End of Summer Bliss: Ballet on the Beach

Have I got a ballet treat for you, even if you don’t think you like ballet.  Joy Womack, formerly of the Bolshoi and now a principal dancer at the Kremlin Ballet, was filmed (what a quaint word) dancing on the beach this summer.  I’m guessing the beach was somewhere in California where Joy’s family lives.

This video captures the athleticism and strength of modern ballet.  Pointe shoes not required.

Enjoy!

Twitter campaigns necessary but probably insufficient.

There’s a “Hands up/ Don’t shoot” Friday campaign going on over at Twitter. It’s a nice gesture, no pun intended. But I can’t help thinking about how much more powerful the message would be if we could get ordinary Americans, not just the social media savvy and political activist types, out on the sidewalks banging pots together.

I used to think that internet campaigns would be enough.  Not anymore.  Non-violent, but non-silent demonstrations are probably the way to go.

MLK Jr. would approve.

Update: My sisters-in-law were a little uncomfortable with me using the word “thug” to describe Michael Brown in a post the other day.  I see their point.  I based my assessment on the video that was released of his actions in the convenience store.  One of the things that struck me as I watched it was that I really couldn’t tell what was going on with him and the clerk behind the counter.  Reaching over the counter to get something doesn’t mean stealing, not that stealing something in a convenience store is justification for getting shot 6 times.  It’s not, by the way.  This is not 18th century Williamsburg where a servant could be hanged for stealing a silver spoon.  But I couldn’t tell with any certainty what was transpiring at the counter. Plus, the volume on the video was off so for all I know, he might have had a perfectly friendly interaction with the proprietor.  There just wasn’t sufficient data for me to determine what was going on there.  I would not be friendly to the prosecution on a jury if the charge was shoplifting or robbery based on that video.

No, what bothered me was when he left the store and roughed up the clerk on the way out.  The clerk clearly looks distraught and Brown’s actions looked aggressive and unnecessary.  I don’t think there’s anything wrong with pointing that out.  But “thug” is a right wing word, apparently.  I’m not a cable news junky so I’m going to have to rely on the SILs here when they tell me to refrain from using it to avoid looking like a right wing nutcase.  Maybe “bully” would be more appropriate.  Still not a killing offense, though probably more prosecutable than we can feel comfortable with, considering what happened shortly afterwards.  It looked like a minor assault to me.  I guess it would have been up to the clerk as to whether it was worth pursuing.  For sure Brown needed a stern talking to, but, um, not 6 shots to the torso.

I’m troubled by this piece of footage for many reasons.  Matt Taibbi’s book, The Divide, describes so many instances of young black men being arrested and harassed just for being in the wrong place at the wrong time, like on the sidewalk or the stoop in front of their apartment buildings.  And the trouble they face because of these arrests is unconscionable.  Really, it’s overkill and debilitating.  Then I see this video and I think, that kid definitely needed correction.  Maybe not jail, and not a mark on his permanent record and certainly not death, but something.  Like, maybe his grandmother should have been sent that tape so she could see he wasn’t a choirboy.  Shaming your grandmother might have been enough.

So, this one time, I’m correcting my language from the right wing “thug”, which I came to independently of cable news based on my first impressions, to “bully”, because that’s what Brown’s actions show.

We shouldn’t be afraid to tell it like it is though.  That kind of behavior is unacceptable.  Not worth dying for but certainly not good.  It doesn’t diminish the horrible and unnecessary impact of Brown’s death.  Or of Eric Garner’s death as he was chokeholded by police.  Or any of a number of tragic deaths at the hands of people who think black people are less than human.

So, to all you Fox News watchers out there, there is a reason why racism is not acceptable, in thought, word and deed.  If you are thinking it, it becomes OK to hurt people who are not like you.  You need to ask yourselves if it’s Ok to be an anti-semite in your head as well.  Of course it’s not OK.  What we are seeing in Ferguson is a variation of the dehumanization and malignant behavior described by Phillip Zimbardo based on his Stanford Prisoner Experiment and his investigation of Abu Graihb in his book The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil.

It starts in your head when you allow yourself to think other people are less than you are and it’s all downhill from there.

Don’t start down that road.

 

So Europe is in a depression. Will America follow?

I’ve seen this depressing news in the last couple of days.  Relentless austerity in Europe has brought on an economic depression.  Krugman has more:

Simon Wren-Lewis thinks that the European embrace of austerity was a historical contingency; basically, the Greek crisis strengthened the hand of the austerians at a critical moment. I don’t think it’s that easy to explain; my sense was that there was powerful anti-Keynesian sentiment in Europe even before the Greek crisis, that macroeconomics as Anglo-Saxon economists understand it never had a real constituency in Europe’s corridors of power.

