Lord of the Rings

Peace & Love:
‘Not Just a Fad’

Former Beatle celebrates birthday
with a worldwide gesture and a wish:
to ‘everyone everywhere to think, say or do
#PeaceAndLove at Noon their local time.’

Curtain Raiser

Greece Takes a Step Forward, Colltalers

Greece said no. It wasn’t a fair bargain anyway, and the decision to refuse loads of cash from European banks in exchange for giving up the pesky idea of questioning the terms of such loans has at least one noble merit: it preserved the dignity of Greeks (and Trojans).
But the plebiscite’s result did leave a few unsettled issues to be sorted out, not the least of them the fate of Greece within the eurozone. Regardless of the good show of will displayed by the people, the outlook continues to be muddled as to whether the asphyxiation the currency regime imposes is worth going through, even if the reward of belonging to a collective such as the E.U. does have its benefits.
With the vote, P.M. Alexis Tsipras comes out stronger, if not with any particularly new mandate to conduct the resistance against Germany-led European investors and policy makers, who had forced him into an impossible corner: accept the terms and be branded a betrayer of his own government platform, or defend a national refusal, and likely lose his political support.
Such quagmire may have already damaged the precarious confidence Greeks had on their own democratic institutions’ ability to lead the country out of chaos, opening the doors to a right-wing regime that would promise to cure the country’s ills via an authoritarian rule.
Also, the reductionism of selling a single vote as solution to the complex political and economic impasse, which is not, along with an exit from the euro, now very possible, may compromise Greece’s path to the future and any crucial attempt at a national reboot.
More than ideological independence, though, or rebellion against the single-currency knot, the aftermath of this taxing process will hardly spell relief or produce an immediate change for the Greek people’s current miseries, or even halt the fast-moving erosion of the country’s stability. In other words, this week and at least for a few years more, Greece will be exactly the same as it’s been since 2010.
There’s something profoundly wrong, however about this abyss faced by the Greek. Their alleged culpability about falling off the cliff pales in comparison with the absurd orthodoxy of austerity that has wreak havoc throughout Europe in the past several years.
The cult of tearing social programs and charging high rates from already battered governments has been positive only to lenders and financial brokers, and left irreparable disruption on its wake. Despite increased unemployment, mounting personal savings losses, and increased social exclusion, the concept of austerity remains insulated from questioning and free of any sense of accountability.
Many a conscious economist, and there are Continue reading

Dog Fare

Why the Large Fares Poorly
at Competitive Eating Shows

It’s always the skinny ones. No matter how poised to win, or driven to dominate their opponents, with a massive whale of a body to match the hype, the winner of the infamous Nathan’s Fourth of July hot-dog eating competition​ at Coney Island, New York City, has been always a size 30-32 regular type of body. The old Coney may be gone, but the winner of this or any year could fit right into its old glorious photos.
Hell, a diminutive Japanese man won it several times, and the former champion, whose family name is a nut, no less, won it eight times straight, only to be dethroned this year by, you guessed it, a smaller-sized man. What gives? The answer scratches dangerously close on the body stereotypes some use to put others down.
But if you can forget the PC etiquette for just a minute, you may wonder why this happens, that is, if a eating competition has even the clout to reflect the alimentary habits of the society at large which surrounds it, and promotes it as some kind of Roman circus, year in and year out. For more info on the subject, check Island, Coney, New York, et al.
Wouldn’t it be that fat people have already a ‘natural’ tendency to eat more than anyone else? And I mean, the ‘minority’ ones that are fat because indeed they love food as much as anybody else but can’t quite control the moment when hunger and food satisfaction switch to something more pathological and psychologically-tilted as a five-hour late night snacking binge and such.
Wouldn’t it be logical to expect that someone with a larger body type would be able to store more food at any moment’s notice, than a smaller person? Are we too far out of our depths to be puzzled at the fact that practice should make it at least more perfect the act of consuming calories and carbons and fat and proteins at a higher rate than those not er endowed with a larger stomach? We are.

Finally, wouldn’t it be at least reasonable to expect that anyone with a taste for regularly downing a few burgers on a single sitting, along with several ounces of sugary soda, and maybe a pint or two of ice cream and cake, be somehow more capable of digesting it all at a quicker rate and, therefore, theoretically, be faster at getting ready for seconds?
Shouldn’t we be entitled to wonder that, at least for that reduced segment of fat people who do enjoy eating, or rather, eat it first, and maybe enjoy it after, and who seem capable to eat through happiness and grief at equal measures, would produce formidable professional eaters, impressing all those around them with the gargantuan amount of food that they can consume?
Well, apparently, not. As the fancy-named ‘industry’ of competitive eating has been showing, almost at the same Continue reading

