Hotel California

HOTEL CALIFORNIA - psalm 75_1

 

Mom arrived in America expecting peace and love – She’d entered the country the way one enters any grand love affair: with no exit plan. She once told me that she knew a girl of fifteen who burned herself to death because her parents refused to allow her to marry the boy she loved. It is in the moments of emotional crisis that human beings reveal themselves most accurately. For Mom, love refines truths.

And so begins one of the most wretched and mesmeric love stories…

 

Hotel California — Coming soon….

The American Dream: A Case for Liberalism

 

statue-liberty-drawing-21051910.jpg

“…that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.—That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.—That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness…”

*  *  *

Many things come to mind when asked to describe the essence of America –  its energy and innovation; the various freedoms that Americans enjoy; the racial and ethnic mix of its people. But perhaps fundamental to the essence of America has been the concept of the American Dream. It has captured the imagination of people from all walks of life and represents the heart and soul of the country.

The American Dream has served as a road map for the way we often envision the course of our lives. The rules of the game are well-known, as is the bargain that is struck. For those willing to work hard and take advantage of their opportunities, there is the expectation of a prosperous and fulfilling life. The United States has long been epitomized as a land of equal opportunity, where hard work and skill can result in personal success and fulfillment, regardless of one’s station in life. While the specifics of each dream vary from person to person, the overall vitality of the American Dream has been fundamental to the nation’s identity. 

It can be found throughout our culture and history. It lies at the heart of Ben Franklin’s common wisdom chronicled in Poor Richard’s Almanack, in the words of Emma Lazurus etched onto the Statue of Liberty, the poetry of Carl Sandburg, or the soaring oratory of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. It can be heard in the music of Aaron Copland or jazz innovator Charlie Parker. And it can be seen across skylines from Manhattan to Chicago to San Francisco. Yet it can also be found in the most humble of places. It lies in the hopes of a single mother struggling on a minimum wage job to build a better life for herself and her children. It rests upon the unwavering belief of a teenager living on some forgotten back road that one day he or she will find fortune and fame. And it is present in the efforts and sacrifices of a first generation American family to see their kids through college.

In many respects, the American Dream has been deeply rooted in the concept of a journey-the journey to a new country, the journey across generations, and of course, the journey within one’s life. It is about motion and progress, it is about optimism, and it is about finding success and fulfillment along the way. And yet the conditions under which Americans have pursued this Dream have been fraught with risk and economic uncertainty.

The settlers of the eighteenth, nineteenth, and twentieth centuries took enormous risks coming to the new world, often arriving with little more than the clothes on their backs. Once here, there was not much in the way of government help or financial assistance (with the exception of available land). Self-reliance, rugged individualism, and determination were seen as the keys to prosperity. And yet, in spite of the risks and struggles, the American Dream has been, and continues to be, a guiding force reflecting the manner in which we see our lives unfolding. Turn on the television, listen to the radio, surf the Internet, or pick up a magazine while waiting in an airport, and the images of the American Dream are ever present. From the solidly middle class couple engaged in their careers and lifestyle, to the rags to riches superstar making millions of dollars each year, the American Dream is portrayed as attainable, as long as we commit ourselves to hard work and perseverance in striving toward our goals.

The American Dream has ultimately been about the manner in which our lives unfold and the ability of the individual, no matter where he or she comes from, to exert considerable control and freedom over how that process occurs. In a sense, it is about being able to live out our individual biographies to their fullest extent. 

For more than three centuries, the hallmark of liberalism has been the attempt to promote individual liberty. Liberalism is a group of political, social and economic theories that centers on the values of individual liberty, equality, economic freedom, limited and democratic government and the rule of law. Words such as liberal, liberty, libertarian and libertine all trace their history to the Latin liber, which means “free”. Liberalism holds that all individuals should have equal treatment before the law regardless of social status, race or sex. Some important liberties in modern liberal states include freedom of speech, press, religion and association. Liberty is constrained by the harm principle, which states that you have liberty as long as you do not harm others. Liberty is a political concept that refers to freedom from undue or oppressive restraints on a person’s actions, thoughts or beliefs imposed by the state. 

