Curtain Raiser

Heartbreak & Immigration Dreams, Colltalers

Last week’s pictures of the appalling conditions that hundreds of children, who crossed the U.S. border illegally, face at an Arizona holding center may stop for a full minute the juggernaut of obliviousness and draconian tactics that has marked immigration policy by current and past administrations.
After that moment under the spotlight, though, despite all outraged and semi-heated debates over the issue, chances are it’ll return quietly to the back burner of political expediency, the control of a quasi-vigilante mindset and, ultimately, the corporations running the border’s jail system.
For the immigration debate seems stuck in the mud of faulty assumptions and a questionable moral compass. Short of compassion and integrity, any attempt at reforming it is compromised by grandstanding and ulterior motives. Pity those who still believe in the founding ideals of this nation.
The photos, published by a conservative Website, had the obvious intent of indicting the Obama administration over its treatment, or lack thereof, of illegal immigrants. But that could backfire and serve as an indictment also of the Republican Party as it has consistently fight the issue from making progress in Congress. They did it again last month, blocking efforts to offer residency for those who came here as children and joined the military.
And before we move on to other aspects of what has become a moot issue in American life, that of people who, despite living, working or fighting for this country, or even being born here, are still considered aliens, most of ‘Mexicans’ coming to the U.S. are not from Mexico at all, but mainly from Central America. In fact, immigration from the south of the border country has been drastically reduced in the past decade.
Also, even if it’s painful to see unaccompanied kids being thrown into the gruesome detention centers at the border, the issue shouldn’t depend of pulling heartstrings, as if we’d care more if they’re children. No immigration policy can be serious if it ignores the tightly wound familiar ties of many Latin American societies, and the economic realities that force parents to send their young to brave such a brutal trek to the U.S.
Conservatives all over, however, do share a trump card on their criticism of President Obama: the over two million undocumented immigrants who have been deported under his watch. And who, for the most part, unlike the administration’s claims, were honest, law abiding citizens.
Perhaps no other issue, with exception that of the prosecution of whistleblowers or the escalation of the war in Afghanistan, show with more clarity the profound disconnect between the president’s arresting oratorical talents, and the devilishly pragmatic approach of his administration’s policies.
At times, it seems as if Obama, the candidate, is still on the campaign stump, arousing us with his libertarian ideas, tolerance, and all that, while Obama, the president, has been more often a leader of continuity, meaning, preserving many of the restrictive and unfair policies that preceded him.
Such schizophrenic appraisal of the president who went through an unprecedented political bashing for pursuing an outstanding, albeit imperfect, piece of legislation, the Affordable Care Act, and is committed to bring all active troops home, although not soon enough, may sound itself unfair.
But it is not too farfetched when it comes to immigration reform, even though enacting the overhaul of such a wide reaching law, which just like the Obamacare, will have long lasting impact on American society, is no task for a single man, even for the admittedly most powerful one on earth.
It is, however, a task that will have to be tackled better than it’s been since the times when promoting immigration was a condition to fuel progress of this nation. It’s ironic that a country that rose to the top of the world on the backs of its immigrant force, now can’t find ways to address the issue, without involving xenophobic fears, arming to the teeth its border patrols, or providing business to a corrupted private jail system.
We’re halfway through 2014, and over 140 thousand have already been detained at the Rio Grande Valley. Most of them will spend months of idle imprisonment, waiting to get deported, Continue reading

Seen From Above

Pictures of Earth at Night From
Space: Stunning Beauty & Concern

Watching Earth from 199 miles up has changed how we see ourselves, our cities and the planet, thanks in part to photos taken from satellite and by the astronauts at the International Space Station. As they’re staying ever longer up there, aerial photography has greatly improved.
All that these recent photos have in common is that they’re all night pictures, but boy, aren’t they striking. They’re also surprisingly revealing and instructive about what’s going on down here. Hopefully, they’ll become valuable tools for raising awareness and change.
Credit should be given to NASA which, despite its current shoestring budget, still manages to wow us with some of their ongoing projects. One such program is the Earth Observatory, which is a comprehensive six-month study, using high-resolution night images of Earth, to ‘gain insight on human activity and poorly understood natural events.’
The now little government agency that still can often works in conjunction with other scientific research teams, such the National Geophysical Data Center, NOAA, as well as the European Space Agency. The ISS is also an integral part of such programs, as it orbits through different patches from satellites.
Whereas the Earth Observatory is a set study, the astronauts are free to photograph Earth following their own instincts. And photograph away they do, to stunning and quite meaningful results. Whether they direct Continue reading

