THE STATUE OF LIBERTY WEEPS AS PRESIDENT TRUMP TARGETS MEXICANS AND MUSLIMS

Posted on the Anne Frank Center For Mutual Respect’s Facebook page:

THE STATUE OF LIBERTY WEEPS
AS PRESIDENT TRUMP TARGETS
MEXICANS AND MUSLIMS

Statement of Steven Goldstein, Executive Director of the Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect, the U.S. civil and human rights organization among Anne Frank organizations worldwide:

As President Trump prepares orders to wall out Mexicans and shut out refugees from America, today marks one of the most hateful days in our nation’s history. Donald Trump is retracting the promise of American freedom to an extent we have not seen from a President since Franklin Roosevelt forced Japanese Americans into internment camps during World War II. Today the Statue of Liberty weeps over President Trump’s discrimination.

President Trump is beyond the wrong side of history. He is driving our nation off a moral cliff.

When President Trump uses national security as a guise for racism, he doesn’t strengthen our national security. He compromises our national security by engendering disrespect for America by people around the world.

Make no mistake, suspending visas for citizens of Middle Eastern and African countries is not called national security. It’s called prejudice.

President Trump is now exacerbating the largest global refugee crisis in history. His slamming America’s doors on the starving, the wounded and the abused is a grotesque blot on our nation’s history of freedom. The President’s actions are an embarrassment to the timeless vision of America as inscribed by Emma Lazarus to “give us your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”

Demonizing refugees and immigrants, and spending billions of taxpayer dollars to keep them out of our nation, will go down in American history as one of the most tragic deviations from our national conscience.

Donald Trump – New Shit Has Come to Light

I’m sure I’m not the only person who read this in the New York Times on Sunday:

President-elect Donald J. Trump, expressing lingering skepticism about intelligence assessments of Russian interference in the election, said on Saturday evening that he knew “things that other people don’t know” about the hacking, and that the information would be revealed “on Tuesday or Wednesday.”

And then thought immediately of The Big Lebowski:

And of course there is only one proper response to that:

Which reminds me of Donald Trump’s hair:

As for the source of the new shit that Donnie says has come to light, one presumes it was:

 

 

Shock and Aw Shit

Monday morning Wednesday evening quarterback time.

The United States is not ready to elect a female president. Clinton or anyone else.

The media never truly went after Trump. Thanks to Facebook, people were unable to distinguish between real news and clickbait. The “responsible” media gave Trump a free ride for too long because it was good for ratings/profit.

Clinton had too much baggage as a candidate. Even though most of what Trump said about her during the campaign was either extremely exaggerated or a blatant lie, it successfully colored the masses’ perception of her. Too many people repeating the line about her being corrupt – based on what, exactly? The 20-something investigations that cleared her every time? But the point is, Trump threw it against a wall and it stuck.

I do not believe that Sanders would have done any better. Biden, maybe.

Actually all of Trump’s messages clearly got across better than Clinton’s. Despite 8 years of growth under Obama – economy, jobs, health care, consumer protection, climate initiatives – Trump’s anti-establishment message clearly registered more deeply than a lot of people expected.

And so the Republicans control the House and Senate.

It was an “anybody from the outside” victory. Not that dissimilar from Duterte’s victory in the Philippines. Parallels with Duterte, who has just won his battle to get Marcos buried in the national cemetery of heroes? Duterte was an outsider who got voted in by a public tired of high crime, corruption, and other issues. He only got 39% of the vote. Though the rest of the country seems to be falling in line behind him. Well, look at it this way. Duterte is Trump without nuclear weapons. (If the Philippines did have nuclear weapons, they’d be broken anyway.)

Clinton did win the popular vote, or so it seems to be trending, but not by enough to matter. I get the feeling that everyone thought a Clinton win was such a sure thing that many didn’t bother to vote. The one comparison I saw (I forget which state) showed almost 400,000 votes less than in 2012.

It’s possible to look at some of the key states where Clinton lost, add Johnson’s votes to her tally, and she would have won. So blame Johnson for diverting votes? But is it a given that people who voted for him would have voted for her if he wasn’t running? Should she not have been further out ahead so that those votes wouldn’t have mattered anyway?

The Republican strategy of blocking Obama’s nominee for the Supreme Court clearly worked. So long Roe v. Wade.

