Archive for ‘Culture’

September 7, 2011

“Smoking Pot is my Civil Liberty”

by Vince Giordano

“I’m a hardworking, tax-paying, kid-raising, church-going citizen of this country,” say author and PBS travel host Rick Steves, “and if I work hard all day long and want to go home and relax with a joint, that is my civil liberty.”

September 6, 2011


by Vince Giordano

Infographic found here. A history of Labor Day below:

In 1884, when President Grover Cleveland signed the bill making Labor Day a national holiday on the first Monday in September, he and its sponsors intended it not as a celebration of leisure but as a promotion of the great American work ethic. Work, they believed, was the highest calling in life, and Labor Day was a reminder to get back to it. It was placed at the end of summer to declare an end to the season of indolence, and also to distance it from May Day, the spring event that had become a symbol of the radical labor movement.

August 31, 2011

How Do You Spell “Deposed Crazy Dictator?”

by Vince Giordano

Have you ever seen numerous spellings for the name of the fading leader of Libya?

In Arabic, Qadhafi’s name is spelled القذافي which if you drop the article, means
ق – ذ – ا – ف – ي or q – dh – a – f – i. The “q” letter is almost unique to Arabic (sometimes called “the language of the qaf” — sorry, it’s the language of the dhad, not qaf!) and often transliterated as a “k”, since its pronounciation can be difficult for non-Arabic speakers.

It is standard in classical Arabic and places like Fes in northern Morocco, but northern Egyptians, urban Syrians and others often pronounce this letter as a glottal stop, while southern Egyptians and Bedouins most often pronounce as a “g”, as in “go”. (This is why in Syria upscale Damascenes call the regime “the government of the Qaf”, because pronouncing the letter is a country bumpkin thing to do, and Eastern Sunnis and Alawites — long dominant in the regime — often do it). Hence you see Qadhafi, Kadhafi or Gadhafi. The “dh” sound also has no equivalent in many languages as a standalone letter, and to top it off is made emphatic by a shedda — a kind of accent that indicates the letter should be doubled, which is why academics use the unwieldy “Qadhdhafi.” And the “dh” is often not pronounced as such — in most colloquial Arabics, it is pronounced “d”. I’m not sure why it might be pronounced “th”, but perhaps this was used in Qadhafi’s passport because it is close to the English sound in “the”, which sounds very much like “dh”.

H/T: The Dish

August 28, 2011

The Fear of Multiculturalism

by Vince Giordano

This reader of the Dish echoes my grandmother’s fears and anxieties (she is from England but lives in America):

I loved your essay on your return to Britain after so long an absence. But I found it wistfully influenced by American optimism. I have had a different experience going back to England. I should admit up front that I am American but lived there for a decade and am married to a Brit. What I think that you got completely wrong was the sense of settled, accepted multiculturalism. Sure, in London you encounter many cultures mixing like you get in other great melting pot cities like New York. However, outside of London there is paranoia and resentment over that multiculturalism.

My husband’s family are almost all in Devon and Cornwall. We visited them last year, and we also visited friends in London and in the North of England. We found that outside of London our family, our friends, the locals at the pub, or the random person you have a conversation with at the grocery store are all under the impression that England is losing its identity as a result of massive numbers of immigrants. In Devon and Cornwall, I did not see a single non-white, non-English looking person the entire two weeks we were there. This is not hyperbole. Outside of London in general, I almost never saw anyone who wasn’t white, yet they have the panicked impression that they are being taken over from within.

There were many conversations among the people we encountered about the immigrant problem the country is having. It gets brought up unprompted and seems to be weighing heavily on their minds. They felt that they were all coming to England because they are “softer” than most other countries in the world and give out the most generous benefits. All immigrants were coming there to sponge off their generosity and they were taking over (despite none living anywhere near them). I pointed out that in America, immigration is what keeps the country a vibrant, innovative nation and the immigrants on the whole come there to build a better life so they are hard working and actually improve our economy. Countries with aging populations who don’t have good immigration have looming economic problems as a result of not being more inclusive.

