing your nose at the international community he is determined to stay in power despite the fact that the Ivoirians don’t seem to want him.
It seems almost as though Africa is locked in this sick twisted spiral and has been so every since the end of colonialism. At first, things look like they are going well but than something happens, a disaster, a famine, someone deciding that he wants to be President but not bothering with the fuss of having to get elected. Once that happens it seems as though everything goes to hell. Ivory Coast was at one time the wealthiest countries in West Africa during the 1960’s and 70’s. But than a drought and a drop in global sugar prices lead to an economic slowdown and internal unrest and finally Civil War and the current mess they are in. One can almost set you watch to when the next major upheaval on this continent is going to be. Heck it seems that that countries that look to have things the most together are just being set up for a big fall. Look at Zimbabwe, once the Breadbasket of Africa, now it is a basket case. So far, South Africa seems to have evaded most of this problems and Nigeria looks like it is pulling it self into the global middle tier. One can hope things shall get better, but part of me doubts it.