So now we will have a businessman with no previous political experience who knows nothing about science and doesn’t like to read, who was the choice of the KKK, Putin and North Korea, who does not believe that climate change is real, someone who has no respect for minorities, someone who has made his money by cozying up to the Mafia and hiring illegal immigrants and burning all of his partners, someone who has scammed the public through failed businesses such as Trump University, someone facing a multitude of lawsuits, someone accused of molesting multiple women and cheating on all of his wives, as president. We know his agenda already – tax cuts for the rich, nuclear weapons for everyone, abandon NATO, disable Obamacare (with no replacement in sight), and the possibility of slashing Social Security. Better take that Cuba vacation and smoke those Cohibas now while you can.

Rudy Giuliani, Chris Christie, Sean Hannity in the cabinet. Russian operatives in the White House or – or is that going too far?

All we can do now is hope that he won’t be as bad as people like me fear – that he was overplaying to the crowd or that even the Republican-controlled Congress won’t go down some of the paths that he’ll want to lead.


As if that wasn’t bad enough, my mother seems to have taken a turn for the worse today. She was doing pretty well this morning. The doctor came, she was all chatty and smiling, but within a couple of hours after he left …. I’m not going to go into details.

Except that I’ve been so distracted today that I have managed to delete almost half of my iTunes collection – probably in the range of 50-60,000 songs. And then I reformatted the drive that stuff was on. And then I overwrote everything on the drive with new stuff.

As it happens, every album in my iTunes is also stored on a RAID drive. But going through all of those thousands of albums to find the ones I need to restore? Making sure everything is tagged and has artwork? Updating dozens of playlists? Never going to happen, I know this.

I could buy a program for $20 that would copy stuff back from my iPhone to iTunes – only about 10% of what I deleted but clearly the most important stuff. And then get back to the 90% … never?

I almost forgot it’s all backed up to Backblaze as well. I checked. The stuff I need to restore is around 775 Gigabytes. Yikes. Backblaze will shove it all on a 4 TB drive and ship it to me for US$190. Good luck getting it delivered in the Philippines, eh? The largest zip file they will prepare for downloading is 500 gig – but how long would that take me to download?  I think somewhere between 5 and 10 days.  So I’m preparing little 10 gig chunks (they will only let you request up to 5 restores per day) and that will take awhile. I’m not going to restore everything – too many things I only played once or never.

Well, at least California and Massachusetts passed marijuana legalization bills. If Clinton had been elected I definitely would have considered a return to the U.S. for a few years. But now? Maybe not so much.

Khizr and Ghazala Khan and a Short Fingered Vulgarian

Full transcript of Khizr Khan’s speech at the DNC:

Tonight, we are honored to stand here as the parents of Capt. Humayun Khan, and as patriotic American Muslims with undivided loyalty to our country.

Like many immigrants, we came to this country empty-handed. We believed in American democracy — that with hard work and the goodness of this country, we could share in and contribute to its blessings.

We were blessed to raise our three sons in a nation where they were free to be themselves and follow their dreams.

Our son, Humayun, had dreams of being a military lawyer. But he put those dreams aside the day he sacrificed his life to save his fellow soldiers.

Hillary Clinton was right when she called my son “the best of America.”

If it was up to Donald Trump, he never would have been in America.

Donald Trump consistently smears the character of Muslims. He disrespects other minorities, women, judges, even his own party leadership. He vows to build walls and ban us from this country.

Donald Trump, you are asking Americans to trust you with our future. Let me ask you: Have you even read the U.S. Constitution? I will gladly lend you my copy. In this document, look for the words “liberty” and “equal protection of law.”

Have you ever been to Arlington Cemetery? Go look at the graves of the brave patriots who died defending America — you will see all faiths, genders, and ethnicities.

You have sacrificed nothing and no one.

We can’t solve our problems by building walls and sowing division.

We are Stronger Together.

And we will keep getting stronger when Hillary Clinton becomes our next President.

Donald Trump’s response:

If you look at his wife, she was standing there. She had nothing to say. She probably, maybe she wasn’t allowed to have anything to say. I think I’ve made a lot of sacrifices. I work very, very hard. I’ve created thousands and thousands of jobs, tens of thousands of jobs, built great structures. I’ve done, I’ve had tremendous success.

Ghazala Khan’s response:

Donald Trump has asked why I did not speak at the Democratic convention. He said he would like to hear from me. Here is my answer to Donald Trump: Because without saying a thing, all the world, all America, felt my pain. I am a Gold Star mother. Whoever saw me felt me in their heart.

Donald Trump said I had nothing to say. I do. My son Humayun Khan, an Army captain, died 12 years ago in Iraq. He loved America, where we moved when he was 2 years old. He had volunteered to help his country, signing up for the ROTC at the University of Virginia. This was before the attack of Sept. 11, 2001. He didn’t have to do this, but he wanted to.

