Pics

Conducting a survey of pedestrians, regarding family life, marriage expectations, etc…

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Sports on the Mind

Still another excellent Master’s thesis being rolled out here concerns how the Chinese Basketball League (CNBA) rolled out in China. This is looking at the money side of basketball in China. The commercialization of it. How it is marketed.

It set me to wondering why basketball – presumably invented in Indiana – caught on in China and baseball did not, as it did in Japan and South Korea. In fact, the few chances I’ve had to sling a ball around attracted curious stares.

An exchange student here from New Jersey is a pitcher on a university team, and I played catcher and egged him on to hurl his 88 mph fastballs (without a mask on my face, smart).

He had tried that at a different field and was politely asked to leave, told that throwing baseballs was “too dangerous.” Maybe it is. Never really thought about it from an outsider’s point of view. Plus there is that wooden bat, a stand in for mankind’s oldest weapon, the club, and simply handed to young people to swing around.

Baseball is alien to China, but the younger people who watch western media have seen Moneyball, which is a great movie with great acting, especially by Brad Pitt, and will ultimately go down as the best baseball movie ever made. Historically, directors have struggled with baseball movies.

Chinese television shows lots of soccer and volleyball – maybe more volleyball than soccer, and usually these endless tournaments between Chinese and Japanese women, trying to settle old scores and a few new ones. What a great substitute for war: the Amazon women on each side can take turns smashing the ball into their rivals, shouting out and high fiving. They are extremely tall, and some of them extremely beautiful. It’s easy to set down the remote control and just watch.

Badminton and Ping-pong are also on television sometimes, as is golf. But the most popular sports here in China all involve nets: basketball, soccer, volleyball, badminton and ping pong.  Is that significant?

Silent Raid

It seems that the state of Texas may execute a man convicted of killing a police officer. However, the officer was part of a surprise, middle-of-the-night raid based on a “no-knock warrant” (meaning no warrant at all).

The only way (historically) the police could enter a home without a warrant is if they believed a violent crime was being committed: screams coming from the upstairs bedroom, and that sort of thing.

But in Texas, the police surrounded the house at 5:30 in the morning and stormed it, SWAT style. The startled homeowner, convinced he was the victim of a home invasion, reached for a gun and shot a police officer coming through a window (really just a criminal in a uniform, since no warrant was served) in the face.

By the way, no cocaine was found in the home after all, which was the basis of the no-knock warrant in the first place.

For more than 200 years, Americans considered it obvious that a search warrant was not designed to make law enforcement officers feel better about themselves. That is now the point of a no-knock warrant.

The warrant was originally designed solely for the homeowner, to announce that the state had established a “probable cause” to search his house and personal effects. That is the entire point of the Fourth Amendment.

Then, in 2006, the Supreme Court reached down and pulled a decision out of its ass: Hudson v. Michigan.

In 2006, mostly due to the “conservative” justices (Scalia, Alito, Roberts, Thomas, Kennedy) the Court actually reversed a 1995 decision, Wilson v. Arkansas, in which a unanimous Court held that police officers must “knock and announce” before entering a house.

Technically speaking, the 2006 decision allowed for admittance of evidence seized in a no-knock warrant, which in effect justified and legalized the no-knock raids that are common in the “war on drugs,” a war made ludicrous by taking a medical problem and then criminalizing it.

Indeed, the war on drugs has been costly to American society (crime, incarceration, etc.) but still another cost is that it has frequently led Supreme Court justices to think like morons.

At least regarding this case, a tiny ray of logic is visible in the dissent written by Justice Breyer, who noted that the no-knock requirement broke with all precedent:

“As a result, the Court destroys the strongest legal incentive to comply with the Constitution’s knock-and-announce requirement. And the Court does so without significant support in precedent. At least I can find no such support in the many Fourth Amendment cases the Court has decided in the near century since it first set forth the exclusionary principle in Weeks v. United States.”

Fargo

With so many postings on cable television shows, there might be the false impression that there is no work, no 9 to 5. But there is, with two full time jobs and sports, all the more reason to watch these shows.

My attest discovery is “Fargo,” an amazing show starring Billy Bob Thornton, Allison Tolman, Colin Hanks, and Martin Freeman. Here, Freeman is really the main character, another English guy and this time reproducing the northern Midwest accent of the Dakotas.