I think of it more as a war zone.

Based on what I learned yesterday on the changing nature of employment, ageism and the effect of Obamacare on spending, I can’t help but see another economic downturn in this country as well.  People have to have money to spend to make the economy grow.  The warriors may soon have a pyrrhic victory on their hands because deflation tends to spread without economic interventions.

So does unrest, violence and instability.  Like in Ferguson.

So not good.

 

Stuff I learned today

So, I visited a resumé guru today because I can’t get through the HR filters of most sites and can’t figure out what I’m doing wrong.  I’ve tried matching my keywords and writing the damn thing over and over and OVER again to meet the most demanding filter but, no go.  Anyway, the guru worked it out, or so he assures me. It turns out I have to apply some sleight of hand. Think of it as CV SEO.  I think I’ve got it now.  What a royal pain in the ass, as if spending a couple of hours per application wasn’t painful enough.

Anyway, here’s what I’ve learned today:

1.) There really is such a thing as ageism.  It’s not just your imagination.  It’s probably due to some cocky young thing thinking you don’t know how to use technology, as if your diligence in filling out the ridiculous, lengthy, everything but your bloodtype online form wasn’t proof to the contrary.  If you’re over 45, you’re probably too old. Thank you New York Times.

2.) In the last three years (hmmm, let’s pause to meditate on the significance of three years, shall we?), an increasing number of employers have been hiring temp positions and not direct to position employees.  Sometimes, these temp positions turnover to permanent positions, but consider that first year a very long audition- without benefits.  And there’s no guarantee.  So, the assignment can end at any time.  Depending.  On what?  No idea.

3.) Obamacare is too damn expensive.  This came out of the blue.  Yup.  And it makes perfect sense.  If you are employed in this economy in a temp position and you have to carry the weight of that premium without a subsidy (because you make too much for Medicaid or live in a Medicaid expansionless state, but make too little for a subsidy because you are a lowly temp worker), it’s just too expensive.  You will spend substantially more of your paycheck than the blessed employee with the employer coverage.  But you’re less likely to become blessed because see #2 above.  I am now beginning to wonder what the purpose of Obamacare was.  Because if it is just a matter of getting kids covered who had  serious pre-existing conditions, there was SCHIP and Medicaid before Obamacare. Soooo…?  Bueller?

Malice or stupidity?  Before the administration gave a pass to the employer mandate, I was thinking “stupidity”.  Now, I’m not so sure.  Let’s just say there was a loophole big enough to drive a train through.

The guru says the tweaks should be enough to get me through.  I remain optimistic because, frankly, what is the alternative?  I don’t think I can sell my body at this point, even if I wanted to.  Thank goodness for the part time work and the no-mortgage thingy.  Still, no fun at all.  And I may live to be 92, which troubles me greatly.  Who’s going to hire me when I’m in my 90s?  Come to think of it, there will likely be a LOT of tail end boomers in our 90s, shlepping around the office, retail outlets and construction sites.  That should be interesting.

Stay tuned.

 

 

Supercitizens

Michael Brown was a thug who was caught on video doing some thuggish things in a deli.  He was also shot 6 times by a cop.

I don’t like the way the internet is taking over from the justice system.  Regardless of what Michael Brown may have done or what the police officer might have done, this story is starting to resemble a mediathon event a la Nancy Grace.  And I really don’t like Nancy Grace.

You know what would be great?  It would be great if we let the justice system do the work here.  And yet, after I read Matt Taibbi’s recent book, The Divide, before it devolved into yet another obligatory polemic against Bill Clinton who seems to have been the only politician in the last twenty years with any agency, I realized that there really isn’t justice in this country anymore.  Once you have committed a crime, even a small one or one you didn’t know existed, you’re pretty much screwed.  The system is set up to find you guilty if you don’t have a small fortune to prove your innocence.  It’s prepared to throw you in jail and deprive you of all you own at the slightest provocation.

On the other hand, if you’re wealthy and well connected, you can ruin people’s lives with impunity, risk other people’s retirement funds without consequence, and practice the equivalent of global and domestic economic terrorism and get away with it.  No one shows up at your door to arrest you for loitering where you shouldn’t or threatens your livelihood or keeps putting you back on the Start square in a real life game of Sorry!  Once you reach a certain level of wealth, you are untouchable.  (Well, at least until some clever vigilante individuals figure out how to circumvent the neo-feudal curtain walls.  It’ll happen eventually.)