They would have none of this American nonsense. Financial benefits (which they didn’t believe anyway) would be secondary to the cultural crisis being caused by immigrants who refuse to give up their old culture and become British. They believe they refuse to fit in and that they brought crime to the areas they live in. So, if they don’t ever actually see any immigrants down in Devon and Cornwall, where do they get these very strong, unbending opinions about them? My only conclusion is from the tabloid newspapers

Then we spent time in London and reveled in the diversity and the sense that no matter where you were from, you could be a Londoner. London was far more diverse than Los Angeles (where I now live) and all the more vibrant and interesting for it.

I’m glad you really enjoyed your visit and I agree that the North/South divide seems to have softened and to some extent the class divide has as well. Accents aren’t used against you quite as much (although an American accent will still get you down-graded in standing). I love so many of the same things that you do about the gentleness and world-weary wisdom of the place. Now that you can go back whenever you like, perhaps the rose-tinted glasses will come off a little more or subsequent trips, although that would be a shame.

August 25, 2011

Stop Motion Within a Stop Motion

by Vince Giordano

From Israel:

July 30, 2011

National Sport of the Day

by Vince Giordano

The photo caption says it all:

Horsemen take part in a Kok-boru, or goat dragging, competition as they attend a festival of Kyrgyz folklore and popular traditions near the Son-Kul lake, on July 21, 2011. Considered Kyrgyzstan’s national sport, Kok-boru is a traditional Central Asian game where players grab a goat carcass from the ground while riding their horses and try to score by placing it in their opponent’s goal.(Reuters/Vladimir Pirogov)

More awesome, interesting, beautiful, and desktop wallpaper photos here.

July 29, 2011

Are Recessions All That Bad?

by Vince Giordano

As I read over Ezra Klein’s post that described the recovery-less recovery (more found here), a few words and phrases stuck out to me.

As Wolfers suggests, these numbers solve the mystery in the labor market. This isn’t about confidence or uncertainty or regulations or any of the other bankshot explanations we’ve been using to explain why unemployment seems stuck even as the economy rebounds. The economy isn’t rebounding. Demand isn’t returning. And without demand, there can’t be jobs.

Emphasis from here on out is from me. In terms of demand, is it all that bad for a country to scale back it’s purchases, it’s expenditures, and possibly live more within their means? Banks, for one, are not giving out loans as easily. I found this out over the past week. With a proposed deal I negotiated with Wells Fargo, I would of been facing a 40% mortgage payment to income ratio. The banks today want that ratio to be between 20% and 30%. Five years ago, I could have easily gotten a loan with a 40% ratio. I speak on this based on friends and family who have in fact received loans before the Great Recession with roughly 40% ratios. Banks are being more careful, people are not selling because the housing bubble has burst, and those willing to make moves have to cross their t’s and dot their i’s to prove that they truly will make x in a given year, not just think or hope they will.

Meanwhile, we’re in an economic crisis in which the main problem is too little spending.

Cutting spending and budgets in a recession does hurt an economy but, again, too little spending is not inherently bad. If anything, this Great Recession has helped us feel the purchases we make (credit cards numb the feeling of purchases. We do not see the actual money come out of our wallets or purses but only flash a piece of plastic. We delay this feeling from hitting us until later on).

I stand by less spending and lower demand as good signs for simplicity and understanding our behaviors. Whether these signals are actually making cognitive connections with fellow Americans, I cannot say for sure.

One final note: yes, over 9% unemployment nationwide (with that 2-3x the case for minorities – cry me a river white America) is bad. I will not deny that reality.

July 5, 2011

A Profile in Stupidity

by cpmy3rs

Eastern Michigan University has a problem. A former student who felt that her Christian faith prevented her from providing counseling services to a gay male student who sought them was removed from the program and subsequently sued. Although the Federal Courts which have heard the matter thus far have ruled in favor of EMU, a bipartisan team of legislators are fighting to allow future Julea Ward’s the right to discriminate against whoever they wish — without having to worry about pesky institutional sanctions — so long as counseling that individual ran contrary to a “sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction.”

