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Adventures in China: A Photographic Essay, Part I

During the last nine days of July, 2015, my girlfriend Nina and I went on our first “an adventure of lifetime” trip to China. Now that her kids are grown up and out of the house, and we both near fifty years of age, it’s time for both of us to truly enjoy our lives.

Last year, we set out to go on as many “adventures of a lifetime” as possible. Since we both have previously traveled to parts of Europe and throughout the Americas, we decided to go somewhere exotic, somewhere completely foreign to us.

After watching a PBS Nova program on the Terracotta Warriors a few years back, I knew I would have to go see them for myself one day. And so, China seemed like an obvious first choice my big adventure. Nina easily agreed. And so our adventure began.

The following is a photographic essay of our travels.  In Part I, I will cover a couple major attractions in the nation’s capital, Beijing. I’ll also share some of the wonders of Beijing evening street life. In Part II, I will take you with me to see the Terracotta Warriors and visit a few temples and parks.  I hope this collection of pictures will help readers appreciate the great beauty offered by a nation that often seems so foreign to most Americans…like myself.

(Nina and I on the Great Wall)

Ever wonder what it would be like to wander the streets of the Forbidden City? Built in 1420 by the Ming dynasty, this place in nearly unimaginable. Within the walls there are 980 buildings covering 180 acres. Construction of the city took 14 years and more than one million workers. An entire day can easily sweep by without seeing all the buildings, let alone what is inside them.

(Just inside the main Meridian Gate of the Forbidden City)
One of the first things a visitor will notice about the Forbidden City are the seemingly endless large courtyards throughout the city. There are actually three main courts and at least six smaller flanking courts.
For nearly 500 years, the Forbidden City served as the emperor’s home and was the ceremonial and political center of the Chinese government.
Touching the dragon is believed to bring good fortunes in the coming year.
One interesting and curious feature of the imperial garden within the Forbidden City is the large and small rock formations and statues. Caves are carved into some. Accessible by stairs carved into the rock, a small temple sits atop one such rock formation.

Tall walls divide parts of the city to keep visitors, government officials, family, eunuchs, and concubines apart.
The Northwest corner tower with moat.

One thing universal, no matter where you travel, parents want pictures of their children.

Just outside the walls of the Forbidden City are the buildings representing the new center of political power. Tiananmen Square. The towering walls of the Forbidden City on the north side of the square, the Great Hall of People, the National Museum of China, and the Chairman Mao Zedong Memorial Hall tower around the massive square (the fourth largest public square in the world). Huge monuments to the “heroes of the (1949) revolution” are located near Mao’s mausoleum.

Across from the square, the Chinese army stand guard and raise the flag in front of the out wall of the Forbidden City.

The Great Hall of People is primarily used legislative and ceremonial activities by the Communist Party of China. The Chinese parliament, or the National People’s Congress, uses this building when in full session.  The Great Hall is also used for special political events, anniversaries, and memorial services.


The Monument of the People’s Heroes located nearly in the center of the square.

The National Museum of China. The museum is said to house a collection of art, “covering Chinese history from the Yuanmou Man of 1.7 million years ago to the end of the Qing Dynasty (the last imperial dynasty), has a permanent collection of 1,050,000 items,[5] with many precious and rare artifacts not to be found in museums anywhere else in China or the rest of the world.” I missed touring the museum this time, however, next time I’m in Beijing, I plan on going inside.
Sporting an Expats Post t-shirt, I pose in front of Mao’s Mausoleum. Undoubtedly the main event at Tiananmen Square.  Extremely long lines formed in front of the building over an hour before it opened and continued throughout the day. Inside, two lines four people wide moved quickly past the crystal coffin contained their beloved Chairman Mao Zedong’s embalmed corpse. Nina and I decided to skip that tour.

Perhaps our visit to China was not during the most apropos time of the year.  Spring and fall are commonly considered the best times of the year. While we were there, we learned the months of July and August are commonly called “The Great Heat”.

In the evening, the Chinese people come out in mass. As the temperatures cool, street vendors open up their carts and kiosks for business as pedestrians, rickshaws, and electric motorbikes crowd up the streets and narrow alley ways.

One evening, Nina and I explored an alleyway off Dongdan Dong street. The Dongdan district is very affluent and would feel very familiar to most western tourists. However, one peak into the an alleyway and a whole new world opens up.
Common street food included deep fried snakes, grasshoppers, rats, and scorpions served on wooden skewers.


One evening, we stumbled on a bit of street theater.

Along with her floating moves, this performer entertained us with mesmerizing and somewhat haunting vocals


Sweetened bean curd on Chinese bread.


Muslim food vendors offering meat skewers and pounding out taffy.

Lakeside strolls in the Xicheng district in Beijing.

Rickshaw rides around the lakes.

Commercial shops in the Quinman district.

Qianman district, across from the Front Gate of Tiananman Square.