When Humayun was sent to Iraq, my husband and I worried about his safety. I had already been through one war, in Pakistan in 1965, when I was just a high school student. So I was very scared. You can sacrifice yourself, but you cannot take it that your kids will do this.

We asked if there was some way he could not go, because he had already done his service. He said it was his duty. I cannot forget when he was going to the plane, and he looked back at me. He was happy, and giving me strength: “Don’t worry, Mom. Everything will be all right.”

The last time I spoke to my son was on Mother’s Day 2004. We had asked him to call us collect whenever he could. I begged him to be safe. I asked him to stay back, and not to go running around trying to become a hero, because I knew he would do something like that.

He said, “Mom, these are my soldiers, these are my people. I have to take care of them.” He was killed by a car bomber outside the gates of his base. He died trying to save his soldiers and innocent civilians.

That is my son. Humayun was always dependable. If I was vacuuming the house and he was home, he would take the vacuum from my hand and clean the house. He volunteered to teach disabled children in the hospital how to swim. He said, “I love when they have a little bit of progress and their faces, they light up. At least they are that much happy.” He wanted to be a lawyer, like his father, to help people.

Humayun is my middle son, and the others are doing so well, but every day I feel the pain of his loss. It has been 12 years, but you know hearts of pain can never heal as long as we live. Just talking about it is hard for me all the time. Every day, whenever I pray, I have to pray for him, and I cry. The place that emptied will always be empty.

I cannot walk into a room with pictures of Humayun. For all these years, I haven’t been able to clean the closet where his things are — I had to ask my daughter-in-law to do it. Walking onto the convention stage, with a huge picture of my son behind me, I could hardly control myself. What mother could? Donald Trump has children whom he loves. Does he really need to wonder why I did not speak?

Donald Trump said that maybe I wasn’t allowed to say anything. That is not true. My husband asked me if I wanted to speak, but I told him I could not. My religion teaches me that all human beings are equal in God’s eyes. Husband and wife are part of each other; you should love and respect each other so you can take care of the family.

When Donald Trump is talking about Islam, he is ignorant. If he studied the real Islam and Koran, all the ideas he gets from terrorists would change, because terrorism is a different religion.

Donald Trump said he has made a lot of sacrifices. He doesn’t know what the word sacrifice means.

How Far Is Too Far?

Trump Time Capsule #59: ‘I Hope Putin Has Hillary’s Emails’

To say it clearly: Nothing remotely like this has happened before. A “hope” that a foreign government, with which the United States is at serious and increasing odds, can penetrate American electronic networks so as to affect the outcome of a U.S. election? How exactly would we distinguish this from treason? (Update: In Twitter comments beginning here, an attorney named Christopher J. Regan explains where you would draw the line between comments like Trump’s and outright treason.)

Trump Asks Russia to Leak Clinton Emails

In a bizarre press conference in Doral, Florida on Wednesday morning, Donald Trump seemed to urge the Russian government to find and release the 30,000 deleted emails from Hillary Clinton’s private email server.

He also refused to say he condemned possible Russian involvement in leaking DNC emails: “I’m not going to tell Putin what to do,” Trump said. “Why should I tell Putin what to do?”

Trump’s Plea For Russia to Hack the U.S. Government

During a press conference Wednesday morning that was bizarre even by Trump’s standards, he praised torture, said the Geneva Conventions were obsolete, contradicted his earlier position on a federal minimum wage, and told a reporter to “be quiet.”

It was a stunning moment: a presidential nominee calling on a foreign power not only to hack his opponent and release what they found publicly, but hoping the Russians had stolen the emails of a top American official, perhaps including classified information.

Trump Urges Russia to Hack Clinton’s Email

“This has to be the first time that a major presidential candidate has actively encouraged a foreign power to conduct espionage against his political opponent,” Hillary for America policy adviser Jake Sullivan said in a statement. “That’s not hyperbole, those are just the facts. This has gone from being a matter of curiosity, and a matter of politics, to being a national security issue.”
House Speaker Paul Ryan’s office did not mention Trump, but condemned any role for Russia in the U.S. election, with Ryan spokesman Brendan Buck saying, “Russia is a global menace led by a devious thug. Putin should stay out of this election.”

Trump & Putin. Yes, It’s Really a Thing

At a minimum, Trump appears to have a deep financial dependence on Russian money from persons close to Putin. And this is matched to a conspicuous solicitousness to Russian foreign policy interests where they come into conflict with US policies which go back decades through administrations of both parties. There is also something between a non-trivial and a substantial amount of evidence suggesting Putin-backed financial support for Trump or a non-tacit alliance between the two men.