Now, this concern for the moral conscience of college students is admirable. There are, however, a number of questions which it raises. The one of the most import, however, is about the role that an individual’s personal faith should be allowed to play when they are crafting legislation for the public. It is therefore worth observing the exchange that State Senator Hunter, who is black, had with reporters following the unveiling of the legislation:

Asked if a white nationalist who was an adherent of a brand of Christianity called Christian Identity would be allowed to invoke their sincerely held religious beliefs to refuse to counsel a person of color, Hunter replied, “No. That is where I draw the line.

“You pose a scenario that some one could suggest that’s like being discriminated against because of sexuality,” said Hunter. “When I believe that there is a moral value, what I believe, that is one thing. To say that, you know, that sexuality is on the same level as an issue of racism, that is a debate we need to have.”

Hunter said the Bible prohibits homosexual activity but does not support racism. Asked if under his scenario he weren’t setting universities and colleges up to be the arbitrators of which religious values were and were not valid, Hunter said, “No.”

As we can see, when individuals legislate based on their personal moral sentiments rather than on the merits of an individual issue, we obtain some rather absurd arguments based on nothing but self-interest. If the principle at stake is the right of individuals to make moral judgments about the activities of their peers based on their personal understanding of their own religion, then why isn’t our principled State Senator on the side of the bigots who are bigoted against him? Is it, perhaps, because in his own heart he shares their sentiments?

This is not to say that public policy debates should entertain the sort of laissez-faire moral relativism of which many of the secular persuasion are so frequently accused. It is rather to assert that, when making policy in the public sphere, an individual is required — for the sake of the legitimacy of the system — to make arguments which are more satisfying than “because my Bible/Qur’an/Talmud/etc told me so.” This is for a simple reason: Legislation concerns a great number of individuals who hold contrary theological beliefs. These individuals are also a part of the polity. To alienate them from its laws is to assert that, rather than governing based on the rights of citizens, the government has the right to govern based on the simple right of power alone. I can hardly think of a more unAmerican principle.

June 22, 2011

How Free Is Your State?

by Vince Giordano

Reason conducted an interview with Political scientists Jason Sorens (University at Buffalo) and William P Ruger (Texas State). How they measured which states were more or less free was through looking at everything from drug policy to civil union statutes to business regulations and tax rates. Essentially, they ranke each state across multiple dimensions (personal, social, and economic issues). A general sum of what they found:

At the top of the list are a lot of states where almost nobody lives and at the bottom are states where just about everybody lives.

June 6, 2011

Sarah Palin in 2012

by Vince Giordano

Sarah Palin gets the same treatment from me as Rick Santorum: she is a divider who plays us versus them, black and white scenarios out in politics, religion, and culture. It is somewhat scary to think about that on a world scale instead of just in Wasilla.

Lexington gives her the benefit of the doubt in the face of poll numbers having her behind Obama by 20 points:

Polls suggest that Barack Obama would trounce her by almost 20 percentage points (Mr Romney trails the president by less than 7%). So it is not only her immediate rivals but also the Republican establishment who have cause to worry. What if she is another Barry Goldwater, who wowed the right but led the Republicans to a crushing defeat by Lyndon Johnson in 1964?

The trouble is that Mrs Palin is not the sort to step aside just because people tell her she cannot win. She thrives on rejection. Twitting intellectuals and the “lamestream” media is part of her brand. She harbours a grudge against the Republican “blue-bloods” who blame her for Mr McCain’s failure to beat Mr Obama in 2008, and would love to prove them wrong. She may not be able to win the presidency herself, but so long as she stays in the headlines, hinting at a run, she makes the party’s sobersides look dull by comparison. For them, the phenomenon from Alaska has gradually mutated into the problem from hell.