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News Flash: Opposing Israeli Policies is Not the Same as Opposing God

shrinking_map_palestine_two_state_solution1

This week, Republican extremist Dr. Laurie Roth wrote on the right-wing blog site Barbwire.com, “Anyone or anything connected with the God of the Holy Bible will be attacked and bypassed by Obama and his progressive robots…Obama is most certainly against Netanyahu because he represents the Jews and Israel and won’t be intimidated into giving away more land…”

News Flash: Opposing Netanyahu and Israeli policies is not the same as opposing Jews, Israel, the Holy Bible, or God. Since when did unquestioning loyalty to a foreign government become patriotic or righteous?  And what land has Israel given away? Above is a map that shows how Israel’s illegal settlements have been systematically stealing land from the Palestinians.

Pro-Israeli propagandist have long pushed these myths in a few different variations. The most common attack by the right-wingers is just to claim that those that opposed to Israeli policies are opposing the God and Jews and therefore anti-Semitic.

Jewish Israeli scholar Norman Finkelstein’s book, Beyond Chutzpah: On the Misuse of Anti-Semitism and the Abuse of History, documents the pro-Israeli right-wing extremist campaign to redefine the word “anti-Semitism” in a way that would label anyone that disagreed with them as an unholy bigot. Finkelstein writes, “Practically, this meant pinning the epithet “anti-semitic” on domestic challenges to Jewish class privilege and political power as well as on global challenges to Israeli hegemony.”

From a humanitarian and human rights perspective, there is plenty of reasons to oppose the Israeli governments settlement policies. First, there is the obvious and well known fact that the Israeli settlements are illegal Israeli settlements are illegal and in violation of international law. Second, accord to U.N. reports on settler violence that monitor the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, Israeli settlers have indiscriminately attack Palestinians and their property on a daily bases.  And the situation is only getting worse.

The United Nations Human Rights Office of High Commission writes, “Comparing figures recorded during the same period (January to August) in previous years, since 2009, the number of settler-related incidents resulting in casualties has more than doubled, and the number of casualties caused by settlers has increased by 30%; whilst the number of settler-related incidents resulting in property damage has more than tripled, and the number of trees destroyed or damaged has increased almost four-fold.”

Other reasons to oppose Israel’s settlement policies would be you oppose ethnic cleansing, collective punishment, and a long list of other  crimes against humanity. Why would God want you to support such horrific acts?

Palestinian+Sunset

In reality, it is simply flat out lie to suggest opposing Israel’s right-wing extremist Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Israel’s human rights violations is in any way anti-Semitic, anti-Israel, or anti-God. Just ask your American Jewish friends if they unconditionally support Israel and Netanyahu. If you think they all love Netanyahu and support Israel’s illegal settlements you might be surprised at the polling data.

According to prominent Israeli newspaper  Haaretz, “American Jews overwhelmingly reject settlements; Netanyahu’s government aggressively promotes settlement expansion. Even during the last round of talks with the Palestinian Authority, Netanyahu refused to halt or curtail settlement expansion, consistently humiliating American mediators…American Jews are serious about giving diplomacy with Iran a chance; Netanyahu has consistently denigrated the Iran talks and seems determined to prevent and undermine any deal that Iran might accept…Most crucially, American Jews overwhelmingly favor a two-state solution; Netanyahu has made it clear that he is unwilling to make the necessary compromises to bring it about…”

New Flash: You can oppose Israel’s illegal and immoral settlement policies and still support Israel’s right to exist within it’s legal borders. You can love God, advocate for human rights, support the rule of law, and still oppose Netanyahu’s war mongering and creeping campaign to wipe the Palestinians off the map.

To learn more and to take action consider joining the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement.

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Witch

I woke to the smell of sage.

She was holding the air. She danced

above the flowers and defied gravity.

I grabbed one of Saturn’s rings,

In order to give her a gift worthy,

Of a soaring witch capturing the ozone.

She lifts trees out of the earth,

And plants them on the moon.

Astonishingly, she inspires foliage,

To flourish in the harsh vacuum of space.

If this is a dream don’t wake me.

I’d rather be a floating particle,

Swimming in the caverns of her breath,

Than a rotting corpse robbed of love.

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Another Dead Bush

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I knew it was over when the rose bush died.

Symbolic of the parched times we shared.

Ironically, we dried up during in the rainy season.

 

It was sad to see what was once moist,

And untiring evaporate into an impoverished shrub,

Pleading to be dug up and composted.

 

I have died a thousand times with a thousand,

Different mitts around my neck. Yet, I refuse,

To pull the skin over my eyes and hide from love.

 

Tomorrow another radiant woman will unfold,

And place her tiny fingers over my lips,

Whispering a new song to my bed and garden.

 

And we will plant azaleas and golden apples,

While breathing-in the cool Pacific breeze.