1. All the other discussions of Trump’s finances aside, his debt load has grown dramatically over the last year, from $350 million to $630 million. This is in just one year while his liquid assets have also decreased. Trump has been blackballed by all major US banks.

2. Post-bankruptcy Trump has been highly reliant on money from Russia, most of which has over the years become increasingly concentrated among oligarchs and sub-garchs close to Vladimir Putin.

After his bankruptcy and business failures roughly a decade ago Trump has had an increasingly difficult time finding sources of capital for new investments. As I noted above, Trump has been blackballed by all major US banks with the exception of Deutschebank, which is of course a foreign bank with a major US presence. He has steadied and rebuilt his financial empire with a heavy reliance on capital from Russia. At a minimum the Trump organization is receiving lots of investment capital from people close to Vladimir Putin.

The Trump Camp was totally indifferent to the platform. So party activists were able to write one of the most conservative platforms in history. Not with Trump’s backing but because he simply didn’t care. With one big exception: Trump’s team mobilized the nominee’s traditional mix of cajoling and strong-arming on one point: changing the party platform on assistance to Ukraine against Russian military operations in eastern Ukraine. For what it’s worth (and it’s not worth much) I am quite skeptical of most Republicans call for aggressively arming Ukraine to resist Russian aggression. But the single-mindedness of this focus on this one issue – in the context of total indifference to everything else in the platform – speaks volumes.

To put this all into perspective, if Vladimir Putin were simply the CEO of a major American corporation and there was this much money flowing in Trump’s direction, combined with this much solicitousness of Putin’s policy agenda, it would set off alarm bells galore. That is not hyperbole or exaggeration. And yet Putin is not the CEO of an American corporation. He’s the autocrat who rules a foreign state, with an increasingly hostile posture towards the United States and a substantial stockpile of nuclear weapons. The stakes involved in finding out ‘what’s going on’ as Trump might put it are quite a bit higher.

There is something between a non-trivial and a substantial amount of circumstantial evidence for a financial relationship between Trump and Putin or a non-tacit alliance between the two men. Even if you draw no adverse conclusions, Trump’s financial empire is heavily leveraged and has a deep reliance on capital infusions from oligarchs and other sources of wealth aligned with Putin. That’s simply not something that can be waved off or ignored.

Putin-Trump

Donald Trump is a unique threat to American democracy

The Washington Post has taken the unusual step of running a full page anti-Trump editorial, credited not to an individual but to their entire editorial board. You can find the entire piece here. Excerpts from the editorial below:

DONALD J. TRUMP, until now a Republican problem, this week became a challenge the nation must confront and overcome. The real estate tycoon is uniquely unqualified to serve as president, in experience and temperament. He is mounting a campaign of snarl and sneer, not substance. To the extent he has views, they are wrong in their diagnosis of America’s problems and dangerous in their proposed solutions. Mr. Trump’s politics of denigration and division could strain the bonds that have held a diverse nation together.

… there is nothing on Mr. Trump’s résumé to suggest he could function successfully in Washington. He was staked in the family business by a well-to-do father and has pursued a career marked by some real estate successes, some failures and repeated episodes of saving his own hide while harming people who trusted him. Given his continuing refusal to release his tax returns, breaking with a long bipartisan tradition, it is only reasonable to assume there are aspects of his record even more discreditable than what we know.

… he displays no curiosity, reads no books and appears to believe he needs no advice. In fact, what makes Mr. Trump so unusual is his combination of extreme neediness and unbridled arrogance. He is desperate for affirmation but contemptuous of other views. He also is contemptuous of fact. Throughout the campaign, he has unspooled one lie after another — that Muslims in New Jersey celebrated after 9/11, that his tax-cut plan would not worsen the deficit, that he opposed the Iraq War before it started — and when confronted with contrary evidence, he simply repeats the lie. It is impossible to know whether he convinces himself of his own untruths or knows that he is wrong and does not care. It is also difficult to know which trait would be more frightening in a commander in chief.

What the candidate does offer is a series of prejudices and gut feelings, most of them erroneous. Allies are taking advantage of the United States. Immigrants are committing crimes and stealing jobs. Muslims hate America. In fact, Japan and South Korea are major contributors to an alliance that has preserved a peace of enormous benefit to Americans. Immigrants commit fewer crimes than native-born Americans and take jobs that no one else will. Muslims are the primary victims of Islamist terrorism, and Muslim Americans, including thousands who have served in the military, are as patriotic as anyone else.

