Friday, April 28, 2017

Film Friday- Sarah’s Uncertain Path

by Nomad

Filmmakers Andrew Droz Palermo and his cousin Tracy Droz Tragos produced this 2014 vignette called Sarah’s Uncertain Path, documenting a low-income family in western Missouri.
We are introduced to Sarah, a pregnant Midwestern teen, who is struggling to beat the odds in a tragic family tradition.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Congress Demands Legal Justification for Trump's Syrian Missile Attack

by Nomad

Dear Mr. President

You might not have seen the joint press release from Congressman Adam Schiff and Senator Tim Kaine issued yesterday. It was in regards a letter they sent to the Trump administration concerning legal matters and the Syrian missile attack earlier this month.

An interesting letter it was, too.

Washington, DC Yesterday, Congressman Adam Schiff (D-CA), Ranking Member of the House Intelligence Committee, and Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA), a member of the Senate Armed Services and Senate Foreign Relations Committees, sent a letter to President Trump asking that he detail the legal basis for the strike against, which has yet to be provided to Congress and the American people.
Schiff and Kaine stated that a full understanding of the domestic and international legal basis for the strike is of great importance to Congress in exercising its constitutional responsibilities.

As the letter states, “By articulating a legal basis for military action, as well as laying out a strategic vision for such action, a president provides a justification for the use of the momentous power to commit American lives to a cause, but also an understanding of the limits of those powers.”
Both Schiff and Kaine believe that Bashar al-Assad must be held accountable for his atrocities and war crimes, but have argued that the missile strikes on the Syrian regime without congressional approval were unlawful.
The full text of the letter is below:

Monday, April 24, 2017

Trump and the Imminent Dangers of an "Oh, Never Mind" President

  by Nomad

Last week, The Washington Post featured an op-ed piece by Pulitzer Prize–winning conservative political commentator, George Will. Even though it always helps to be slightly inebriated before reading anything from the right, this piece which caught my ever-roaming eye.
It was entitled "The ‘Oh, Never Mind’ President." 

History’s Most Unprepared Candidate

From the outset, there's something you need to know. Mr. Will has made it perfectly clear that he's no great fan of Donald Trump. Back in June of last year, Will actually walked away from the Republican party due to his issues with the billionaire. 

And in November, Will called Trump's victory "a ruinous triumph for the GOP." Reading the following passage, the word "scathing" is one that immediately comes to mind.
The simultaneous sickness of both parties surely reveals a crisis of the U.S. regime. The GOP was easily captured, and then quickly normalized, by history’s most unpleasant and unprepared candidate, whose campaign was a Niagara of mendacities.
But there's another word to describe Will's thoughts. "Disingenuous."

Will seems to think Republican party was, until the marmalade Menace marched onstage, the party of common sense, and fiscal prudence. 

Naturally, Mr. Will is welcome to his historical re-writing, and Lord knows, the last 40 years of US politics has given scrubbers like him plenty of work. Still, Trump didn't start the mess but he is going to make it a lot worse very soon. 

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Nomadic Meditations on Earth Day 2017

  by Nomad

You are Here Earth

Today, April 22, 2017, is Earth Day, which marks the anniversary of the birth of the modern environmental movement in 1970.
In the 47 years that have passed, there have been triumphs and failures. It seems as though the spread of environmental awareness might not be a potent enough force against the tide of greed and ignorance and the pressures of mindless exploitation.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Good News Round-up: Three Inspiring Stories about Survival

by Nomad

For those of us who were born to care about the world, it's easy to find more than enough depressing things to think about. More than we deserve to see, I think. No doubt, it would be a lot easier to stop worrying and turn our backs the whole damn thing.
Well, I have tried but for some reason, as soon as the fatigue wears off, I keep coming back.
Still, today, at least, we can take a break from the gloom.

Survivor Named Peace

If you ever land in Istanbul while on your world adventures, be sure to look up the Red Cat Publishing House. Besides a lot of books and kind-hearted staff, you are likely to find the cat named Baris, (pronounced Bar-ish). It means Peace in Turkish.

He happens to be a minor celebrity at the moment even in a city famous for its love of stray cats.