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Don’t Blame the Cops

Santa Rosa shooting JOHN BURGESS

I’m going to be the least popular person in this debate. I’ve already being criticized by my Facebook friends on both the political left and right. Of course both the far right and the far left have a deeply rooted distrust in the government. That is especially true of law enforcement.

This past week we have seen a string of horrific killings committed by armed gunman and kids.

On Monday, October 21, 2013, a 12-year-old student armed with a handgun opened fire at his Nevada middle school killing his math teacher and critically wounding two of his classmate before shooting himself in the head.

On Tuesday, October 22, 2013, a 14-year-old high school student was arrested in Massachusetts. He was charged with the beating death of his math teacher and hiding her body in the woods.

On Wednesday, October 23, 2013, a member of the National Guard opened fire in Tennessee at an armory just outside a U.S. Navy base, wounding two soldiers.

Also on Tuesday, not far from my own home, in Santa Rosa, California, Andy Lopez, a 13-year-old carrying toy gun was shot and killed by a veteran Sonoma County deputy.

According to local papers the teenage boy was carrying an airsoft BB gun that resembled an AK-47. I live with my girlfriend and her two boys. One is 16-years-old and the other just turned 18-years-old. The oldest one just purchased his first real firearm.

He also owns two airsoft toy guns. One looks like a hunting rifle and the other AK-47. Both of the toy guns have bright red tips on them.

According the reports, Andy Lopez’s gun did not have the red tip on it. Without the red tip, the gun Lopez was carrying looks very similar to an actual AK-47. So my first question is, why do we allow toy manufactures to make BB guns that look like actual firearms in which the red tip can be easily taken off? Is the toy manufacture somewhat liable for this dangerous “toy”?

Second, it was reported that Andy Lopez’s BB gun was actually his friends. Are the parents that purchase such products responsible for how their children play with such toys? Of course when kids do stupid things parents can be held libel.

Most of my friends want to point the blame squarely on the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Department. A large and rowdy protest at Sonoma County Sheriff’s offices took place yesterday. Protesters shouted and held up signs that read, “No justice, no peace”, “A badge is not a license to kill”, and “He should have known. He is a sheriff. He should have known that it was fake”.

Reports indicate when the sheriffs saw Lopez walking down the street with the weapon they pulled their patrol car over, opened the doors to provide themselves protection, and several times ordered Lopez to put the gun. At which point Lopez swung around and pointed the barrel of the AK-47 looking gun in the direction of the sheriffs.

Multiple experts point out, the veteran sheriff was following protocol widely used by law enforcement agencies nationwide.

Everyone agrees Andy Lopez’s death was a horrible accident. However, folks and both the far left and far right have been quick to immediately assign blame on the sheriff. I’m not going there. I reserve the right to change my mind. I’ll wait to read the results from both the local and federal investigation into the matter before I draw any conclusions on the sheriff’s conduct.

If you don’t trust the police or any government official in general, then it is easy to quickly attack the sheriff and the entire U.S. law enforcement apparatus. It just fits in nicely with a political ideological narrative that must be maintained at all costs. However, in the case of the tragic death of Andy Lopez I believe it is just too easy and early to blame the cops.

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Historical Stupidity by NRA Supporters

hitler-gun-control425x320

It should surprise no one that reads my articles when I say I get hateful attack messages, emails, and comments from rightwing nutcases on a regular basses. After all, I often write despairingly about political extremists, especially Teabaggers. However, the Teabaggers and radical rightwing deserve national scorn. They have been shown at times to be racist, homophobic, bigoted, pathologically lying fear mongers. They have mocked disabled people at town-hall meetings and spit on politicians. Additionally, they routinely threaten liberals, progressives, and minorities with violence.

I’ve documented all of these behaviors in numerous articles the past. As far as I am concerned, Tea Party members are some of the most despicable characters participating in American politics today.

Earlier this week, I posted an article pointing-out key facts the NRA doesn’t want Americans to know. As is normal practice for me, my research and cited sources included non-partisan fact-checking sites like Politifact.com, non-partisan political watchdog organizations like OpenSecrets.org, and authoritative studies, including one by the American Public Health Association.

In spite of the research and links provided in the article, after posting I once again was almost immediately (and predictably) called a “liar”. Typically, if a rightwinger wants to attack me on a comment thread I will leave it up. The other day, I received a couple similar attacks including this most common rightwing NRA propagandist comment from MikeN. This response is so common, (Hitler and all) that I thought I would finally address it point by point in an article.

So, here is MikeN’s comment to my pervious article:

MikeN: “One lie after another. Want an unbiased report on gun violence? Read the report that Obama himself ordered the CDC to conduct. He did not like the results so the report has been given no publicity by the Obama-loving media. The author of this blog is obviously a left wing radical as evidenced by HIS hateful rhetoric and characterizations of conservative groups. Nowhere in the world has gun banning and confiscation led to decreased crime. It HAS however, led to murderous dictators slaughtering their own people to rise to and keep power. That has been demonstrated many times over throughout history. Just look to the likes of Hitler, Stalin, Castro, Pol Pot, Amin, and too many others to fit in this column. Read the CDC (a non- biased government agency) then we can talk about guns and violence.”