In a dangerous world, Mr. Trump speaks blithely of abandoning NATO, encouraging more nations to obtain nuclear weapons and cozying up to dictators who in fact wish the United States nothing but harm. For eight years, Republicans have criticized President Obama for “apologizing” for America and for weakening alliances. Now they put forward a candidate who mimics the vilest propaganda of authoritarian adversaries about how terrible the United States is and how unfit it is to lecture others. He has made clear that he would drop allies without a second thought. The consequences to global security could be disastrous.

Most alarming is Mr. Trump’s contempt for the Constitution and the unwritten democratic norms upon which our system depends. He doesn’t know what is in the nation’s founding document. When asked by a member of Congress about Article I, which enumerates congressional powers, the candidate responded, “I am going to abide by the Constitution whether it’s number 1, number 2, number 12, number 9.” The charter has seven articles.

Worse, he doesn’t seem to care about its limitations on executive power. He has threatened that those who criticize him will suffer when he is president. He has vowed to torture suspected terrorists and bomb their innocent relatives, no matter the illegality of either act. He has vowed to constrict the independent press. He went after a judge whose rulings angered him, exacerbating his contempt for the independence of the judiciary by insisting that the judge should be disqualified because of his Mexican heritage. Mr. Trump has encouraged and celebrated violence at his rallies. The U.S. democratic system is strong and has proved resilient when it has been tested before. We have faith in it. But to elect Mr. Trump would be to knowingly subject it to threat.

The party’s failure of judgment leaves the nation’s future where it belongs, in the hands of voters. Many Americans do not like either candidate this year . We have criticized the presumptive Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton, in the past and will do so again when warranted. But we do not believe that she (or the Libertarian and Green party candidates, for that matter) represents a threat to the Constitution. Mr. Trump is a unique and present danger.

 

Vichy Republicans

Vichy was the seat of the French government that collaborated with the Nazis during World War II. (Remember that scene at the end of Casablanca when Claude Rains pours himself a glass of water, looks at the bottle and sees the label that says Vichy Water and tosses it in the trash?)

“Vichy Republicans” is the name that Ken Burns has given to those who support Donald Trump.

… the candidate with zero experience in the much maligned but subtle art of governance; who is against lots of things, but doesn’t seem to be for anything, offering only bombastic and contradictory promises, and terrifying Orwellian statements; a person who easily lies, creating an environment where the truth doesn’t seem to matter; who has never demonstrated any interest in anyone or anything but himself and his own enrichment; who insults veterans, threatens a free press, mocks the handicapped, denigrates women, immigrants, and all Muslims; a man who took more than a day to remember to disavow a supporter who advocates white supremacy and the Ku Klux Klan; an infantile, bullying man who, depending on his mood, is willing to discard old and established alliances, treaties, and longstanding relationships.

We see nurtured in his campaign an incipient proto-fascism, a nativist anti-immigrant Know Nothing-ism, a disrespect for the judiciary, the prospect of women losing authority over their own bodies, African-Americans again asked to go to the back of the line, voter suppression gleefully promoted, jingoistic saber-rattling, a total lack of historical awareness, a political paranoia that, predictably, points fingers, always making the other wrong.

Here’s the full speech:

 

Another Post About Nothing

Nothing in particular. Just feel like writing.

These days I don’t go out too often. Partly it’s a matter of budget and partly it’s a matter of the soul-crushing traffic in Manila.

On Friday I read that Anthony Bourdain is currently in Manila, more than likely taping an episode of his CNN series. He did one episode of No Reservations here, more than 5 years ago. I think with his CNN series he is moving away from “just food” to get more into socio-economic conditions. That’s both good and bad – he couldn’t keep doing “No Reservations” forever. He’s a good writer and good TV host but how qualified is he to dig into issues not related to food or to travel? He was spotted at Cafe Chosun, a Korean restaurant in Malate. Someone else posted a picture of him dining alone at Jollibee – I don’t think so.

(Please stop referring to Bourdain as a “celebrity chef.” He is not and never was famous as a chef. He is an author and TV host and entrepreneur. In more than 10 years of television shows I think only one or two episodes show him cooking, and only one of the dozen or more books he has written is a cookbook. He never had any substantial fame as executive chef at Les Halles in NYC and it was an article he wrote for New York Magazine that was his first step to where he is today.)

(Which is not to say that I’m not a fan. I’m a HUGE fan. I have probably watched and read almost everything he has put out there. Like many, I would also like to think that I am equally talented and that I could do what he does. This blog is clear proof that I am not.)