The modern ideology of Liberalism can be traced back to the Humanism which challenged the authority of the established church in Renaissance Europe, and more particularly to the 17th and 18th Century British and French Enlightenmentthinkers, and the movement towards self-government in colonial America. John Locke’s “Two Treatises on Government” of 1689 established two fundamental liberal ideas: economic liberty (meaning the right to have and use property) and intellectual liberty (including freedom of conscience). His natural rights theory (“natural rights” for Locke being essentially life, liberty and property) was the distant forerunner of the modern conception of human rights, although he saw the right to property as more important than the right to participate in government and public decision-making, and he did not endorse democracy, fearing that giving power to the people would erode the sanctity of private property. Nevertheless, the idea of natural rights played a key role in providing the ideological justification for the American and the French revolutions, and in the further development of Liberalism.

“all men are created equal. . . . ” This phrase caused some embarrassment when the Declaration was issued, for a number of colonists, American “patriots” as well as pro-British “tories,” pointed out that it was hypocritical for a slaveholding country to proclaim the equality of all mankind. In England Dr. Samuel Johnson criticized Washington, Jefferson, and other slaveholding colonists for their hypocrisy: “How is it that we hear the loudest yelps for liberty among the drivers of Negroes?” In fact, Jefferson, a slave-owner himself, included a sharp attack on the slave trade in his original draft of the Declaration. This section was removed by other members of Congress, however, while the claim that all men are created equal remained.

AMERICA:  chronology of key events – 

1565 – First permanent European settlement in North America – St Augustine, present-day Florida – founded by the Spanish. North America is already inhabited by several distinct groups of people, who go into decline following the arrival of settlers.

1607 – Jamestown, Virginia, founded by English settlers, who begin growing tobacco.

1620 – Plymouth Colony, near Cape Cod, is founded by the Pilgrim Fathers, whose example is followed by other English Puritans in New England.

17th-18th centuries – Hundreds of thousands of Africans brought over and sold into slavery to work on cotton and tobacco plantations.

1763 – Britain gains control of territory up to the Mississippi river following victory over France in Seven Years’ War.

War of Independence

1774 – Colonists form First Continental Congress as Britain closes down Boston harbour and deploys troops in Massachusetts.

1775 – American Revolution: George Washington leads colonist Continental Army to fight against British rule.

1776 4 July – Thomas Jefferson’s American Declaration of Independence endorsed by Congress; colonies declare independence.

1781 – Rebel states form loose confederation, codified in Articles of Confederation, after defeating the British at the Battle of Yorktown.

ABRAHAM LINCOLN 
16th president preserved Union, emancipated slaves

  • Born in Kentucky, 1809
  • Known as ‘Honest Abe’ and the ‘Great Emancipator’
  • His Gettysburg Address honoured the Union dead, set out the principles they died for
  • Assassinated in 1865 

1783 – Britain accepts loss of colonies by virtue of Treaty of Paris.

1787 – Founding Fathers draw up new constitution for United States of America. Constitution comes into effect in 1788.

1789 – George Washington elected first president of USA.

1791 – Bill of Rights guarantees individual freedom.

1803 – France sells Louisiana territories to USA.

1808 – Atlantic slave trade abolished.

1812-15 – War of 1812 between the US and Britain, partly over the effects of British restrictions on US trade during the Napoleonic Wars.

19th century – Residual resistance by indigenous people crushed as immigration from Europe assumes mass proportions, with settlers moving westwards and claiming “manifest destiny” to control North America; number of states in the union rises from 17 to 45.

1846-48 – US acquires vast tracts of Mexican territory in wake of Mexican War including California and New Mexico.

Civil War

1854 – Opponents of slavery, or abolitionists, set up Republican Party.

1860 – Republican candidate Abraham Lincoln elected president.

1860-61 – Eleven pro-slavery southern states secede from Union and form Confederate States of America under leadership of Jefferson Davis, triggering civil war with abolitionist northern states.

1863 – Lincoln issues Emancipation Proclamation, declaring slaves in Confederate states to be free.

1865 – Confederates defeated; slavery abolished under Thirteenth Amendment. Lincoln is assassinated.

1876 – Sioux Indians defeat US troops at Little Big Horn.

1890 – US troops defeat Sioux Indians at Wounded Knee.

1898 – US gains Puerto Rico, Guam, the Philippines and Cuba following the Spanish-American war. US annexes Hawaii.

World War I and the Great Depression

1917-18 – US intervenes in World War I, rejects membership of League of Nations.

1939: FDR proclaims US neutrality

1920 – Women given the right to vote under the Nineteenth Amendment.