I’m not sure if MikeN actually read my article? Had he read my article he would have discovered I wrote about the NRA working for nearly two decades to cut-off funding for the CDC and other government agencies doing research on gun violence. I pointed-out that in April of this year President Obama ended the spending freeze. Now the CDC has released its first report.

In his comment to me, MikeN makes the same mistake CNN’s Crossfire host S.E. Cupp made. According to Politifact.com , “Cupp (and the majority of the rightwing mainstream media) exaggerated the findings of the CDC report, which merely rounded up studies as it argued for more and better research. In most cases, the report was intended to spur more research, not settle controversial claims once and for all.”

S.E. Cupp and MikeN want to pretend like the CDC report states gun control policies don’t work. When in fact, the report states we don’t have enough data to make a determination on what policies work and which ones don’t seem to have a positive effect in reducing gun violence. That’s a very big difference from the intentionally misleading rhetoric coming from the pro-NRA propagandists.

In fact, if anything the CDC report, which MikeN suggests we read (and “then we can talk about guns and violence”) repeatedly supports the point I make in my pervious article. By cutting-off CDC funding the NRA’s paid legislators left our nation woefully lacking vital information about gun violence.

According to this new CDC report, “Whether gun restrictions reduce firearm-related violence is an unresolved issue…A paucity of reliable and valid data, as discussed in the sections above, is a major barrier to the development of the most effective policies, strategies, and interventions for prevention of firearm violence…Nonetheless, many interventions have been developed and studied, and they point to areas requiring important additional research.”

Yep, what the CDC report actually states is that (thanks to the NRA and their paid-off legislators) there is an astonishing dearth of information on gun violence and gun control policies in the U.S.

MikeN goes on, “Nowhere in the world has gun banning and confiscation led to decreased crime”.

However, whether gun restrictions reduce firearm-related violence is not really an unresolved issue. If there are zero guns around gun violence will reduce to zero. It doesn’t take a brain surgeon to understand that Japan has fewer gun related deaths then the U.S. because they have fewer guns. This is just common sense.

The recent American Public Health Association study’s data (not included in the recent CDC study) indicated, “for each percentage point increase in gun ownership, the firearm homicide rate increased by 0.9%.” Add suicide and accident shooting and an ordinary person of common sense can understand sensible gun control measures can decrease gun fatalities.

MikeN’s next comments  about Hitler and other dictators are actually one of the most commonly repeated lies told by the NRA and rightwing pro-gun radicals. At first, this is one that should seem to be easily dismissed. However, many radicals on the right truly believe this myth.

Some claim Alex Jones started this lie. Or that he just told this lie the best. Certainly MikeN’s version of the myth is nearly a repeat of Jones’ version verbatim. An older connection to this claim goes back to the early 80’s and a rightwing Jewish organization. The graphic in this article shows this theme used by the group in a poster.
hitler-gun-control425x320

Here again is MikeN’s claim, “It HAS however, led to murderous dictators slaughtering their own people to rise to and keep power. That has been demonstrated many times over throughout history. Just look to the likes of Hitler, Stalin, Castro, Pol Pot, Amin, and too many others to fit in this column.”

Here is the problem with the above claim. None of it is true. It is complete revisionist history. University of Chicago law professor Bernard Harcourt detailed in a lecture the entire historical bunk behind Hitler and gun control. At the end of World War I, one of the conditions of the Versailles Treaty was for Germany to surrender all their weapons.

This happened well before Hitler came to power. Hitler opposed the Versailles Treaty and the gun control laws. Once he gained a small amount of power, he quickly armed his storm troopers (S.A.). The S.A. were a militia that roamed the streets of Germany attacking unionists, socialists,  and Jews. Today’s radical rightwingers attack unionists, socialists, immigrants and minorities.

Once Hitler suspected his storm troopers might be going rogue and plotting his overthrow, Hitler quickly had the S.A  leadership wiped-out and replaced with his dreaded S.S. units. The event was called “The Night of the Long Knives”  but the entire S.A. leadership was actually gunned down. Both Hitler and Mussolini used armed rightwing militias to brutalize and intimidate socialists, unionist, teachers, and others leftwing leaning organizations.

Summarizing Harcourt’s lecture Mother Jones points out, “In 1938, under Nazi rule, gun laws became significantly more relaxed. Rifle and shotgun possession were deregulated, and gun access for hunters, Nazi Party members, and government officials was expanded. The legal age to own a gun was lowered. Jews, however, were prohibited from owning firearms and other dangerous weapons.”