Turkey Peace Cat

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Shared Values: VP Mike Pence's Shameless Human Rights Lies in Indonesia

by Nomad

Mike Pence

Proud to Partner

With all that's been going on lately, you might have missed this story. As part of his Asia tour, Vice-president Mike Pence made a stop in tropical Indonesia.
There, he gave praise to what he described as the world's most populous Muslim nation's Indonesia's democracy and moderate form of Islam. It has been held up- as Turkey once was- as the champion of "a more tolerant and moderate Islam."

Agreeing to boost cooperation between the two nations to fight terrorist extremism, Indonesian President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo welcomed Pence.
The vice president, according to the AP story, was there to reinforce traditional U.S. alliances at a time when Donald Trump's presidency has raised questions about the strength of the U.S. commitment to the region.

Pence said:
"As the second- and third-largest democracies in the world, our two countries share many common values including freedom, the rule of law, human rights and religious diversity. The United States is proud to partner with Indonesia. It promotes and protects these values."
Every American- whatever his politics- has a right to question Pence about which shared values he might be referring to. When you take a close look to the reports of independent human right organizations, Pence's claims look much worse than the typical hyperbolical gloss of honey-coated diplomacy.

It is, in fact, the worst kind of misrepresentation. It is also a shame for any nation that has once held itself as a champion and defender of human rights around the world.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Spiraling Out of Control: The Dangerous Fallacies of General Mattis

by Nomad

Contrary to what the Defense Secretary apparently believes, there's a lethal risk in basing American foreign policy on the belief that other nations will pull back from the brink.

Red Lines and Spirals

On April 11, 2017, Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis and General Joseph L. Votel, commander, U.S. Central Command held a press conference. It was a comparatively sedate and well-mannered meeting with the press. Mattis came across as a wise and disciplined type of leader, something solely lacking in the Trump administration.

However, there was an exchange that stood out for me and worth a bit more attention.
Q: Secretary Mattis, you're a student of history. You're a student of strategy. You've talked about red lines. The president has talked about red lines. The Russians have talked about red lines. At what point is there a danger of this spiraling out of control and to conflict between two nuclear-powered countries?

SEC. MATTIS: I don't believe I've talked about red lines. I generally shy away from it myself. I recommend Assad be rather cautious about violating international law with chemical weapons. I suppose that could be considered a red line. So I won't argue the point.
It will not spiral out of control. As you know, Secretary of State Tillerson is in Moscow. We maintain communications with the Russian military and with the diplomatic channels. It will not spiral out of control.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Sanity Sunday- Four by Souad Massi

by Nomad

As you know by now, the sources for our music for Sanity Sunday breaks are diverse. This week we turn to an Algerian singer of Berber descent, songwriter, and guitarist, Souad Massi.

One doesn't get much more eclectic than Massi. From her Wikipedia entry:
Massi's music, which prominently features the acoustic guitar, displays Western musical style influences such as rock, country or the Portuguese fado but sometimes incorporates oriental musical influences and oriental instruments like the oud as well as African musical stylings. Massi sings in Classical Arabic, Algerian Arabic, French, occasionally in English, and in the Berber language, Kabyle, often employing more than one language in the same song.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Shaltay Boltay: The Fall of Russia's Humpty-Dumpty

by Nomad

One of the stories that was, I think, under-reported in all of the ongoing Trump-induced chaos was the strange tale of the arrest of the Russian colonel. Here's some information on that mysterious event. 

The Arrest of the Colonel

In December 2016, one of Russia's top security officials was arrested and it was, by all accounts, an extremely dramatic event. During a meeting, officers grabbed him, putting a bag over his head before taking him away.The charge: high treason.

The accused, Colonel Sergey Mikhailov, was the former chief of the 2nd Operational Management of FSB Information Security Center (ISC).