1920 – Sale and manufacture of alcoholic liquors outlawed. The Prohibition era sees a mushrooming of illegal drinking joints, home-produced alcohol and gangsterism.

1924 – Congress gives indigenous people right to citizenship.

1929-33 – 13 million people become unemployed after the Wall Street stock market crash of 1929 triggers what becomes known as the Great Depression. President Herbert Hoover rejects direct federal relief.

1933 – President Franklin D Roosevelt launches “New Deal” recovery programme which includes major public works. Sale of alcohol resumes.

World War II and the Cold War

1941 – Japanese warplanes attack US fleet at Pearl Harbour in Hawaii; US declares war on Japan; Germany declares war on US, which thereafter intervenes on a massive scale in World War II, eventually helping to defeat Germany.

1945 – US drops two atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Japan surrenders.

1947 – US enunciates policy of aid for nations it deems threatened by communism in what became known as the Truman Doctrine. Cold War with Soviet Union begins.

1948 – America’s programme to revive ailing post-war European economies – the Marshall Plan – comes into force. Some $13bn is disbursed over four years and the plan is regarded as a success.

1950-54 – Senator Joseph McCarthy carries out a crusade against alleged communists in government and public life; the campaign and its methods become known as McCarthyism. In 1954 McCarthy is formally censured by the Senate.

1950-53 – US forces play leading role against North Korean and Chinese troops in Korean War.

Desegregation and the Vietnam war

1954 – Racial segregation in schools becomes unconstitutional; start of campaign of civil disobedience to secure civil rights for Americans of African descent.

JOHN F KENNEDY 
Killed by an assassin’s bullet in Dallas, 1963 

1960 – Democratic Party candidate John F Kennedy elected president, narrowly defeating his rival Richard Nixon.

1961 – Bay of Pigs invasion: an unsuccessful attempt to invade Cuba by Cuban exiles, organised and financed by Washington.

1962 – US compels Soviet Union to withdraw nuclear weapons from Cuba in what has become known as the Cuban missile crisis.

1963 – President John F Kennedy assassinated; Lyndon Johnson becomes president.

1964 – US steps up its military intervention in Vietnam. Civil Rights Act signed into law; it aims to halt discrimination on grounds of race, colour, religion, nationality.

1968 – Black civil rights leader Martin Luther King assassinated.

1969 – Republican Party candidate Richard Nixon elected president amid growing public opposition to Vietnam war. US military presence in Vietnam exceeds 500,000 personnel.

US astronaut Neil Armstrong becomes the first person to walk on the Moon.

MARTIN LUTHER KING JR 
Civil rights leader was renowned for his stirring oratory 

1972 – Nixon re-elected and makes historic visit to China.

1973 – Vietnam ceasefire agreement signed. The campaign had claimed some 58,000 American lives.

1974 – In a TV address, Nixon announces his resignation in the wake of the Watergate scandal, over a 1972 break-in at the Democratic Party headquarters. Gerald Ford is sworn-in as his successor.

1976 – Democratic Party candidate Jimmy Carter elected president.

1979 – US embassy in Tehran, Iran, seized by radical students. The 444-day hostage crisis – including a failed rescue attempt in 1980 – impacts on Carter’s popularity and dominates the 1980 presidential election campaign.

Global assertiveness

1980 November – Republican Party’s Ronald Reagan elected president. Reagan goes on to adopt a tough anti-communist foreign policy and tax-cutting policies which lead to a large federal budget deficit.

1981 January – Iran frees the 52 US embassy hostages, on the same day as President Reagan’s inauguration.

RONALD REAGAN 
Former president, said to have restored US self-confidence 

1983 – US invades Caribbean nation of Grenada, partly prompted by its concerns over the island’s ties with Cuba.

1984 – Ronald Reagan re-elected president, beating Democratic Party candidate Walter Mondale.

1986 January – Space shuttle Challenger explodes shortly after take off from Cape Canaveral. All seven crew members are killed. Manned space flights are suspended until September 1988.

1986 – US warplanes bomb Libyan cities. “Irangate” scandal uncovered, revealing that proceeds from secret US arms sales to Iran were used illegally to fund Contra rebels in Nicaragua.

1988 – Reagan’s vice-president, George Bush, elected president.