By the way, I’ve noticed that on the rugby team (touch, not tackle, since we play with girls, and for exercise not competition), the guys from England, Australia and South Africa can imitate the American accent, but we Americans can’t do the reverse. As mentioned in a previous post, there are only a few actors (Close, Depp, Downey and some others) who have pulled this off, but probably not without coaching.

Which raises another set of questions? Why do Portuguese people understand Spanish but not so much the other way around? Same goes for Dutch people understanding English. Historically, before popular media, it has been a unidirectional understanding. Generally, the Dutch have always understood English.

But I digress. Fargo is about a frozen corner of the United States, where one murder literally snowballs into a larger massacre, and where all kinds of personalities realize their destinies. How can Season 2 better Season 1? Not sure how.

Coca-Colonization

Some of the Chinese Masters students have interesting and ambitious theses projects to write (I’m supposed to help them).

One of the projects is on Coca-Cola’s history in China, as a spear tip of America’s cultural neo-colonialism. Coke started up here in 1979. Coca-Cola, the Brand of Brands, the most American of brands, and one of the most widely recognized words in the world after “OK.”

Of course, “Coca-Colonization” is worldwide, but in China, while fascinating, Coke is not as significant as in other countries. People here still drink tea, plus the infinite varieties of tea in soda cans and plastic bottles. The Cola Conquest ran into the Great Wall.

Coke’s speartip in China is a blunt – as opposed to Mexico, where people drink more Coke per capita than in any other country.

Still, Coke has employed every trick in the book in order to advertize and market successfully in China, and this includes some clever ads.

So the young woman writing the theses will have to delve into all this. Her major is “American Culture,” which is an academic department in the Humanities, perhaps even left over from the Cold War days,  when the Soviets and the Chinese were busy trying to figure out Americans…

Spy v. Spy

There is another must-see cable show, called “The Americans.” It’s about two Soviet spies, a man and a woman who pretend to be married (but with real kids), living a life under deep cover in the DC area.

It is set in the 1980s and is not entirely fictional. Yes, there was that 2010 case with the sexy Russian lady, but I’m talking about the many cases of decades ago, when this was a full-scale operation done not just for the spying but for the tinkering with double family lives.

It is well produced and acted. It’s amazing how, once again, a British actor nails the American accent perfectly, but the reverse almost never happens.

Today, it seems rather obvious that there were people with one foot in each of the two superpower camps, US and Soviet, who could have unmasked any and all “undercover agents,” and who could have identified any and all “double agents.”

But they did not. They let the bands play on. Why? That’s another story.

http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/02/26/why-the-americans-is-the-best-spy-show-on-tv.html

Illusion of Independence

Scotland and Catalonia are flirting with national independence. Scotland will have a referendum to break away from Great Britain, and Catalonia is probably on track for the same, to cut political ties with Spain.

But political independence is nothing without monetary independence, and Scotland will apparently continue to use the British Pound. Which it does not control.

Catalonia, too, would retain a foreign and hostile monetary regime over and above the puppet show of national politics. Catalonia would not only retain the Euro but remain in the European Union as just another province and presumably within NATO as well.

Nationalist movements in Scotland and Catalonia might produce two new independent nation –states, technically speaking. But if we peel away the stickers of their respective flags, we’ll find two pathetic rump states, provinces really, that must play by the rules of others.

Life Imitates Art

George Orwell’s 1949 book about the future 1984, was a bit off with the timeline. Somehow, the global controllers (an extremely heterogeneous group but firmly united in their hatred of humanity) got behind the eight ball but have made recent and desperate efforts to re-create Orwell’s dystopia.

In the West, as in 1984′s Oceania, we certainly have Oligarchic Collectivism, but the new twist is of cushy socialism for the Inner Party, and Darwinian struggle for the unwashed proles.

In the Ukraine, as in 1984, battles are being fought over “disputed areas” between Oceania (the West) and Eurasia (Russia), and they are not decisive battles. The momentum shifts back and forth. A few weeks ago, the West was advancing; now Russia (or an allied militia) is advancing; and surely the future holds more news of this back-and-forth tide, of this perpetual war.

The “League” would not be meeting its contractual obligations is the teams stopped competing militarily and politically. They are even meant to engage in an economic war of attrition, sanctioning the hell out of one another, to the extent that ordinary people must be made to the pain. No pain, no gain. Feel the burn.

All is not quiet on the Eastern Front. Nor is it meant to be. God forbid anyone should win this round, with its promise of deprivation and de-humanization. If the Ukrainian crisis is pregnant with the possibility of a nuclear confrontation, then so much the better.