Still to this day, American neo-Nazi organizations are often seen at gun show and gun rallies. On their websites and in their literature images of gun paraphernalia is proudly displayed next to swastika. As Harcourt points out, the White supremacists are not hanging out with the pro-gun control hippie liberals.

Hitler used his brown shirts and the threat of violence not unlike the Teabaggers and the NRA supporters want to do in the U.S. The Southern Poverty Law Center provides on their website a “detailed listing of major terrorist plots and racist rampages that have emerged from the American radical right in the years since Oklahoma City. These have included plans to bomb government buildings, banks, refineries, utilities, clinics, synagogues, mosques, memorials and bridges; to assassinate police officers, judges, politicians, civil rights figures and others; to rob banks, armored cars and other criminals; and to amass illegal machine guns, missiles, explosives and biological and chemical weapons. Each of these plots aimed to make changes in America through the use of political violence. Most contemplated the deaths of large numbers of people — in one case, as many as 30,000, or 10 times the number murdered on Sept. 11, 2001.””

The list is staggering. Ironically, every day we hear on the rightwing radio shows and read on their blogsites folks like Glenn Beck making statements about  “hunting down progressives” make them sound more like then Nazis than Nazi hunters. NRA zealots like Ted Nugget joked about killing 450 pigs from a helicopter in Texas and then followed up by saying, “And now if they would just take me to South Central. … Okay! I kid.”

Folks like Nugget claim they are only entertainers and are not responsible for unbalanced people taking their words seriously. Yet, there are unbalanced folks will take their words seriously. A couple years back, not far from my house,  a radical rightwing listener of Glenn Beck named Bryon Williams loading up his pick-up truck with a couple of guns, put on a bullet proof vest and headed out to the offices of the liberal environmental organizations the Tides Foundation and the ACLU. His plan was to kill as many liberal progressives as possible and help start a homegrown war against the U.S. government, Obama, and his liberal supporters.

Fortunately, the California Highway Patrol pulled Williams’ truck over before he reached his intended targets and a shoot-out erupted.  Williams received a couple minor injuries before surrendering.

As the SPLC report documents, this is not an isolated incident. Rightwing hate groups, including Republican Fascists  are on the rise.  Violent attacks on unions, supporters of affordable health care, environmentalists, immigrants and minorities are all on the rise. Rightwing militias all across our country dream about becoming the “patriotic” jackbooted thugs of America. We can not let stand the revisionist history coming like the NRA, MikeN, and the Teabaggers. Nor can we let stand the deliberate distortions, misinformation, and general denial of facts coming from the dishonest rightwing.

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Is the NRA America’s Number One Enemy?

Here is a sad but true fact about the U.S. In large part, thanks to the gun manufactures lobby, the NRA and their supporters, in the last 50 years more Americans have been killed by gun violence than in ALL the wars the U.S. has ever fought. Unregulated gun laws is not the “Cost of Freedom” when  nearly one million four hundred thousand Americans loose their most precious freedom, the freedom to live. The rightwing wants the right to deny others of their rights

It was the NRA that worked vociferously in congress, making large contributions to key members of both the House and Senate, to cut off funding to study by the Center for Disease Control on gun violence. Each year, the NRA hires nearly 30 professional lobbyists and spends nearly $3 million to buy off elected officials. And their efforts have paid off. Since 1997, appropriation bills have stated, “None of the funds in whole or in part made available for injury prevention and control at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention may be used to advocate or promote gun control.”  In 2012, congress expanded restrictions on gun research to include Health and Human Services agencies. That ended this year when President Obama issued a memorandum lifting the CDC’s freeze on gun research

As expected, within hours of the recent Washington Navy Yard shootings, Fox News and other mainstream rightwing media propaganda smear machines immediately called the military installation a “gun free zone”.  The fact that there were both armed military personal and local police at the scene of the shooting didn’t deter the propagandist from making this absurdly false claim, in order to promote the NRA talking points.

In spite of the NRA deceptive rhetoric, which has been adopted by many on the right, in the last 30 years, there has never been an incident in which an armed civilian stopped a mass shooting. In addition, research has shown only a small number of mass shootings actually occurred in gun free zones.

The other main NRA/gun manufacturers/rightwings talking-points suggests that the more people arm themselves the less likely these mass killers will get away with multiple killings. However, the NRA’s b.s. is not supported by research. According to recent study on the relationship between gun ownership and gun violence by the American Public Health Association “Gun ownership was a significant predictor of firearm homicide rates (incidence rate ratio = 1.009; 95% confidence interval = 1.004, 1.014). This model indicated that for each percentage point increase in gun ownership, the firearm homicide rate increased by 0.9%. Conclusions. We observed a robust correlation between higher levels of gun ownership and higher firearm homicide rates. Although we could not determine causation, we found that states with higher rates of gun ownership had disproportionately large numbers of deaths from firearm-related homicides.”

