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Wednesday, October 19, 2016

A Clear Choice

To voters who whine that this election is about choosing the lesser of two evils, or that both candidates are ill-qualified to be president, or that there is no clear choice and so they remain undecided or worse, that they aren’t going to bother to vote, I have only this to say: you are complete morons! Get off your whiny asses and vote.
Is Hillary my first choice for president? Not exactly but she is a competent and intelligent candidate who will surround herself with the best people we have in government service. If she is elected I can only hope that along with her the Democrats pick up a few seats in the Senate and the party can grow a pair and do some good. I hope this marks a shift towards government of cooperation and getting something done instead of the President working against the Party of No.

It really says a lot about voters when they support a candidate like Donald Trump. From the very beginning we saw the true “values” of the Republican Party and they have little to do with the meaningless and disingenuous slogans they have been parroting for the past 30 years, things like limited government, lower taxes, and free markets. What really ignited the fire under the collective asses of the mob that now backs the Republican front-runner has been the promise of a more racist America. Trump’s platform still involves building a wall and banning Muslim immigrants. The Republicans and Fox News seem unable and unwilling to do anything but follow in the wake of Trump’s Klan rallies masquerading as political events.

The specifics of Trump’s platform are anyone’s guess at this point only three weeks before the election as he just seems to be making up shit in response to the applause of the mob. When asked about his plan to fight crime all that he could venture to say was that he would restore law and order, whatever the fuck that means. His stance on cyber security was an incoherent rambling about how clever his ten year old son is with computers. You can’t make this shit up, as they say except that is exactly what this clown is doing at every step along campaign trail.

But which is worse: a candidate who is completely incapable of adult behavior or the knuckle-draggers who will still vote for him? I find it completely terrifying that anyone is still supporting Trump and that this reality TV clown he will garner a healthy percentage of votes on Election Day. What is wrong with people? Of course, that question is rhetorical because we all know what is wrong with people. People are stupid and ill-informed and will believe anything Fox News tells them to think. They will repost idiotic slogans attached to photos containing the vilest slanders imaginable and hold them to be sacred truths.

I won’t dignify the accusations against Hillary Clinton as most of them are completely crazy which bring me to my next point. There is a deep feeling of insanity among the anti-Clinton and pro-Trump crowd. At this moment their fucking bat-shit crazy meme is election rigging which is not only insane but a potential security threat to our nation. If a large part of our electorate doesn’t believe in the legitimacy of our election process then we could soon cease to be a democracy. Does Trump and Company have a shred of evidence to back up their claims? Of course not, he just thinks it or his herd of chimps thinks it. What will be the next insane utterance out of the mouth of this old know-nothing?

Civil war? I have said before that the biggest mistake we made in America was our Civil War. We should have skipped the war in favor of a rescue operation for the slaves. We could have freed the slaves and left the south to wallow in its ignorance and racism. We have seen in the eight years of the Obama administration that the Republicans are not the least bit interested in compromise, something of a civil war in itself. Democracy is all about compromise and the lack of it signals a shift into some other form of government, or a chaotic lack of government. 

More than a rightward political shift in recent years by Republicans what I have noticed is the unhinged quality of their narrative. After decades of clinging to failed ideals of lowering taxes for the rich, eliminating a safety net for the poor, and constantly increasing defense to absurd levels I guess you can’t really blame Republicans for taking a different tack which has been to double-down on racism, xenophobia, and paranoia about terrorism.

If you have any doubt about the current state of insanity among many conservatives I dare you to take a look at comments section of any online forum. It doesn’t even have to be about a political topic for comments to quickly devolve into psychotic ravings blaming liberals for every ill this nation faces.

Tuesday, October 04, 2016

Unfair Advantage

In Spanish we call these days “Veranillo de San Miguel.” I suppose this would translate as “Indian Summer” for anyone more interested in a faithful translation than political correctness. Whatever you care to call these gorgeous summer-like days of early autumn here in Valencia I can say that they are perfect for cycling. It’s almost like I am cheating in my fitness routine, like I have an unfair advantage over people who live in other parts of the world that don’t share out climate. This advantage is on a par with performance enhancing drugs when it comes to stretching out each and every bike ride or perhaps going out twice in the same day just to enjoy the last of the beach days we have left this year (I'm not much of a beach person but I like to ride by the beach).