At that time of the arrest, it was tempting to make some kind of connection between Russian interferences in last year's election and this arrest. The spate of mysterious deaths of Russian officials calls out for some explanation or theory about what's really going on behind the scenes.
However, the story of this particular event, based on the information which has emerged, could easily have been the subject of a Le Carre spy thriller.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Educating Tomi: Conservative Ranter Gets a Lesson in Free Speech

by Nomad

Last week, the Dallas Morning News reported that Ms. Tomi Lahren, right wing political ranter, has taken her former boss Glenn Beck (along with his media corporation) to court. 
She alleges that she was wrongfully terminated after comments she made about abortion during an appearance on The View.
The lawsuit claims that Lahren was “understandably disappointed, saddened and in shock for being suspended for freely expressing her opinions, which certainly reconcile with what is the law of the land in the United States i.e., a woman’s constitutional right to choose and in no way inconsistent with any of [Lahren’s] obligations under the Employment Contract.”
On March 26, 2017, news broke that Lahren had been fired and it seemed to be verified when it was announced that Tomi would no longer be appearing on TheBlaze. (Mr. Beck thinks removing a space between words makes him look more serious, I suppose, rather than a typographical carelessness.)  

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Sanity Sunday: Four by Glass Duo

by Nomad

For this Sunday's sanity break, I have chosen the husband-wife pair from Poland, Arkadiusz and Anna Szafraniec. This pair of unique musicians go by the name GlassDuo. They create hypnotically beautiful music using only their fingers and an elaborate arrangement of sparkling wine glasses.
Their bio states:
Some time ago, being charmed with the sound of musical glasses, they abandoned their places in the symphony orchestra in Gdansk and started to realize their own idea of performing.
Today they play the glass harp in duo and with other musicians as well. They've successfully performed with string quartets and various chamber ensembles.
GlassDuo have worked together with the majority of Polish orchestras including The Warsaw National Philharmonic Orchestra and Sinfonia Varsovia as well as with orchestras from outside Poland.
Their latest album, Glassified, is available on Itunes.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Uber and the Strange Case of the Russian Passenger

 by Nomad

Most of us, whether we have used the smartphone app or not, have heard of Uber.  However, there's a dark side of Uber that you might not know about.

Uber and the New Business Model

Launched in 2012, Uber provides an alternative to the traditional Yellow taxi and was hailed as the beginning of a more free-form type of business model.
In case you don't know, Uber is a kind of unique car-for-hire service with smartphone tech as its dispatch and fee manager. Drivers do not possess special licenses and use their personal vehicles at a discounted rate. Riders do not even need to pay in cash or tip the Uber driver.

Despite having its share of some serious birthing pangs, Uber has become a major success. Today Uber is in 377 major cities around the world. World travelers can expect to find Uber rides in more major cities.

The techie podcast, Reply All, recently investigated a baffling hitch related to Uber.  One of its customers was notified that he was being billed for Uber trips he had never made. More than once, Alex Blumberg's bank account was slapped with illegitimate service charges.
Somewhere, somehow, a Russian in Moscow was proving that there really is such a thing as a "free ride." Literally.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

The Wealthy Russians Who Call the United Kingdom Home

by Nomad

In a time when war-torn refugees coming to Europe and the UK are looked upon with skepticism, fear, and dread, there's been very little discussion of the economic migration of the wealthy class from Russia.

The Good Life and the Illusion of Safety

It's not what you'd call new news. In 2012, CNBC reported
Wealthy Russians are moving to London is such large numbers that local commentators have coined the term “Londongrad.” Roman Abramovich, the Russian multi-billionaire who owns the Chelsea Football Club is the highest-profile rich Russian in Britain, but he is only one of ten Russian billionaires living there, while an estimated 1,000 Russian millionaires now call London home.
The reasons for this exodus, according to attorneys and real-estate agents in London who deal with the Russian rich, is the attraction of the stability and the refined culture of London life.

But something else: the relative safety of not being poached by the mob or arrested by the police. As Reuters reported that same year.
Leaked secret diplomatic cables from the U.S. embassy in Moscow once described Russia as a "virtual mafia state", and London has long been the chosen destination for Russians seeking refuge from trouble at home.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Sanity Sunday- Four by Tom Rosenthal

by Nomad

Thirty-year-old British singer and composer Tom Rosenthal's self-description is plain and simple.
I live in London, have 2 young daughters, and I write songs. I've released 3 albums to date, and the 4th is coming in Spring 2017. Aside from the main albums, I've released a trilogy of EP's and one underrated Christmas single.
The first three videos I have chosen, for your listening pleasure,  provide us with a little poetry, haunting music backed by expansive, lush landscapes.