It is only common sense that states/cities, towns, communities with higher gun ownership rates have higher gun violence. But don’t tell that to the insane rightwing Teabagging NRA supporters. Facts, public support, or common sense never gets in their way. That is how, in spite of the fact that polls showed over 91% of Americans called for federal laws requiring stronger background checks for purchasing a weapon, the NRA and their nutcase supports attacked congressional representatives with angry email falsely asserting imaginary unlimited Constitutional rights to own whatever weapon they please without any government oversight.

It is out of this campaign of political lobbying and intimidating rhetoric from the NRA and their supporters our nation seems paralyzed by the thugs that wage war on our streets and commit the most heinous crimes of mass shootings. There is no organization that has contributed more to the killing of innocent Americans than the NRA, a mafia of gun manufacturers and owners destroying America for ideology and profit.

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Hurricane: A Collection of Poems

Hurricane A Collection of Poems

I am pleased to announce Expats Publishing’s first ebook, “Hurricane: A Collection of Poems” by Dean Walker (me). Edited by Expats Founding Member Melody Haislip.

Proceeds from this book goes to fund the websites ExpatsPost.com, ExpatsPoetry.com, and ExpatsArt.com.

Here is what another Expats Founding Member and successful published author has already said about the book:

“Dean, congratulations on the book. I have just read it and won’t be asking for money back. That was amazing, brought up so many emotions. You totally hit the nail on the head with these poems about the feelings, the low points as a relationship breaks down and the aftermath. Tomorrow I will Sing, Suicide Watch, Wild Geese and Lost were just a few of the ones where I was like ‘woh, these are really good’ and ending it with Voluptuous Cool Breath’d Earth was just a lift after plummeting those previous depths. I’m going to read this again this weekend as it definitely deserves more than one read (I was only going to read a few before bed but ended up reading the entire book). Superb Dean truly. As honest as it gets in writing, and I don’t even read that much poetry, was like one song after another or a set of stories. An accomplishment, and an inspiration towards honest writing from the heart, not to mention beautifully written and I’m looking forward to reading it again.” – Garry Crystal

Help Expats Media continue to pursue its mission to “promote writers and artists working outside the mainstream media” by purchasing this book. Money back guarantee!

Pick-up the book for only $4.99 at Amazon.com. That’s just $1 per chapter. A great deal that helps out a valuable media project.

Buy your copy today: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00EP6TCUE

Thanks,

Dean Walker

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Bill O’Reilly’s Irresponsible “Talking Points” on Race

O'Reilly buffalobeast Blacks

Perhaps the only thing positive about the mass media’s obsession with the killing of Trayvon Martin has been the quasi national dialog on race and racism in the U.S. Quasi, unfortunately, because most of the time the political left and political right seems to be talking past each other.

I went to high school in Georgia and even though I’m clearly a progressive liberal, I know a lot of folks on the political right.  One of my high school friends recently sent me a link to a video clip of Fox News’s Bill O’Reilly commenting on some recent criminal cases and comparing them to the pervasive media coverage of the Trayvon Martin case.

O’Reilly begins his segment by stating, “The issue that is really dividing the country, that is the subject tonight…whether it’s Obamacare, the food-stamps explosion, the punishment of convicts, or a myriad of other social issues, the big chasm amongst Americans is between (those like me) who believe in personal responsibility and self-reliance and those who don’t want to take care of themselves and what the federal government and support a … (nanny state)”.

Of course O’Reilly would never admit that what is really dividing this country is the constant rhetoric from both the leftwing and rightwing meant to, distort, demonize, and damage all those that disagree with them, let alone something as scary to comprehend and admit like institutional and systematic discrimination.

O’Reilly’s false portrayal of liberals as a segment of society that doesn’t support “personal responsibility and self-reliance”, he clearly meant to demonize those that don’t agree with him and his loyal viewers. Ironically, the “Individual Mandate” in Obamacare was actually written by Republicans advocating personal responsibility. Yet, the rightwing now opposes personal responsibility when it comes to Obamacare.

O’Reilly goes on to talk about a couple of recently criminal cases committed by blacks in the news as examples of the mainstream media’s complicity in covering up the real story (at least has he sees it).

The first example was of 14 year old Shaaliver Douse who was shot and killed at 3 AM on August 4, 2013. Douse was allegedly involved in a shooting spree include at least three rounds directed to the police. O’Reilly points out that Douse was a troubled youth from a broken family. He then goes on the blame Douse parents for leading their son into the circumstances that ended this poor boy’s life.  O’Reilly essentially blames liberals and the liberal media for not wanting to talk about this.

O’Reilly goes on to provide a second example, quote: “Last month, in Gulfport Florida three black kids, all 15 years old, attacked a 13 year old white boy on a bus, beat a white boy on a school bus.” O’Reilly then showed a clip of the boys ruthlessly attacking the young victim as the bus driver is overheard pleading with the police dispatcher to come quickly and the boys to “leave the boy alone” and stating “You know you’re all going to jail, y’all going to jail”.