But if you are a person of color or a woman or just poor, your life and belongings are inconsequential.  You’re not entitled to anything.  You’re lucky if you escape with your life.  And if you complain, the system will bring out a militarized police force and technology that will make you sick, to put you back in your place.  I saw it in Denver in 2008 (where was Claire McCaskill during the convention?) and at Zucotti Park in 2011.  And now we are watching it happen in Ferguson.

That’s because Americans have been allowed to indulge themselves in thinking that some people “deserve” better treatment than others.  But to the Supercitizen, no one below them is deserving of anything.  The dehumanization of the average American starts with race and women and poor people but sooner or later if things keep devolving at this pace, everyone but the supercitizen will be affected.

Internet coverage is not the same as due process, evidence, trials and justice.  And a justice department that has settled for weregild when it comes to global economic catastrophes and corruption, while bringing down the hammer on ordinary people has lost all credibility. It’s part of the problem.

When you’re deep in a hole, stop digging.

The double stupidity of Steve King

Republican Rep. Steve King made the following statement yesterday:

King appeared on Newsmax TV on Wednesday where host J.D. Hayworth asked him about the escalating conflict in Ferguson. When asked about the concerns raised by members of the Congressional Black Caucus about the possibility of racial profiling, King said those were unsubstantiated.

“This idea of no racial profiling,” King said, “I’ve seen the video. It looks to me like you don’t need to bother with that particular factor because they all appear to be of a single, you know, of a single origin, I should say, a continental origin might be the way to phrase that.”

At first, I thought, did he mean North America?  Because I’m pretty sure that’s where most Americans are from.

Then I realized how stupid that was.  According to the theory of human origins, we’re all from Africa.

Steve King: Ignorant bigot or silly evolution denier?

We present, you decide.

 

The White House ignored the State Dept’s warnings on Syria for Years

It looks like the gloves are off.  Josh Rogin at The DailyBeast reports the following this afternoon:

Throughout 2011 and well into 2012, President Obama’s White House barred Hillary Clinton’s State Department from even talking directly to the moderate Syrian rebels. This was only one of several ways the Obama team kept the Clinton team from doing more in Syria, back before the revolution was hijacked by ISIS and spread into Iraq.

The policy feud has flared up again in recent weeks, with Clinton decrying Obama’s Syria policy, Obama’s inner circle hitting back, and the president himselfcalling criticism of his Syria moves “horseshit.” Obama and his former secretary of state promised to patch things up at a social gathering on Wednesday. But the rift is deep, and years in the making.

Clinton and her senior staff warned the White House multiple times before she left office that the Syrian civil war was getting worse, that working with the civilian opposition was not enough, and that the extremists were gaining ground. The United States needed to engage directly with the Free Syrian Army, they argued; the loose conglomeration of armed rebel groups was more moderate than the Islamic forces—and begging for help from the United States. According to several administration officials who were there, her State Department also warned the White House that Iraq could fall victim to the growing instability in Syria. It was all part of a State Department plea to the president to pursue a different policy.

“The State Department warned as early as 2012 that extremists in eastern Syria would link up with extremists in Iraq. We warned in 2012 that Iraq and Syria would become one conflict,” said former U.S. ambassador to Syria Robert Ford. “We highlighted the competition between rebel groups on the ground, and we warned if we didn’t help the moderates, the extremists would gain.”

But the warnings, which also came from other senior officials—including then-CIA chief David Petraeus and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta—fell on deaf ears. Obama’s small circle of White House foreign policy advisers resisted efforts to make connections with rebel fighters on the ground until 2013, when the administration began to train and equip a few select vetted brigades. For many who worked on Syria policy inside the administration, it was too little, too late.

Look, guys, I hate to sound like a broken record, really I do.  Do you think it gives me any pleasure to point out that lack of planning, principle and follow through that has characterized the Obama administration for the last six years?  Hell, no.  I have to live in this country too and at my age, there’s no other country in the world that’s going to accept me as an immigrant.  (Though if there is anyone in New Zealand who wants to sponsor me, I’m all ears. )

I can understand the White House’s embarrassment and desire to keep all this dissension under wraps.  But I don’t appreciate the PR campaign they have unleashed against the former SOS simply because she chooses to reveal her difficulties with the White House.

On the other hand, maybe Hillary will learn to be more sympathetic towards people like Edward Snowden.

One can only hope.

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