Anyway, food … Friday night, company Christmas dinner. It was held at the Vikings Buffet Restaurant at Mega Mall. Every other place I’ve been, buffets seem to be strictly the province of hotel restaurants. Here they are hugely popular and can be found all over town. I wonder what the incidence of obesity and diabetes is in the Philippines compared to the United States? I suspect it’s similar.

The places that are somewhat more expensive, like Vikings and Sambokojin, do a pretty good job of offering a large selection of dishes, decent enough quality I suppose, for a relatively low price. A carving station with roast beef, ham, lamb and turkey. Make your own bibimpap, sinigang or shabu shabu. Nice lechon. Pizza that barely qualified as pizza. Very light on salads.

Dinner at Vikings is P888 (about US$19) and includes all the beer you can drink, if that’s your thing – and it certainly was the thing for several of the people at my table. Let’s face it, you don’t go to a buffet for quality, you go for quantity. I noticed at another table (and wish I had gotten a photo) someone had brought two toy poodles, one of which was wearing a diaper.

Following three hours sitting there, a half hour walk back to my car (didn’t want to get anywhere near Mega Mall because of the pre-Xmas traffic), fight the traffic to get back home, only to be informed by my wife that I had to turn around and pick up her daughter from her high school’s Xmas party. That’s probably 2-3 kilometers away. And it took 45 minutes to get there. First because it was after 10 PM, so all of the trucks were coming out from the many warehouses in the area, and second because all of the parents were driving to the school to pick up their kids (the school was very strict, properly so, not allowing kids to leave without their parents).

Saturday morning I woke up to find that my computer was telling me my E: drive was failing. This is my work drive – my C: drive is an SSD so quite small and I only keep what’s absolutely necessary there. My E drive is a 1.5 TB drive, 2/3rds full. It had been acting weird for the past few months so this was not a huge surprise.

Fortunately, due to reorganizing storage, I had a currently unused RAID box with two 2 TB drives. I was able to successfully get everything off the bad E: drive before it failed. (I had everything backed up on the cloud at backblaze.com but didn’t relish the idea of having to download it with my erratic internet service.) That took up a good portion of the day.

Mid-day we went out to the Fort, aka BGC. We bought the kid’s Xmas present – she wanted a pair of Nikes.

While at the Nike store, I saw people lined up and getting the latest Air Jordans. Heavily tattooed teenagers who could afford P10,800 sneakers – though perhaps some will try to resell them at a profit. These had to be reserved in advance and were all sold out.

I asked one guy how he knew about this. He said you had to follow Nike Philippines’ Instagram account. I don’t pay much attention to Instagram. I think I remember to post about 5 pictures a year there. I did some digging around and saw that nine out of the current top ten most popular pictures on Instagram came from Taylor Swift or Kendall Jenner. This was not much incentive for me to dig deeper.

Walked around a bit and decided to try a slice of pizza at a place called Nolita. It’s named for a section of NYC – “North Of Little Italy” – and there aren’t many places doing pizza by the slice. I tried a slice with spicy Italian sausage and while it wasn’t exactly Ray’s Famous, it wasn’t bad. But 220 pesos for a slice – almost US$5? Well, they’re in the Fort, that’s the rent they’re paying. It’s almost like being back in Hong Kong!

Then we braved the crowds at S&R so we could get our fridge and freezer loaded up in advance of the coming typhoon. (Typhoon in December? What’s up with that?) I also loaded up on Drake’s stuff – Twinkies and Ring Dings and now they had the Drake’s Coffee Cakes too (but not the original, some cinnamon variation, but still, come on, Drake’s Coffee Cakes!).

Back home, having ascertained that when my wife said she doesn’t like Star Wars, she’s only seen 1, 2 and 3 and not the original trilogy, I yanked out the Blu-Ray and put on “Episode IV – A New Hope.” I haven’t watched it in a long time. It played slow and clunky. All the extra digital nonsense that Lucas added over the years was wasted. And my wife hated it. She said it was boring. Actually we started it on Saturday night and she fell asleep, we finished it on Sunday afternoon.

Sunday, up early, out to vote in our village’s elections for various village leaders. (Well my wife voted, I stood around and watched.) Hungry after that. The food places within the village are pretty crappy. The closest places outside the village are McDonald’s, Jollibee, some very local places that don’t look clean or appetizing. We didn’t want to go very far.