The Other Fourth

The Amendment That Ascertains
Power to This Independence Day

Dispensing all pomp and circumstance, national birthdays have a way of turning into numbing occasions for grandstanding patriotism and overindulgent gluttony. It’s no different in the U.S., even as Independence Day marks a moment of rebellion and self-sacrifice.
That being settled, flags and parades are alright, but it can’t hurt to focus a bit on the constitutional side of that storied statement signed by the 13 colonies, which Congress adopted 237 years ago today, and whether it still holds sway as the highest law of the land.
As such, after almost two and half centuries, it’s held up pretty well. As the nation went through its growing pains, it managed to extend the original liberal slant of its founding documents, even as it amended them, while also adding some truly lofty goals as far as individual rights are concerned.
The paradox about those high standards is that they’ve made the U.S. Constitution both an example of steely idealism committed to a set of amendments, and also a pragmatic tool, vulnerable to be waged against the very principles it vows to defend. Take 2013, for instance.
Despite having elected its first African-American as President, and enjoyed a full century of world economic and military domination, without having to steal land or do away with its institutions, the past few decades have presented serious challenges to its tradition of constitutionality and the rule of the law.
It brings no joy to mention this today, but after two long, unjust wars, thousands of American and foreign lives lost, billions of dollars wasted into the buildup of a scary military complex, the U.S. is more than ever perceived globally as a bully, with no respect to its own legal precepts. How did it come to this?

The framers of the Constitution ‘did not want to rely on the promises of good motivations or good intents from the government,’ says Professor of Law Jonathan Turley in an interview to John Cusack. ‘They created a system where no branch had enough authority to govern alone, a system of shared and balanced powers.’
Turley blasts efforts by President Obama and his administration to prevent the prosecution of CIA operatives accused of torture during the Bush era as a flagrant infringement of international law. ‘Soon after 9/11, government officials started to talk about how the Constitution is making us weaker, how we can’t function by giving people due process.’
The administration’s most recent self-inflicted black eye has been caused, of course, by revelations that the NSA has been spying on Americans and even foreign dignitaries for years. But as it happened with rumors of a Continue reading

Heed My Leaps

Come on Blue Rock, Put
on Some Speed, Will Ya?

This is getting to become a routine. Tonight, just before 8pm, you and seven-plus billion of your closest friends will be granted an extra second. Again. For what, it’s up to you. For as it turns out, Earth is dragging time again, unable to keep up with our busy schedules.
Last time it happened, most people didn’t even have time to enjoy the extra period. No one knows how many died or were born at that briefest of the moments either. But you’ve been warned; it’ll come and go real fast. Unlike our planet, apparently. Now try not to waste it, ok?
Harold ‘The Fly’ Lloyd (no, he was not a fighter; maybe a lover, who knows?) hung for way much longer than a second, and that was his own stunt. Since it’s the time one has to say, ‘1, 1.000,’ do CPR practitioners, who count it all the time, get to enjoy it better than you?
We’re not getting too deep into this. We’ve written about this before, and you can read it all about it below. In fact, the importance of this scientific adjustment is lost to most of those close friends of yours anyway. And if this post lasted just a second to read, it’d suffice.
Humans are the only species to have created a way to keep track of time, which has been an enormous waste of time, if you’d ask us. But we know how exactly we plan to spend that ever so elusive wrinkle of time, invented to compensate for Earth’s (age-related?) slowdown.
We’ll be looking up. That’s right. Venus and Jupiter, the two brightest ‘stars’ in the sky, will be very close together tonight, marking the occasion. We can’t think of anything more fitting to do. After all, they don’t need no stinking clock to track time in order to awe us. Enjoy it.
Read Also
* Quantum Leap

No, Wait

The Leap Second &
The Doomsday Clock

Just when you were ready to celebrate the fact that summer this year will last a bit longer, and we mean, a very tiny, teeny little bit longer, here comes the buzzkillers to tell you that we’re actually wasting it, meaning, that we’re in fact very late and even close to the end.
These are but just two of the ways that we obsess with measuring time, or at least, fool ourselves with the illusion that time can be measured. But at the end of the day, we’re no better than that Lewis Carroll rabbit, always rushing, insanely busy and ever so late.
And if you thought that such obsession is a mere product of our modern times, hum so over the top and, as that old Lennon song would say, running everywhere at top speed, you haven’t heard the one about the South Pacific.
As it turns out, a tiny, teeny sun-drenched island Continue reading