In the Middle East, as in 1984, vast publics audiences are told that “we’ve always been at war with Islamic fundamentalism,” forgetting the 1980s in Afghanistan.  After 911, Islamic extremists were always the bad guys – except in Libya, when they were handy for overthrowing Gaddafi, and in Syria, where it was hoped these extremists would overthrow Assad…

But now that history is also erased. Isis comes along (same people, new brand) and we are told, for the fourth time, “we’ve always been at war with Islamic fundamentalism…”

It’s a test, to see if the species is really “stuck on stupid,” as rumored.

In the media, as in 1984, there is now the “Two Minutes Hate” ritual, conducted by television’s most coiffed talking heads, pointing to the newest ritualistic beheading video (real or fake) to channel popular anger towards Isis – that Egyptian goddess whose name must be said, out loud. That, too, is part of the ritual.

So was 1984, part of the ritual. George Orwell apparently responded to the request to inform us of what will be done to us.

It’s a weird part of the honor code, I know, to have to tell someone in advance of their coming injury, of what will be done to them, but they are at least holding up their end of the bargain, as a license to “operate a motor vehicle” (I mean “planet”) with unceasing cruelty and reckless degeneracy.

Manslaughter charges may be dropped in this world, but not in the next.

Crucifying Citizenship

Of course, if an American citizen joins a foreign extra-state militia, designated as a terrorist group, he or she could be tried for specific crimes. And they should be – if they committed them, as proven in a court of law.

Under these circumstances, he or she would be subjected to due process, but without (constitutionally speaking) the forfeiture of American citizenship.

Ted Cruz, a senator from Texas, is attempting to advance a bill through Congress that would do this:

“Cruz’s measure would amend existing U.S. law to make becoming a member of, fighting for, or providing material assistance to a designated foreign terrorist organization the equivalent of renouncing U.S. citizenship” (Raw Story).

Because this seems like a no-contest proposition, other senators are piling on, even those with more liberarian inclinations.

But here is why the Cruz bill is wildly unconstitutional. The US Supreme Court, in Afroyim v. Rusk (1967), in a decision that still stands, invalidated the core arguments of earlier decisions (that had deprived an American of citizenship after fighting in the Cuban Revolution, for example).

The 1967 decision was plain:

“Afroyim v. Rusk, 387 U.S. 253 (1967), is a major United States Supreme Court case in which the Court ruled that citizens of the United States may not be deprived of their citizenship involuntarily.”

The only exception to this can include individuals who had acquired citizenship via jus sanguinis, through birth outside the United States.

But the 1967 decision was later strenghtned:

“In a 1980 case, however—Vance v. Terrazas—the Supreme Court ruled that intent to relinquish citizenship needed to be proved by itself, and not simply inferred from an individual’s having voluntarily performed an action designated by Congress as being incompatible with an intent to keep one’s citizenship.”

Additionally, in 1990 a US State Department policy made it clear that it is virtually impossible to lose American citizenship without formally and expressly renouncing it.

So there you have it. The Cruz bill flies in the face of Supreme Court precedent, State department policy, and even the spirit of American democracy, which is based on “popular sovereignty,” meaning that citizens have a right to be citizens before the government’s right to even exist.

That last point is supremely important here and merits reflection. The US government emerges “from” the people and cannot revoke citizenship unilaterally, on its own terms.

That Cruz is so intent on advancing this bill suggests that he serves power and more specifically, the abuse thereof.

Under the guise of the laughable “Tea Party,” which morphed into the antithesis of the Boston Tea Party, this congressional faction serves elites, corporate interests, the banks, and foreign countries (Saudi Arabia, Israel, etc…) Pretending to be “America First” it is really “America Last.”

The icing on the cake is that the mainstream media keeps flirting with Ted Cruz as a presidential candidate. Even the Raw Story article quoted below has this: “… who is seen as a likely 2016 presidential contender.”

Well, remember how Arnold Schwarzenegger was ineligible to run for president, because he was born in a foreign country? Ted Cruz was born in Canada. What the fuck?

 

http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2014/09/05/ted-cruz-vows-to-push-bill-stripping-u-s-citizenship-from-islamic-state-recruits/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Afroyim_v._Rusk

All for 8 dollars

Or the local equivalent in RMB: bananas, dragon fruit, large mango, green grapes, dark grapes, apples and figs, of which there were more when I bought them.

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