We ended up at a branch of a chain called Hap Chan. “The leading authentic Chinese food chain in the Philippines.” I thought it was going to be a fast food joint, order at the counter, but it turned out to be a sit-down place with a big menu. The shu mai (they call it shao mai here) was actually pretty okay. The char siu bao (they call it sio pao here) was very localized, too big and too sweet. The big surprise was the stir fried beef with hor fun noodles, which tasted almost exactly the same as it tastes in HK’s cha chaan tengs. So I was very happy indeed. Add a pot of a tea, a can of soda, some dessert, and the bill was under 500 pesos.

Back home, finished off Star Wars. I would have gone for The Empire Strikes back but my wife dug in her heels and absolutely refused. So I put on The Assassin, directed by Hou Hsiao-Hsien. Hou won best director at Cannes for this film. It’s shown up on some top ten lists and it’s Taiwan’s official entry for the foreign language Oscar. It has a 6.5 out of 10 rating on IMDB and 83% over at Rotten Tomatoes.  Only 3 of 21 “top critics” didn’t like it – one of the three being A.O. Scott at the NY Times, who wrote, “It is as gorgeous to behold as anything you are likely to encounter on a movie screen or a museum wall. The film is intriguing, but ultimately opaque, a lovely, inert object that offers, in the name of movie love, an escape from so much that is vital and interesting about movies.” I would have to agree with that.

It’s gorgeous to look at but it moves at a glacial pace and has a very convoluted way of trying to tell what should be a simple story. There are very long shots of people just sitting there staring off into space. One long shot was just a river and trees. Very Zen, I suppose. My wife fell asleep after 45 minutes. Later we turned it back on, she fell asleep again after 30 minutes.

Outside of that, a nice home cooked dinner. I’ve been back from the U.S. for two weeks now but I’m still not entirely unjetlagged I think. I’ve only had 8 hours sleep per night for the last two nights, and going to sleep uncharacteristically early for me (11 PM).

Some other random bits:

I changed my mobile service from pre-paid to post-paid (Globe) last month. I signed up at the Globe shop at Podium. I gave them my credit card and filled out all the forms for auto-pay. Then this month I got daily SMS’s telling me my payment is due. I asked them why I am getting all of these reminders when I am on auto-pay. They responded “sorry but registration for auto-pay is suspended at our stores, you can apply through your bank.” “So why did you make a copy of my credit card and have me spend time filling out all those extra forms?” “Sorry.”

Fun stuff on Twitter #1

Cher – As Judas Was 2 Jesus,So Is Ted Cruz 2America.Read What He’s Written&Watched What He’s Said,4 Yrs.He ALWAYS TERRIFIED ME💀#30piecesofsilver

Ted Cruz – Cher, thanks for the kind sentiments. And I wish you a Merry Christmas and a blessed New Year.

Fun stuff on Twitter #2

Donald Trump – Amazing how the haters & losers keep tweeting the name “F**kface Von Clownstick” like they are so original & like no one else is doing it…

I don’t know that anyone doing that thinks they are so original. I think it’s the best name for Trump. I think his acknowledgement of it shows what a loser he is.

 

The One True Hooha

“The One True Hooha” is the name that Edward Snowden used on online gaming forums a decade ago.  The New York Times put together something of a profile on Snowden yesterday, painting him as personally ambitious and someone with a great interest in China – he studied Mandarin and martial arts among other things.

The Atlantic has a very interesting comparison between Snowden and one of the people he calls (and I call) a hero, Daniel Ellsberg.  They list several differences but there are two that ring out to me – what Snowden revealed, as troubling as it may be, is legal. And Ellsberg remained in the U.S. to face the consequences of what he did, Snowden fled.

What does it all mean? I don’t know. I don’t think the full story is out there yet. I’m not rushing to judgement.  I have a lot of conflicting thoughts.

I mean, is anyone really surprised that the U.S. government is doing this? And while I’d like to say that I’m disappointed that Obama continued this program that Bush started, how many times has he promised to shut Guantanamo?

Maybe I’m less shocked because I’ve become inured to it. My family was investigated by the FBI in the 1960s – they went door to door in the building we lived in asking our neighbors about us.  I did stuff as a teenager that I’m convinced led to the KGB having a file on me. And as someone who works in IT, I know full well that anything I type on the Internet, anything I put on Facebook or search on Google, is available to anyone in the world, regardless of what “privacy settings” I’ve selected. Anything I buy from any online shop or any store with a “member card” goes into a database that can be mined.

And why did Snowden choose Hong Kong? I still don’t get this. If he thinks he will eventually receive asylum in Iceland, why didn’t he just go there? Why choose a place that has never known democracy and that is part of a country that has ruthlessly oppressed its citizens for 5,000 years, a country that is famous for spying on its citizens and jails dissidents without trial?

