Thursday, July 31, 2014

From Paris to Lodi

On Sunday July 27, I watched the final stage of the Tour de France. The race’s arrival in Paris, where they ride eight laps up and down the Champs-Elysées, around the Arch of Triumph, across the Place de la Concorde, down the Rue de Rivoli, by the Louvre and the Tuileries Gardens. Fabulous!

It’s a scientific fact: Paris is the world’s most beautiful city. When I lived there, my high school teacher Madame Louvain said so. At that time, I thought, “Oh sure, that’s what teachers tell their students in Omaha, in Shanghai and in  Saint Louis also. But now I realize that Madame Louvain was right. The matter  is not debatable.

My life’s trajectory has been as follows: From Paris, I moved to Amsterdam, then on to Minneapolis, and finally to Sacramento. A straight-line descent, no doubt about it. Will my next stop be Lodi - the town immortalized by Creedence Clearwater Revival?

I was fourteen  when my family and I  left the City of Lights. It was my parents’ decision to move. I cried. I spent my next ten years in Amsterdam, which is nothing to sneeze at either. It’s a fine, groovy town. Amsterdam really swings, but it ain’t  Paris. Read more...

Tuesday, July 29, 2014


by Moris Hoch

Maidentrip is a documentary film that follows Laura Dekker, a 15 year-old Dutch girl on her journey to sail the globe solo and become the youngest sailer ever to do so. We follow her story growing up in Holland, getting her sailing know-how from an early age, and everything else, including overcoming attempts by the government's "Children Protection" to put her in custodial care. What I found moving about this story is the depth of understanding that she expresses, speaking to the camera, during the trip while sharing her thoughts about herself, sailing, nature, and life.

In today's current affairs, on the daily TV or radio, we find non-stop reporting on violent conflicts in Ukraine, Nigeria, Israel-Palestine, Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq. There is no "most brutal and cruelest"; any one of these conflicts fits that description. Yet, to some extent, we accept it as necessary, albeit undesirable. The status quo remains thus forever, conflict without end; as if, for Ms. Dekker's trip, she would sail forever with no goal or destination or map. Read more...

Friday, July 25, 2014

Malaysia Airlines Flight 17: Different Reactions

The downing of Malaysia Airlines flight 17 upset me a lot since I come from Holland, and 192 of the 298 dead were Dutch. I have been e-mailing with people who knew several of the victims. The Netherlands is a small country. Proportionally, this death toll exceeds the 3000 Americans who died on 9/11. What a tragedy! Holland deserves our tears and our support. It is one of the most wonderful, progressive, talented, cultured, generous, tolerant and peace-loving countries on earth. I have often said that if the world were more like the Netherlands, it would be a much better place.

On this side of the Atlantic, there seems to be agreement as to who the bad guys are. They are the Russian-supported rebels who want to separate from Ukraine, along with Russia itself and Vladimir Putin. It seems that way, from most of what one reads in the MSM (mainstream media). It’s not just the Fox News warmongers, always salivating at the prospect of renewing the Cold War. I tend to trust most of what is written in the New York Times, so when I read about the circumstantial but pretty convincing evidence that the plane was shot down by the rebels using a Russian SAM (a “Buk”), assisted by Russians, I tend to accept this.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Do NO longer give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses

The recent flow of unaccompanied children entering the United States illegally has caused a strong reaction, in particular amongst conservatives. The fact that many of these children are fleeing some of the most violent countries on earth, Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala, countries where gang members infiltrate public schools and threaten kids to either join their ranks or be killed or raped, doesn't seem to rank high in the discussion.

Many of these children have family here, but they can not come legally, since those family members are undocumented themselves. About 60,000 children are now crossing the border, waiting to be sent to their relatives, or worse, waiting to be deported back to their country of origin.

There are two factors that people forget when they talk about this issue, the first being that children are not adults and they should not fall under the same legal rules. Unlike the United States, EU Member States, have ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, which establishes the best interests of the child as governing all major policies regarding the treatment of minors. Although the best-interests principle is part of US domestic family law, the concept is absent from U.S. immigration and refugee law. Read more...

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

The 2014 Janitors' Awards

This is a parody on The Crunchies, an industry award given out since 2008 to the Silicon Valley companies and their investors. Why and industry that already has everything, would want to lavish itself with such a ceremony, prompted me to write this spoof.

I just returned from the 2014 Janitors' Awards ceremony, held at the modest looking local 87 on Golden Gate Avenue in San Francisco. With record attendance, the event started off with a request for a one minute silence in memory of the late Thomas Crapper, leading manufacturer of flush toilets, which greatly contributed to the growth of the profession.

Representatives of the major janitorial categories were present, including Ms. Maria Gonzalez Ramirez, last year's winner of 'best kept restrooms' category.

The highlight of the evening was a video demonstration by Mr. Sanchez Rodrigo, whose video 'self-cleaning toilet defeat' has gone viral and has saved thousands of janitorial jobs, showing that the Swedish made self-cleaning toilet does not live up to its marketed standards. Mr. Sanchez did not make it to the finalists but received a $10,000 gift certificate as appreciation for his job saving efforts. You can watch the video here. Read more...

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Why We Should Boycott Hobby Lobby, Eden Foods and many other 'closely held companies'

In her novel The Handmaid's Tale, Margaret Atwood describes a fundamentalist Christian society where women are reduced to the sole purpose of reproducing. Science fiction, you say? Not so.

The Supreme Court's 5 to 4 decision to grant the for-profit company Hobby Lobby the right to deny their employees coverage for contraceptives on religious grounds is bringing us one step closer to such a future. A future, where corporations' religious rights weigh more than a woman's right to birth control and to control her own destiny.

Obama already made a huge concession by exempting churches and religious hospitals from offering health insurance that would cover contraceptives. But that wasn't going far enough for the religious right. It is now the law of the land that a secular, for-profit company can deny their employees access to birth control citing the Religious Freedom Restoration Act in their defense, an act that was meant to protect individuals, not corporations.

80 other employers have sued to challenge the Affordable Care Act's contraceptive coverage mandate and will point to the Hobby Lobby precedent to argue their case. The one that I will boycott is Eden Foods, the giant health food distributor whose products cram the shelves at my local Whole Foods market. You can go here to take action.

Here is John Oliver's hilarious spoof on the logical consequences of coporations being considered as people. If GM is truly a person, it should get the electric chair for all the people it killed, rather than a fine.

In all fairness, the Supreme Court is very divided on the issue of contraceptive coverage. The three female justices signed a dissent in a separate contraceptive case involving Wheaton College, who already has an exemption. All they needed to do is sign a form stating their objection and the insurer would provide the coverage directly. Read more...