O’Reilly then cut back in and stated, “The victim had a broken arm, multiple other injuries. The attackers were charged with aggravated battery and likely fact an adult court. Few national media even covered the story because it was blacks attacking a white. In the wake of Trayvon Martin, if it had been three white boys attacking a black there would have been massive media coverage. So why the double standard? The politically correct and cowardly media is the answer to that question.”

So, in this segment of O’Reilly’s “Talking Points”, we see Bill making a comparison between the media coverage of the Trayvon Martin case with this most recent Gulfport school bus beating. O’Reilly thesis is that if this was a white on black beating the media would be all over the story. However, because it was a black on white beating the story didn’t meet the liberal narrative and therefore it was not worth mainstream media covering it.

However, there are a number of problems with this thesis and in fact, O’Reilly himself destroys his own thesis with a follow-up statement, “By the way, no fair minded person, no fair minded person should believe that most black persons want to hurt whites, they don’t. That bus attack was about three thugs beating up a kid who objected to their behavior. There is no evidence the crime was any more than that”.

You see, the bus beating was all about three teenagers retaliating against the thirteen year old boy who “objected to their behavior. There is no evidence the crime was any more than that.” There was no evidence of race being a factor in the school bus beating.

In addition, In the case of the killing of Trayvon Martin there was a hell of a lot more to the crime than a retaliatory beating by a group of teenage boys. In the case of the Gulfport school bus assault, the boys were taken from the bus and immediately arrested. In the case of the Gulfport school bus assault the fifteen year old kids are likely to face adult courts.

In the case of George Zimmerman, Trayvon Martin’s killer, the police let Zimmerman walk free.  Zimmerman had only been arrested after the Governor stepped in and took the case out of local jurisdiction after receiving an immense amount of political pressure that grew out of a grassroots movement for justice. In the killing of Trayvon Martin, affidavits and other court documents referring to Zimmerman’s “racial profiling” and generally “profiling” Martin.

In the killing of Trayon Martin, Zimmerman (a twenty-nine year old adult) was armed, disobeyed police instructions, and stalked Martin (a fifteen year old unarmed youth) before ultimately confronting the child and killing him.  In the Trayvon Martin case, the killer walked free and at least one jury claims “Zimmerman got away with murder”. In the Trayvon Martin case, Zimmerman is still under federal investigation for violating Martin’s civil rights.

O’Reilly conveniently fails to point-out that in his first two examples race had nothing to do with the crimes. O’Reilly claims, “Few national media even covered the story because it was blacks attacking a white. In the wake of Trayvon Martin, if it had been three white boys attacking a black there would have been massive media coverage.”

In O’Reilly’s first example, given the circumstances, had Douse been a white boy killed by two black police officers after shooting at them, I seriously doubt the news coverage would be anything more than another tragic local NYC gun violence story. Certainly the Douse shooting is not a story of national importance, like the Trayvon Martin Killing. O’Reilly’s second example might be a different story if the three white kids (in Bill’s hypothetical reverse race scenario) hurled racial slurs and were acting out of racial animus.  However, Bill debunks his own thesis when he admits there is no evidence the school bus beating was anything more than a retaliatory attack.

O’Reilly claimed the national media ignored the Douse and Gulfport school bus events because, unlike the Martin killing, their stories didn’t meet liberal press narrative. Never mind the fact that the national media didn’t cover the Douse and Gulfport school bus events because neither of the events were racially charged criminal acts. In addition, in both cases the perpetuators did not walk away scot-free.  O’Reilly never seems to mentions these giant, uber, most important facts. I wonder why? Perhaps the racist element in Trayvon Martin’s story didn’t fit into his narrative?

O’Reilly suggests the roots to all these stories (plus Obamacare, food stamps, and myriad of other social issues) is the lack of personal responsibility, self-determination, love for the nanny state, and the “destruction of the traditional family”.

O’Reilly intentionally distorts the belief of those he disagrees with. Most liberals believe in a balance of both personal responsibility and social responsibility.

O’Reilly wants to skip over the issue of race in the Martin killing because if American took a close look at our society they would find institutional and/or systemic racism in housing, employment, education, voting rights, and a myriad of other public and private institutions. But perhaps most significantly the U.S. has yet to deal with the institutional racism in our criminal justice system.

If O’Reilly were a responsible and honest commentator, he would not only talk about personal responsibility but also talk about the systematic injustice people of color are routinely subjected to. Studies have shown, with all things equal, if you are black you are more likely to be arrested after being stopped by the police for a minor criminal offense. If you are black, you are also more likely to be convicted and receive much harsher sentences than their white peers. In addition, a U.S. District Judge ruled New York Cities “Stop and Frisk” police policy was unconstitutional and an “indirect form of racial profiling”.  Even the U.S. Supreme Court, in their short-sighted ruling overturn part of the Civil Rights Act stated systematic racial discrimination still exists in the U.S.