June 5, 2011

America is Exceptional and Hypocritical

by Vince Giordano

The first point is a horse beaten to death. Get your fill in the “sermon” by Tim Pawlenty above.

As for the second point, this deals not with politics but with agricultural work. I read this article in a different lens after working on the farm the past week. I have grown up working hard with my dad (who has been a landscaper for 30 years), with my Boy Scout troop creating 13+ feet high campfires and completing maintenance tasks, and now pulling out malta flora rose bushes that are entangled with vines overgrown for the past 10 years.

I take back my part about politics being out of this topic. It is at the center of it. Barack Obama is taking action by requiring all ag workers to be cleared as U.S. citizens before they can work. This sounds pragmatic, but troubling for a few sectors. 80% of the labor force in the ag field is made up of illegal immigrants.  An easy response to that glaring labor need is to hire Americans. The ironic point in all of this is that for as exceptional and great America is, how far advanced, smug, and pompous we are, we (to some large degree) refuse to do this kind of available work:

“We are headed toward a train wreck,” said Rep. Zoe Lofgren, a California Democrat whose district includes agriculture-rich areas. “The stepped up (workplace) enforcement has brought this to a head.”

Lofgren said farmers are worried that their work force is about to disappear. They say they want to hire legal workers and U.S. citizens, but that it’s nearly impossible, given the relatively low wages and back-breaking work.

“Few citizens express interest, in large part because this is hard, tough work,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsak said this past week. “Our broken immigration system offers little hope for producers to do the right thing.”

Arturo S. Rodriguez, president of United Farm Workers, said migrant farm workers are exposed to blistering heat with little or no shade and few water breaks. It’s skilled work, he said, requiring produce pickers to be exact and quick. While the best mushroom pickers can earn about $35,000 to $40,000 a year for piece work, there’s little chance for a good living and American workers don’t seem interested in farm jobs.

“It is extremely difficult, hard, dangerous work,” Rodriguez said.

Last year Rodriguez’s group started the “Take Our Jobs” campaign to entice American workers to take the fields. He said of about 86,000 inquiries the group got about the offer, only 11 workers took jobs.

“That really was thought up by farm workers trying to figure out what is it we needed to do to show that we are not trying to take away anyone’s job,” Rodriguez said.

Several times in those sections Americans are hinted to be unwilling to take some of these available jobs. If such a glaring gap in inquiry and taking a job (86,000 inquiries the group got about the offer, only 11 workers took jobs) is present, can anyone then blame the President and the crummy economy and not their own unemployed self?

Straying away from open jobs has pushed our country to strongly desire comfy, cozy work and benefits that are unsustainable in the long term.Yes, this may be a larger problem in the educational sector than many other jobs, but much of our IT work has too been outsourced.

America the great. America the exceptional. Figure this out (along with our huge prison issue) or continue to sound hypocritical.

June 4, 2011

50 State Stereotypes

by Vince Giordano

in 2 minutes.

May 31, 2011

Criminal / Drug War Links

by Vince Giordano
  • Above, Major Neil Franklin, a retired Police Officer, speaks at Riverside Church in Harlem (NYC) on the impacts the war on drugs has on people of color.
  • Miami police officers caught people taping them recklessly shoot up a car and took their phones and broke them on the ground.
  • A slew of celebs are petitioning the United Nations to end the war on drugs.
May 31, 2011

Picture of the Day III

by Vince Giordano

GOOD magazine has a slideshow of pictures depicting America’s relationship with food.

May 31, 2011

America’s Fittest Cities

by Vince Giordano

Surprisingly are 1) mostly in cold regions of the country and unsurprisingly 2) correlated with income, wealth, and innovation. Richard Florida explains:

The fittest metro in America is Minneapolis-St. Paul, according to the annualAmerican Fitness Index™ (AFI), just released by the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM). The Twin Cities finished third last year; this year they pushed perennial winner Washington, DC into second place. Their winning rank reflects the cities’ relatively low (and rapidly-diminishing) smoking rate, their above-average percentage of regular exercisers, moderate-to-low rates of obesity, asthma, diabetes, and other chronic concerns, and rising share of farmers’ markets (indicative of a trend towards healthier dining). Boston takes the bronze, with Portland, Oregon fourth and Denver in fifth place. At the opposite end of the spectrum, Oklahoma City ranks as America’s least fit metro, followed by Louisville, Memphis, Birmingham, and Detroit.