1989 – US troops invade Panama, oust its government and arrest its leader, one-time Central Intelligence Agency informant General Manuel Noriega, on drug-trafficking charges.

1991 – US forces play dominant role in war against Iraq, which was triggered by Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait and ended with the expulsion of Iraqi troops from that country.

The Clinton years

1992 – Democratic Party candidate Bill Clinton elected president.

1992 – Congress passes North American Free Trade Agreement, or Nafta, intended to create free-trade bloc among US, Canada and Mexico.

2004: President Bush unveils space plans

1995 – Oklahoma bomb kills more than 160 people in worst ever incident of its kind in US.

1996 – Clinton re-elected, beating Republican rival Bob Dole.

1998 – Scandal over Clinton’s purported sexual impropriety with White House worker Monica Lewinsky dominates domestic political agenda and leads to impeachment proceedings in Congress.

1999 March-June – US plays leading role in Nato bombardment of Yugoslavia in response to Serb violence against ethnic Albanians in the province of Kosovo.

Democrats lose

2000 November – Republican Party’s George W Bush wins presidency.

January 2001: Bill Clinton’s farewell

2001 July – US tests its controversial missile defence shield, or “Son of Star Wars”.

11 September attacks

2001 11 September – Co-ordinated suicide attacks on various high-profile targets, prompting the US to embark on a ”war on terror” which includes the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq.

2001 October – US leads massive campaign of air strikes against Afghanistan and helps opposition forces defeat the Taleban regime and find Saudi-born dissident Osama Bin Laden, who is suspected of masterminding the 11 September attacks.

2001 October – USA Patriot Act approved by the Senate, giving the government greater powers to detain suspected terrorists, eavesdrop on communications and counter money-laundering. In November, President Bush signs a directive to try suspected terrorists in military tribunals rather than the courts.

2001 December – Energy giant Enron declared bankrupt after massive false-accounting comes to light.

2002 January – State of the Union address: President George W Bush includes Iraq, Iran and North Korea in what he describes as an “axis of evil”.

2002 State of the Union address: “Axis of evil”

2002 June/July – Telecoms giant WorldCom’s multi-billion dollar accounting fraud is revealed, eclipsing the Enron scandal to become the biggest business failure in US history.

2002 November – President Bush signs into law a bill creating a Department of Homeland Security, the biggest reorganisation of federal government in more than 50 years. The large and powerful department is tasked with protecting the US against terrorist attacks.

2003 February – Space shuttle Columbia’s 28th mission ends in tragedy when the craft breaks-up while re-entering the atmosphere. The seven astronauts on board are killed.

Iraq war

2003 March – Missile attacks on Baghdad mark the start of a US-led campaign to topple the Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. US forces advance into central Baghdad in early April.

Bush: “We have seen the turning of the tide”

2003 1 May – Speaking on the deck of the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln, President Bush declares that the main part of the war in Iraq is over.

2004 May – Furore over pictures showing the abuse of Iraqi prisoners in US custody.

2004 July – Senate report says US and allies went to war in Iraq on “flawed” information. Independent report into 11 September 2001 attacks highlights deep institutional failings in intelligence services and government.

Bush second term

2004 2 November – Presidential elections: George W Bush wins a second term.

2005 August – Hundreds of people are killed when Hurricane Katrina, the most destructive storm to hit the US in decades, sweeps through gulf coast states. Much of the city of New Orleans is submerged by flood waters.

2006 March – Congress renews the USA Patriot Act, a centrepiece of the government’s fight against terrorism, after months of debate about its impact on civil liberties. The government agrees to some curbs on information gathering.

2006 April-May – Millions of immigrants and their supporters take to the streets to protest against plans to criminalise illegal immigrants.

2006 May – The only man to be charged over the September 11 attacks, self-confessed al-Qaeda conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui, is sentenced to life in jail.

2006 November – Democratic Party wins control of the Senate and House of Representatives in mid-term elections. Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld steps down.

2007 January – President Bush announces a new Iraq strategy; thousands more US troops will be dispatched to shore up security in Baghdad.

CREDIT CRUNCH 
The 2008-9 financial crisis sent shockwaves throughout the world 

Lehman collapse

2008 September – Turmoil in the US and international financial markets as major Wall Street investment bank Lehman Brothers collapses and other big US financial players face growing troubles as a result of the “credit crunch”. With hundreds of billions of dollars wiped out in bad loans and a prolonged property slump, the US faces its worst financial crisis since the Great Depression.