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Daybreak on the Mediterranean

I woke up at 4 a.m. yesterday and couldn't get back to sleep so I was out the door before the sun was even up for the day's bike ride. By the time I got to the beach the sun was just popping up over the sea. I’ve ridden this path to the beaches south of Valencia perhaps a thousand times, no kidding. I never get tired of it or bored. It’s the best therapy in the world and the best way I know to clear my head of anything negative. No place I know is more calm and serene...bit a few kilometers up the coast...

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Lunch Ladies Finally Taken Down a Notch

Some students at Oberlin College are taking their demands for diversity and racial inclusion to the dining hall, asking for more traditional meals and criticizing what they consider poor efforts at multicultural cooking.
-The New York Times

Bon Appétit magazine published a video called “This Is How You Should Be Eating Pho” starring a white chef who makes Vietnamese food in which he tells viewers to leave Sriracha and hoisin sauce out of the soup infuriating many viewers.

In a dragnet encompassing public school cafeterias in all five boroughs, New York school officials have arrested 213 kitchen workers for violating recently-imposed cultural appropriation statutes. Minister of the Ethnic Purity Guard, Dr. Vladimir Nassir Nguyen, insisted that lunchroom cooks accused of substituting peanuts for pine nuts in cafeteria hummus recipes were “class enemies” and would be sent to re-education camps in Vermont which double as retreats for over-weight teens. Those offenders deemed beyond re-education will be forced into positions as gym teachers.

“This thinly-veiled racism in the form of shoddily-prepared samosas and lackluster tapas will no longer be tolerated in our public school dining halls,” the Minister exclaimed at a post-arrest press conference in front of a table with several of the offending menu items including a Greek peasant salad with a very non-traditional bit of iceberg lettuce, Peruvian ceviche made with frozen fish, and the most shocking of all, a risotto Milanese made with turmeric substituting for saffron and canned stock instead of homemade. “Don’t our children deserve better than this culturo-gastronomic catastrophe?” The Minister paused and seemed to glow with pride in his wordplay, like an astronomer who has discovered a new planet.

The controversy over the cultural appropriation of food began when a teacher at P.S. 6090 overheard Spanish exchange student María Serrano remark to her tablemates that where she lives in Valencia, Spain paella doesn’t include sausage. The alert young educator brought the incident to the attention of school officials who immediately quarantined the kitchen while offering trauma counseling to the twelve year old student. Under intense interrogation the head cook of the cafeteria claimed she was simply following the recipe supplied by the food purveyors. “This ‘Nuremberg Defense’ wasn’t accepted once nor will it be given credence in this case,” insisted Minister Nguyen. Nguyen also called Miss (Señorita) Serrano the “Rosa Parks of the new nutritional purity movement in our cafeterias.”

Interviewed while waiting her arraignment a 22 year veteran cafeteria cook asked, “Think it was my idea to make coq au vin—or however the hell you pronounce it—for these little animals? The only things they’ll touch are pizza and chicken nuggets.” The food Czar stated, “We decided not to include Chinese food in our crackdown as this cuisine has been included in lunch programs for decades making it unrecognizable to anyone who may have actually been to China, so that cat is already out of the bag, so to speak.” Dr. Nguyen was immediately taken into custody for using “Chinese food” and “cat” in the same sentence.

The Minister’s replacement added, “We cannot, we must not, and we will not allow these cultural elites to suck the life out of gastronomic traditions that represent the core values of societies that have suffered under the boot heel of colonial imperialism for centuries.” When asked for a response one of the accused said, “I work for minimum and I emigrated here from Eritrea two years ago. Is this going to take long? I’m late for my other job.” Another cafeteria worker cautiously asked, “Can we still make sloppy Joes or will that be offensive to someone?”

The pot boiled over three weeks ago when students at a Manhattan grade school went on a rampage when they learned that what the lunch menu described as Vietnamese pho was actually closer to Japanese ramen. Tempers were further inflamed over the perceived insensitive comment of one of the kitchen workers who asked, “We’re just talking about noodle soup, right?”