Jose, Neda & John

The World’s Poorest President,
The Two Nedas & a Rogue McAfee

What happens when we skip a few days, and neglect to publish our daily stories? We get our files full of them, that’s what happens. So, you can just imagine what we’ve got in store, after a two weeks-plus stretch that included a major storm and a presidential election.
In the end, it’s all about people and their incredible tales. Jose Mojica, leader of four million Uruguayans, for instance, had $1,800 to his name in 2010. Millions of Iranians think Neda Soltani was killed in a public rally. And anti-virus mogul John McAfee is being sought for murder.
From the poignant, to the Kafkaesque, to the deeply disturbing, we’d be hard pressed to find commonality on these stories. That task we must leave to you, reader, to chew it up at your own discretion. In fact, they’re like what the cat would drag down to your door, after a night on the prowl.
Many of you may thank the cat and get rid of the carcasses. Others, however, may wish they had personally experienced some of the action, even if only as a fly on the wall. They may even get inspired to go out today and make their own lives count. One will never know. Short of that, you’ll do just fine reflecting about them, and chewing up some of that commonality.
After all, look at that beautiful antique children’s park toy, the Jane’s Carousel, that illustrates this post. It’s spent decades in some dusty storage space, and nothing ever seemed to happen to it. Then, after a 30-year restoration effort, it looked shiny and ready for another century of entertaining those young at heart.
But alas, it was not to last. Down hard came the storm to almost rip it out of its moorings. It got thrown and bounced a few times, and wound up eerily floating on a pool of dirty water. It survived, however, and Continue reading

Polls & Tallies

Possible Losses Paving the Way
For One Man & His Ideas to Win

From where we’re standing, we’re far from knowing what many of you already know: who’s the U.S. President. Or perhaps you know as much as we do now, 24 hours before. But whether you’re mad about or celebrating the outcome of this election, it’s almost a miracle that it’s actually produced a winner.
That’s because, as predicted with even better accuracy than the result itself, thousands across the land had to wait hours in line to vote, voting machines malfunctioned, suspicious steps were taken by election officials, and many, arguably due to the media frenzy, wound up not voting in the end.
The first sight things could go awfully wrong, or as pessimists had already declared, ‘as expected,’ came not long after results from New Hampshire’s Dixville Notch were in, a 5 to 5 dead-heat tie: Reddit Pennsylvania reader ‘centrapavote’ filmed a machine that would register votes cast for President Obama as if they were for the GOP candidate.
Other contraptions malfunctioned in Ohio precincts, while in central and south Florida, hundreds endured drizzling rain and an average of seven hours wait in line, so to cast their votes. And that may be the reasonably good news, since votes were indeed cast, and defective polling stations were put out of commission.
Much more serious, and again, from where you stand, you may have already a better view of this issue, was the unheard of decision by Republican Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted, ‘who asked voting machine giant ES&S to install last-minute, unverified, custom firmware updates on the state’s voting machines,’ according to Boing Boing.

Ohio being a ‘swing state,’ (and you thought they’d rather square dance down there, eh?) with 18 electoral votes to be earned by the candidates, two shy of the 2008 election, the move can’t be perceived as purely technical, as in, operating technical problems. It reminded everyone of Florida, circa 2000, and the less than noble job performed Continue reading

Egypt Reborn

As Ruler Exits the Stage,
People Dream of a New Day

Congratulations, people of Egypt.
This is your moment, don’t let anyone
take it away from you.

Difficult Conversations – Special Edition

Earthquake, Oil Spill &
Dangerous War Secrets


A Short List of What Have Kept Us Awake in 2010,

and What We May Need to Awake From in the New Year.


1) July 26, December 19. The biggest story of the year, the two-punch WikiLeaks revelations about our efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan, along with the startlingly dispirited diplomacy used to achieve them, had all the limitations of an attack led by drones: all fire, no eyesight.
What was far more revealing was the swift counter punch by the U.S. and its allies in reaction to them. Within days, a case of free speech was turned into a terrorist witch-hunt of the organization’s founder, Julian Assange, the Interpol was brought in and a personal misdeed in Sweden was quickly rolled in for good measure.
The effort to punish the messenger was enough to temporarily derail the essence of the allegations, force Assange to fight expatriation and jail term threats, and land Pvt Bradley Manning, his supposedly source, into an insalubrious location Continue reading