Many people think fitness is better in warmer locations. Not so much. Each of the top five metros is pretty chilly, and the top ranked Twin Cities are among the coldest locations in the United States–certainly compared to warm and sunny LA, which languishes in 41st place. Our analysis found no correlation between fitness and January temp and a negative correlation between fitness and July temperature (-.49).

Money quote:

From The Biggest Loser to Oprah’s documented struggles with her weight, fitness is a signal obsession of American popular culture. We suffer from no dearth of health, fitness, and nutritional experts; celebrities, politicians, and even first ladies exhort us to eat better, exercise more, and get fit. But we need to face up to the fact that healthy or unhealthy lifestyles are not simply the result of good or bad individual decisions. They are inextricably tied up with the nature and structure of our culture and society. America’s increasingly uneven geography of fitness is perhaps the most visible symbol of its fundamental economic and class divide.

May 26, 2011

How America Views It’s Moral Path

by Vince Giordano

has gone up in a positive light and gone down in a negative light:

This is somewhat surprising, considering the right-wing lamentations. But then again, that is only a slice of the pie that is growing in its polarization and being somewhat overshadowed by the rising 20-30s generations.

Also worth noting, these changes in perception follow political lines. No surprise there:

The change in public perceptions about the nation’s morals has come mostly from Democrats. Fifty-two percent of Democrats have a negative view of moral values, down from 65% in 2010. Democrats’ views of morality in the United States have changed direction several times in the past four years — their negativity rose to 77% in 2008, and then turned sharply less negative in 2009, coincident with Democrat Barack Obama’s taking office as president, but increased again in 2010.

Independents also became less negative about morals this year, while Republicans’ views did not change and, as such, remain mostly negative.

May 26, 2011

“People are more interested in Apocalypse Now than the Holy Ghost”

by Vince Giordano

So said Bob Dylan in April of 1980:



Dear Steve —

We are up in Toronto singing and playing for about 3000 people a night in a downtown theatre — the Spirit of the Lord is calling people here in this beautiful and clean city but they are more interested in lining up for Apocalypse Now than to be baptized and filled with the Holy Ghost —

Wanna thank you for that Bible as it is helpful in discerning a few phrases from and shedding some light on what the King James version reads —

God will lift up your head as you begin to realize that “… He thru Christ has reconsiled man unto Himself” (II Corinthians) You are in basic training and bootcamp and I thank God you are and your commitment runs deep and you will be used to minister and break the hold of darkness on those you become face to face with — “Study to show thyself approved”

You will be strong in the land and seeing that looks are deceiving, you will work miracles that way — He has called you to be a saint and your responsibility is to Him and Him alone —

Be praying and not look back no more — press on toward what is ahead — I send love to you and will pray for strength and more strength for you — Always

In the name of Jesus Christ
Son of God, manifest in the flesh

Bob Dylan

May 24, 2011

Waning Support For Anti-Same-Sex Marriage Views

by Vince Giordano

“We’re losing on that one, especially among the 20- and 30-somethings: 65 to 70 percent of them favor same-sex marriage. I don’t know if that’s going to change with a little more age—demographers would say probably not. We’ve probably lost that,” – Jim Daly, president and CEO of Focus on the Family.

In part, I am looking forward to what my generation brings to the table as it grows and progresses. I know, however, that there will be downsides to my generation and everything will not be great with this “more open” mentality.

May 23, 2011

A Spoiled, Technocratic Generation

by Vince Giordano

Louis CK and Conan O’Brien expound:

May 14, 2011

A&F Invades Paris

by Vince Giordano