About Last Night

What We Wish We Hadn’t Heard
During the Last Presidential Debate

The final TV clash between President Obama and his GOP challenger gave us all a bitter taste in the mouth. Left with the arduous task of peddling a mostly fact-free campaign, Republicans may be feeling deflated: their millions have so far failed to guarantee the White House.
Supporters of the president’s reelection, however, may be in an even more unenviable position. Though there’s no question about who’s better equipped to rescue the U.S. economy, the number of ideological concessions he’d to make may prove to be too much to digest.
It’s bad enough that, altogether, the three presidential and the sole vice-presidential debates have not dedicated more than a minute, if at all, for the discussion of issues such as the tragedy of gun street violence, the continuous stream of home foreclosures, real job creation, and the rampant credit card debt forcibly contracted by students in order to finish their education.
There wasn’t mention about why Guantanamo is still open, and those held there without a fair trial, nothing about persecution of white collar crimes committed by Wall Street moguls, the wretched role of money in the campaign, and even the lack of legislative reform, to prevent absurdities like senseless filibustering and the need for a ‘majority’ of 60% plus to approve any bill in Congress.
In fact, those omissions, which also include a mature discussion of climate change, or its linked issue of an energy policy to prevent it, however painful, have been perpetrated without challenge by the multibillion dollar media conglomerates. Their failure to follow up any of them only reinforce the idea that their interests have little to do with the common good for the American people.
However, there’s something that’s giving pause to President Obama’s supporters, highlighted on last night’s debate: the scary coincidence of the candidates’ positions in several key issues. Despite all rhetoric about their different ‘styles,’ in substance, they actually agreed about some startling wrong foreign and domestic policies adopted by the U.S. Continue reading

Ah, the Dutch

The Birthday of Two Willems,
An Excuse to Celebrate Holland

The Netherlands has a special place in the heart of New York and its role in the city’s history helped forged its profound differences from other U.S. cities. Since today is the 108th birthday of a famous Dutch New Yorker painter, Willem de Kooning, we thought we take a moment to gather some of the latest, and quirkiest, highlights from the land known around the world as the Low Countries.
Today is also the 479th birthday of another Willem, a prince known as the Silent or Willem the Orange, with a passing connection to New York. So as we celebrate these two, let’s stop by at a Repair Cafe to fix something broken, check an amazing street-making machine, choose a snack from the Insect Cookbook, and see how long is the wait for the world’s first lab-grown meat to be served.
For a relatively small country sitting mostly under sea level, the Netherlands‘ has had an admirable influence over world culture. During the Renaissance and the Enlightenment era, seminal artists and philosophers came from or made their home there, and arguably, the liberal ideals thriving in the period infused ‘the island at the center of the world,’ New York, with its diversity and unique agnostic spirit.
While most European nations were mired in bloody, thousand-year fanatical wars, Holland was the cradle of the humanities and religious pluralism. It was the defeat of William the Silent’s eldest son, Dutch governor of Brazil Johan Maurits van Nassau, by the Portuguese, and Continue reading

Battleground Masters

“You’re Welcome But
You Can’t Crash Here.”

If you’re one of the thousands of veterans returning to the U.S. from Iraq, welcome back. You’ve probably already heard it before, but let’s restate the fact of how grateful we all are for your sacrifice.
Now, there’re a number of facts that can be said about you: you’re coming back from a few tours in Iraq e possibly in Afghanistan too, but you know of many who did not.
You also know of some who did it but with serious physical and psychological wounds; you think you’re fine but perhaps have considered the possibility of seeing someone to help you cope, too. Despite the medals you’ve earned over there, you’re still not sure of what to do with your life from now on; and you’ve already been told at least twice, that there’re no jobs available.
Now, a few things you may not have heard about what’s going on around here, and we must warn you, they may hurt: regardless of what you’ve been told, most people have all but forgotten you were even there.
HOME WHERE YOUR HELMET IS
There’s a record number of Americans living under the poverty line, and the national unemployment levels match those of 70 years ago. Continue reading

Beyond the Grave

The Mormons’ Unrequited (But
Contested) Post-Death Conversions

Among the many questions not being asked the Republican Party’s presidential candidates, those concerning religion shouldn’t occupy the front burner and, in fact, so far they haven’t.
But, it’d be fair to expect the same scrutiny about personal beliefs that Senator Barack Obama faced in 2008, on frontrunner Mitt Romney. Will he ever be asked about the Mormon Church’s conversion of dead people?
First, some housekeeping. It’s a established fact that the Founding Fathers of this nation went through great lengths to separate religion from matters of state.
All strident spinning by extremists of all faiths not withstanding, the very First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution clearly states that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”
In fact, religious pluralism and freedom is a basic tenet this country was founded upon and one of the reasons it’s became a beacon to the world. Period.
In practice though, the actual realization of such principles is not as simple. Time and again, attempts have been made to establish a U.S. theocracy based on the preposterous assumption that this or that denomination has the hegemony over faith.
Despite a vibrant non-believer and science-based debate over personal choice and the nature of spirituality, an equivalent to a backwater alley of the thought, the obscurantist, tolerance-averted Continue reading

10-Year Blood Stain

The Jail That’s Made
the U.S. Forget Itself

The most shameful remnant of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, the detention camp at the Guantánamo Bay’s Naval Station, reaches its 10-year anniversary today, as brutally misguided and utterly unconstitutional as ever.
Now that the U.S officially ended its disastrous military adventure in Iraq, the 171 prisoners still being held there, including the 89 already cleared of any charges, remain the single most eloquent, and tragic, discrepancy between the thrilling Senator from Illinois who promised to close it, and the way more conservative President Barack Obama, now running for reelection.
Worse, his deeply embarrassing failure to enforce the rule of law for allegedly enemy combatants, as an example before the world and the judgement of history, has now officially spilled over to Americans too.
At the dawn of the year, the president signed one of the most authoritarian pieces of legislation ever signed by the U.S. government, with threatens with indefinite detention and with no access to the Continue reading

Mystery Solved

Impostor Pretending
to Be Obama Is Caught

Breaking news coming from Washington, DC: the FBI’s just arrested Ilham Anas, a Java-based photographer of Kenyan and American descent, who’s been impersonating President Barack Obama for the past few months. Apparently, no one noticed exactly when Anas, who indeed exhibits an uncanny resemblance with Obama, took his place and began acting as an ultra-conservative Republican, but many of his supporters had suspected that the man they enthusiastically campaigned for in 2008 was not the same one who was residing at the White House.
Anas, who up to a few months ago had been making a living as a doppelganger of the president, in politically-correct advertising campaigns for Greenpeace and other progressive institutions, seems to have had a change of heart and decided he could do a better job leading the country than our first black president.
No word yet on how he kept Obama away from the public eye or whether First Lady Michelle and daughters were somehow part of the plot. What’s evident, according to supporters who’d grown discouraged by the president’s recent political decisions, is that he definitely took a right turn and all but abandoned issues he once championed.
President Obama, the real one, is expected to make a historical announcement “anytime now,” according to his press office. That may include a new economic stimulus package, the immediate withdrawal of troops from Iraq and Afghanistan, termination of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, end of the so-called Bush tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans, as well as fundamental changes in his cabinet, and other measures.
Earlier today, cheering crowds began to assemble in front of the White House, in a spontaneous show of support to the “new” Obama. The GOP leadership in Congress, who’s reportedly gathered in an undisclosed location, will issue an official statement about this stunning turn of events in Washington, which most likely will include a new threat of a governemnt lockdown.