O’Reilly irresponsibly wants to paint all of America’s problems on a lack of personal responsibility. He intentionally leaves out the mountain of data that actually paints a very bleak picture of widespread racial discrimination that still exists in nearly every corner of U.S. society.  O’Reilly claims he wants to talk about the roots of the problem and what divides our nation. He wants to talk about the personal responsibilities of an individual without considering the historical context or social conditions which makes a person who they are and the circumstances they may find themselves in.

Like in the Douse and Gulfport school bus case, O’Reilly’s analysis proves simplistic, inaccurate, and irresponsibly misleading.

Further suggested reading and a source for the “mountain of data” on this subject read, The New Jim Crow by Michele Alexander. Here is a link to the introduction to the book.

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Maker Media Makes Work Look Fun

crop Make logo

Ever wonder what it’s like to work at a really cool tech/media company? My girlfriend just landed such a job. A few weeks ago she was hired full-time at Maker Media.  Earlier this year, Maker Media spun off O’Reilly Media to form its own company.

In a statement from Tim O’Reilly announcing the new company, “Many of the most interesting technologies of the next decade will involve innovations in hardware, not just software. The Maker movement, like all enthusiast movements, is a harbinger of deeper change.

What Dale Dougherty first recognized in 2005 when he published Make: Magazine and began Maker Faire was that there was a new upwelling of interest in making things, embracing everything from new technologies like 3D printing and other forms of advanced manufacturing, robotics, sensor platforms, to crafting and older hands-on technologies. The early projects in the magazine — aerial photography with kites, a programmable cat feeder made out of an old VCR, hacked robot dogs sniffing out environmental toxins — may have seemed trivial at the time, but they were a sign of things to come.”

This afternoon, my girlfriend showed me around Maker Media’s offices, workshops, and (yes) game room. Don’t you wish every office had a pinball machine?

crop Make game room

The most impressive part of the tour included looking at all the different 3D printers. For those of you who have not heard of 3D printers before, they are pretty amazing machines. Wikipedia provides a simple description of the process, “Additive manufacturing or 3D printing is a process of making a three-dimensional solid object of virtually any shape from a digital model. 3D printing is achieved using an additive process, where successive layers of material are laid down in different shapes. 3D printing is also considered distinct from traditional machining techniques, which mostly rely on the removal of material by methods such as cutting or drilling (subtractive processes).”

In the workshops of Maker Media, young engineers and their interns are seen tinkering around with perhaps a couple dozen small 3D printers. Many of these “home” printers are rather affordable (a few thousand dollars) while others are out of the price range of most individuals. Here are a few photos of some 3D printers I saw.

crop made 3D 2crop make 3D 1crop make 3d 3crop make 3D 4crop make 3D 5

Interns were seen typing in code and programing software to create a wide variety of plastic items.

crop make bust crop make crystal ball crop make flower crop make octo

Make: Magazine is a Do-It-Yourself guide to creating all kinds of fun and often useful things. You don’t have to be rich to be a maker. In the most recent edition of Make: Magazine you will find nearly two dozen projects to build. Often the parts can be found in your garage, attic, or picked up at your local hardware store and retailers like Radio Shack.crop make coffeebotcrop make music

Aside from putting out an extremely cool magazine, Maker Media hosts the Maker Faires. Billed as “The Greatest Show (and Tell) on Earth—a family-friendly festival of invention, creativity and resourcefulness, and a celebration of the Maker movement.”

According to their website, the Maker Faire is, “Part science fair, part county fair, and part something entirely new, Maker Faire is an all-ages gathering of tech enthusiasts, crafters, educators, tinkerers, hobbyists, engineers, science clubs, authors, artists, students, and commercial exhibitors. All of these “makers” come to Maker Faire to show what they have made and to share what they have learned.

The launch of Maker Faire in the Bay Area in 2006 demonstrated the popularity of making and interest among legions of aspiring makers to participate in hands-on activities and learn new skills at the event. A record 165,000 people attended the two flagship Maker Faires in the Bay Area and New York in 2012, with 44% of attendees first timers at the Bay Area event, and 61% in New York. A family event, the vast majority attend with children. In 2013, over 60 community-driven Mini Maker Faires are expected around the world, including Tokyo and Rome.”

crop make toy truck crop make truck logo crop make truck

I have to admit, I’m a little jealous of girlfriend’s workplace. Maker Media makes work look like fun…or at least worth doing.  Check out Makezine.com. It’s exciting to see a company on the cutting edge of both technology and media.

Later this week I plan on going back to Maker Media to create my own 3D object. What shall I make? Ideas welcome.

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