The concern of student groups opposing “exotic food” choices in school lunchrooms is that many ethnic groups aren’t allowed to define their own place in our society that is profoundly white, straight and patriarchal. Cafeteria officials pointed out that they have lots of kitchen openings for energetic little go-getters who would like to do their part in rehabilitating the wrongs they perceive in food quality while helping to bring us all together.

Saturday, September 03, 2016

What Lies Behind the Veil

I must preface this by saying that I have never seen anyone in the street insulting a woman wearing the hijab (pictured). If I did I would defend the woman. I also think that it’s pretty silly that the French have banned the burkini. I do feel that the Islamic dress for women is oppressive and at times ghoulish. There is some sort of creature that frequents my supermarket decked out in the niqab. I can’t tell if it’s a man or a woman and it gives me the creeps. The niqab is banned in Catalunya and I think this is right. I also think that it is right for Western governments to ban Islamic dress in public sector jobs—I don’t think that it is proper for a secular society to teach this complete disregard for women’s rights and it is a terrible example for children. A society not only has the right to inculcate its citizens in the values it tries to uphold as a nation but it has the duty to fulfill this education. 

I take exception with just about every word of this New York Times article on Muslim women in Europe. OK, forget about the attacks on the French and Belgians by Muslim extremists—all of these women seem to ignore this bit of recent history—and just think about what their clothing says to me as a Westerner. What it says to me is that even though we have finally reached a point in modern society in which we have taken away the power of religion to rule our lives, a struggle that has lasted centuries and was literally fought in the streets at times, we are now being asked to accept without complaint an intrusion into this society by another, even more fanatical religious presence that seeks to end our secular society and send us back into an era in which religion dominates everything.

Muslim men in Europe have few problems like the ones discussed by these women. They can swim in normal bathing attire and they aren’t instantly recognized in the street by the clothes they choose to wear—“choose” is the key word here. Something not brought up in this piece is the fact that there are countless Muslim women who don’t want to wear the traditional garb but that choice is denied them by their family. Also not mentioned is the growing intolerance of European Muslims towards European women and what they wear in the street.    

“I am a woman who wears this full-coverage swimsuit. (“Burkini” is a term that is too loaded.) I used to settle for watching others enjoy the pleasures of swimming — at most I would go into the water in my street clothes, which is absolutely impractical. This piece of clothing has broken my chains."

Your “chains” are forged by your medieval religious beliefs. Your religion is also why you aren't allowed to ride a bike in most of the Muslim world.

“My teacher forced me to take off my head scarf in front of all the other pupils. I was humiliated.”

Why didn’t she take it off before she went to school? It’s not like they did a surprise “Everyone must remove their hijab” drill. She would have known about the rules for weeks so I call bullshit on this.

“I was curious to see if, in the cities where they forbade women in burkinis, dogs could swim. The answer was yes for some of them. Personally, I am scandalized that dogs can have more rights than a scarfed (sic) woman.”

If she had ever lived in a Muslim country she would know all about how badly women are treated in some places. Does polygamy and arranged marriages sound like the kind of rights you are looking for?

P.S. Along with pork, booze, Jews, and women's bodies Muslims don’t like dogs, either.

And then there are the threats of exodus:

“Every time I visit Morocco, I feel and see more freedom than here in the West.”

“I think that French Muslim women would be justified to request asylum in the United States, for instance, given how many persecutions we are subjected to.”

“As a Muslim young woman, I do not feel safe anymore. … I am preparing to go to the U.K.”

It’s curious that none of these women is threatening to go to a Muslim country to live.

More than half of British Muslims feel that homosexuality should be illegal. Four out of 10 British Muslims want sharia law introduced into parts of the country. As far as not feeling safe, we need to hear from French Jews who have been attacked and harassed by French Muslims for many years. 

Of course, many would brand me as an "Islamophobe" and they would be correct. I am afraid of Islam and its growing influence in Western society. I am terrified of living, once again in my lifetime, in a world in which I am not able to profess publicly that I am an atheist. Am I a bigot or a racist? Absolutely fucking not. In fact, I spent years of my life learning Arabic and studying the history and culture of the Middle East and Islam. Bigotry is based on ignorance so if you're looking for ignorance look elsewhere.