Curtain Raiser

There’s Work Left Undone, Colltalers

It’s been a remarkable time to be living in the U.S., absent any sense of misplaced patriotism. And last week was a particularly gut-wrenching one, with a handful of worth-following breaking news that drove us collectively from agony to ecstasy in just a few days.
Grief, which took over the nation following the June 17 murders of nine black church folk in Charleston, and joy, as a result of the Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage, were the brackets of a week that forced other, less relevant reports to recede to the background.
Not that everything else did not count, inside the U.S. or abroad. But it’s still rare to see a few history-making stories to top the headlines. As the media in this country has all but given up to accurately report real, unvarnished news, the change was refreshing.
We’ll go back to those still developing stories in a moment, but it’s also important to comment on two other events that helped make this one of President Obama’s best weeks in office: congressional approval of fast-track authority, giving him power to negotiate the Trans-Pacific trade agreement without pesky input from anyone, and the Supreme Court’s other vital ruling in support of Obamacare.
Fast-track authority gives the president a huge edge to pass the TPP legislation, whose full text hasn’t yet been disclosed. Based on WikiLeaks documents, though, there’s an unfair bias for protecting American corporations’ interests above all, including other nations’ own regulations and sovereignty. No wonder the administration is so reluctant to publish the terms of the agreement.
What’s curious is that Democrats in Congress argued successfully to thwart the approval of fast-track powers to the president, two weeks ago, because of the trade’s expected negative impact on jobs and wages of American workers. They did that by including and opposing (yes, that’s possible in Washington) a piece of legislation aimed at protecting workers likely to be affected by the TPP.
But the removal from the bill of that, the Trade Adjustment Assistance – in any case, insufficient to minimize the agreement’s impact on labor – has been what ultimately helped pass the fast-track gimmick the second time around.
It was quietly reintroduced and approved in the House last week, as a standalone bill, and will probably sail through the Senate in the coming weeks, preferably when no one will be paying much attention. It’s not the first time some labor legislation is used as a paw in Washington political games.
Besides the potential damage it may have on already demoralized labor relations, the biggest criticism about the TPP is how it grants almost unrestricted powers to big companies to dictate and change laws, so to optimize their profits, now on a global scale.
And despite President Obama’s misguided cheerleading and personal involvement on its approval, this accord has less to do with global trade than with exporting a certain way of doing business that’s at the odds with the very idea of sustainable progress.
As for the other piece of positive news in the past week, albeit one full of qualifiers, the Supreme Court’s ruling on the Affordable Care Act was an immense win, this time not just for the president, but for at least 15 million Americans who risked losing federal Continue reading

Undercover Teeth

The Roof Came Down First;
Then the Bed Bugs Attacked

We’ve been outed. Neighbors are looking at us as if we’re lepers, whose very breath can infect them with the curse of filth and decay. We hear whispers behind our backs, and almost feel the fingers pointed at us on our wake. Suddenly, we’re ground zero to everyone else’s horror.
No, there are no chunks of human flesh in our refrigerator. Or a special task force looking at our faces pasted on charts at some police precinct. Any despicable acts of malice or evil? No, not yet anyway. We’re just hosts of the latest scourge of living in Manhattan: bed bugs.
The first reaction most people have once they become aware that the person they’re speaking with has been exposed to flesh-eating bugs at their own bed, besides instinctively taking a few steps away from them, is disgust. And the false realization that somehow, it’s all the person’s fault.
Never mind that they seem to be everywhere these days. Questions about personal hygiene, or unsavory habits, come to mind, along with visions of dirty food containers laying around the house, candy wrappers and scraps of pizza on the living room’s sofa, and, of course, a clogged toilet bowl, stuffed with industrial-grade human waste.
It’s also the last thing they’ll be willing to talk about, before coming up with an excuse for a quick retreat away from any possible contamination. Possibly, even the thought that perhaps everything that person has done or spoke about in the past is now somewhat tainted by the revelation.
We’re all quick at seeing ourselves above others, taking a sanctimonious stand that grants us the grace of appreciating without restriction our wise life choices. Specially compared to someone who could be so vile and crass as to invite beg bugs to feast on their own bodies. Repugnant.

Be I digress. Fact is, when the ceiling finally collapsed on the bedroom, after years of water seeping through and leaking ROOF, a century of semi-rotten wood literally rained over us, bugs and dirt included. Whether there’s a connection, it’s not clear yet, but that’s when it all started.
Our tenement building, as thousands of others in New York, has outlived its initial life expectancy, and stood the passage of time with incredible dignity and vigor. While many others came down, dead by old age or real estate greed, ours remains a beacon from another time in the city.
We, ourselves, are all but a relic, what with our negative banking account, our defiance to stay put while everyone around us could as well purchase us on the cheap, and still wishing to shape and inspire the future with our humanity and hopes for better days. Just don’t tell that to the son.
In any event, and mostly for being sheltered within such a fortitude of a construction feat, we’ve managed to withstand the challenges of being underfunded and Continue reading