Snowden may be a hero. Maybe. But I see no basis for Hong Kong to deny extradition, if the U.S. should request that, which it likely will.

I try to put myself into his shoes. I work in IT. I’ve worked as a contractor. I could have easily been placed in a position with a company with values opposed to my own. Snowden signed all sorts of papers pledging to keep his mouth shut about what he was doing. I suppose one could argue that he signed those papers before he got the access he got and that he was so shocked by what he discovered that he decided this took precedence over whatever he signed.

But why did he choose to allow himself to work for U.S. intelligence agencies? Why not banks? Why not Wal*Mart?  He went where the money was. I’ve seen reports saying he was earning anywhere from $120,000 to $200,000 a year – not bad for a high school dropout with a GED.

And what about Booz Allen Hamilton? What guilt do they have in this? I would say that they’re so anxious to fill these positions, which are tremendously profitable to them, that they’re not properly vetting candidates.  “Okay, this guy can spell UNIX, we can bill him out to the NSA at a 300% mark-up, what more do we need to know?”

From the Times article:

His disclosures have renewed a longstanding concern: that young Internet aficionados whose skills the agencies need for counterterrorism and cyberdefense sometimes bring an anti-authority spirit that does not fit the security bureaucracy.

“There were lots of discussions at N.S.A. and in the intelligence community in general about the acculturation process,” said Joel F. Brenner, a former inspector general of the agency. “They were aware that they were bringing in young people who had to adjust to the culture — and who would change the culture.”

Mr. Brenner said that with such a buildup after the Sept. 11 attacks, “you’re going to have some sloppiness and some mistakes.” It is remarkable, he said, that “disloyalty” of Mr. Snowden’s variety is so rare.

I think it took a lot of courage for Snowden to do what he did. But I think he did it wrong. I think if he truly wants to be a martyr then he should go to the airport today, get on a plane to Los Angeles, surrender to the authorities and get the trial started. Let’s get this all out in open courts.

Let’s let the rule of law decide and not the rule of mobs.

(I reserve the option to change my mind on this 62 more times in the coming days.)

Why Do Republicans Think They Are Entitled To Their Own Facts?

While the vote counting isn’t quite finished as of now it stands at Obama 60,662,174 to Romney 57.820,742.

For more fun, read Salon’s play-by-play description of Karl Rove’s meltdown on Fox News last night.

If you didn’t get to see it, Rove’s attempt to overturn Fox’s 11:15 P.M. call of Ohio and the election was completely nuts. First of all, co-anchors Kelly and Bret Baier were caught by surprise when a graphic went up announcing that Obama had been reelected. You could almost feel the disapproval emanating from Brit Hume, who may be a right-winger but is a genuine newsman and a TV professional. Then Rove, getting increasingly hot under the collar, began to protest that unnamed sources in the Romney camp weren’t happy about this, and that the president’s margin in Ohio was disappearing. This led Kelly to wander through a backstage corridor with a cameraman in tow, like a character in a backstage drama or reality show, in order to confront the statistics wonks at the “decision desk,” or at least to escape from Rove’s blather about whether the outstanding votes from Hamilton County, Ohio, were or were not from the city of Cincinnati.

In the end, Fox News showed its true character by blaming the Republican loss on minorities.  Bill O’Reilly said, on the air, “The demographics are changing. It’s not a traditional America anymore. …  the white establishment is now the minority. … And the voters, many of them, feel that this economic system is stacked against them, and they want stuff. You’re going to see a tremendous Hispanic vote for President Obama. Overwhelming black vote for President Obama. And women will probably break President Obama’s way.”

So the Republicans deny evolution, climate change, same sex marriage, equal rights for women and now apparently they are also seeking to deny basic arithmetic.  Apparently one plus one no longer equals two if your name is Karl Rove or Donald Trump.

By the way, here’s some numbers via Huffington Post:

  • Total money spent by Obama and the pro-Obama super PAC Priorities USA:$853 million
  • Total money spent by Romney and the pro-Romney super PAC Restore Our Future: $752.3 million
  • (PBS’s annual budget – $530 million)
  • Total money raised by those super PACs: $661 million
  • Money given to conservative super PACs by the family of casino magnate Sheldon Adelson: $54 million
  • Money spent on negative ads attacking Romney: $295 million
  • Money spent on negative ads attacking Obama: $351 million
  • Number of super PAC donors who’ve given at least half a million dollars this cycle: 209
  • Number of political ads run to support or oppose either presidential candidate since June 1: 1,015,615

Regardless of which party you follow, some of these numbers are obscene.