Obama elected

2008 November – Democratic Senator Barack Obama becomes the first black president of the United States.

THE GEORGE W BUSH YEARS 
Wave of support after 9/11 yielded to derision at home and abroad 

2009 January – First “Tea Party” rally held in protest at Obama administration’s plans to bail out banks and introduce healthcare reform. The populist and libertarian movement acts as focus for conservative opposition to the president’s reform plans.

2010 March – Democrats in Congress succeed in passing a bill on health care reform, despite strong Republican opposition, procedural setbacks and public scepticism.

US and Russia announce agreement on a new nuclear arms reduction treaty to replace the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty. The pact was to be signed on 8 April.

President Obama unveils a new defence policy significantly curtailing the circumstances in which the US would use nuclear weapons.

2010 May-June – Deepwater Horizon oil rig disaster in the Gulf of Mexico causes the United States’ biggest oil spill to date.

OPPOSITION TO OBAMA 
Tea Party agenda provides rallying point for disgruntled conservatives 

2010 November – Republicans make sweeping gains in mid-term elections, regaining control of House of Representatives.

2011 May – US forces kill Al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden in an operation in the Pakistani city of Abbottabad.

2011 July – The final Space Shuttle mission is completed with the landing of Atlantis on 21 July, bringing about the end of the 30-year programme.

2011 September – Anti-capitalist protesters take to the streets of major cities, marching under the slogan “Occupy Wall Street”, against “corporate greed” and increasing government debt. The protests inspire marches in other cities worldwide.

2012 January – President Obama unveils a revised defence strategy involving budget cuts, but insists US will maintain its military superiority.

2013 January – Barack Obama is inaugurated for his second term as president

Global surveillance disclosures: The revelations of the NSA’s PRISM, Boundless Informant and XKeyscore domestic surveillance programs were first published by The Guardian and Washington Post newspapers.

2014 August – Michael Brown was shot and killed, in what was ruled by a grand jury to be self-defense, by police officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri, igniting protests and riots in the following months.

President Obama announces a restoration of full diplomatic relations with Cuba for the first time since 1961

2015 April – 2015 Baltimore protests: Protests and rioting occur in Baltimore, Maryland after the death of Freddie Gray in police custody.

Obergefell v. Hodges: Gay marriage is fully legalized in all 50 states.

2016 June – 2016 Orlando Nightclub Shooting: A self-proclaimed Islamic State fighter, Omar Mateen, kills 49 and injures 53 at a gay nightclub in Orlando, before being shot and killed by an officer.

Donald Trump wins the 2016 presidential election, and becomes the forty-fifth president of the United States. The Republicans also regained the majority of both the House and Senate; an election in which the Republican candidate wins the election while the majority in Congress maintains a Republican control hasn’t happened since 2004.

2017 December – The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 is signed into law, lowering income tax rates and the corporate tax rate.

 

 

The Gods Who Send Us Gifts: An Anthology of African Short Stories

I’m glad to have my short story ‘Recipe for an Escape’ added in this wonderful anthology ‘The Gods Who Send Us Gifts’

The Gods.jpg

 

This anthology marks the 55th anniversary of the historic 1962 Makerere Conference of African Literature in Uganda bringing together post-independence African writers many of whom would go on to play major roles in defining Africa’s literary history. One of them wrote; “we were amazed that fate had entrusted us with the task of interpreting a continent to the world.”

Those who gathered included the Nigerian Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka, Chinua Achebe, Christopher Okigbo, JP Clark, Kofi Awoonor, Frances Ademola, Cameron Doudu, Lewis Nkosi, Dennis Brutus, Ezekiel Mphahlele, Bloke Modisane, the African American writer Langton Hughes et al.

 

You can find it here: Amazon.com

Near – A feature film – Shot in 1 Take

Dear friend,

We would like you to support our film Nēar’ by simply clicking ‘follow’ on our campaign in the link below. It would mean the world to us as we need 500 followers in order to be considered for the full grant. The more followers we get, the more chances of winning and the movie being produced.
Near
The project is almost fully funded — so our money goal is minor. However, we cannot stress any more on the importance of the followers.

 

What’s the Story with Near?

Nēar follows 17-year-old, Julian played by Skylan Brooks (Inevitable Defeat of Mister & Pete, Southpaw, Netflix’ The Get Down, Crown Heights) upon his escape from the hospital on Christmas Eve, the day which is literally to be the last day of his life Julian decides to search for his estranged father, this is Julian’s last known living relative. Oh, and did we mention that this will be the first American feature film shot in ONE TAKE? Yes, one take, not Alejandro González Iñárritu’s Birdman, not Alfred Hitchcock’s Rope, and not last year’s indie one-take German breakout Victoria,  well, because it’s a German film.

We have also been given the opportunity to create our film with “CtrlMovie”. This a cutting edge film-technology software/application that gives the filmmaker the ability to create several outcomes to their film. This curring edge technology championed by filmmakers Tobias Weber & Chady Eli Mattar allows for multiple endings and various choices to be made by the audience. This means — YOU will control outcomes and choices for our protagonist Julian. These choices are made seamlessly without interruption in the viewing process along w/ a linear option of the film which would play in the one take option only.

How can you support us?

Please follow the link below and support our campaign:

www.seedandspark.com/near

 

Best regards,

Lionel

Fate – A short film

 

Fate Film 1

Dear Friends,

I just signed the campaign: Serving Life w/ Hard Labor w/o Parole for $20 of Marijuana.

It would mean the world to me if you could also add your name to this important issue. Every name that is added builds momentum around the campaign and makes it more likely for us to get the change we want to see.

=> Why is this important?

Fate Vincent Winslow a 47-year-old African-American homeless man who acted as go-between in the sale of two minuscule bags of cannabis (worth $20 total) to an undercover cop, Winslow was sentenced to life in prison without parole based on other “strikes” that were 14 and 24 years old, respectively, one of which he received was a drug-related charge at 15 years of age. The white dealer in the transaction, who was also identified by the undercover officer, was never charged even though he was found with police evidence; a marked $20 bill.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/…/homeless-life-in-prison-wee…

A petition for a Fate Vincent Winslow’s release through Color of Change at Organizefor.org. has been created. Korstiaan Vandiver in conjunction with a Youth Community Center in Los Angeles, mentoring a marijuana drug prevention film project for a group of wonderful high school students, together, they were able to obtain the court case document from an appeal easily and with articles, and decided to do a short film to deter youth from marijuana drug used based on Fate — racial profiling and ridiculous sentencing such as Fate’s and many others.

They reached out to Fate at Angola and the Assistant Warden got involved. He told them he wouldn’t allow them to talk to Fate and that he was saying no to any media. He then began a series of untruths that created red flags. They became concerned for Fate after that conversation and started calling his former lawyers and the ACLU for help and answers.I was burdened with a heavy desire to get this man out and others like him. By signing and sharing this petition you can help. President Obama has already pardoned 2 men with similar sentences during his term. I also wonder whether Korstiaan and his students’ rights were violated by being denied a conversation with a non-violent offender and how many others rights may have been also in an effort to help Fate.

“Obama has now commuted more sentences than any president in almost a century. That said, thousands of inmates remain in federal prison for nonviolent drug charges, many of them holdovers from the draconian sentencing laws that came out of the war on drugs. In 2011, then-Attorney General Eric Holder announced a new clemency initiative, claiming that 10,000 inmates “were potentially going to be released” as a result. But 562 is a far cry from that. And as Mother Jones has reported, dozens more are serving life sentences without parole for marijuana-only crimes, a group of people whom advocates view as an obvious choice for the kind of clemency reform that’s been promised.” (One marijuana lifer, Ramon Gonzalez, had his sentence commuted…)
http://www.motherjones.com/…/obama-just-freed-another-214-i…

ACLU Blurb
Fate Vincent Winslow was homeless when he acted as a go-between in the sale of two small bags of marijuana, worth $10 in total, to an undercover police officer. During an undercover investigation in Shreveport in September 2008, an undercover officer approached a white man named Mr. Perdue and Winslow, who is Black. The officer asked Winslow for two dime bags of marijuana worth $10 each and promised a $5 commission for Winslow, who says he accepted the offer in order to earn some money to get something to eat.
Winslow says he bought two $5 bags of marijuana from Perdue and sold them to the undercover officer as dime bags worth $10 each. The undercover officer testified that he witnessed a hand-to-hand transaction between Winslow and Perdue and that he paid Winslow with a $20 bill and a $5 bill. When officers arrested Winslow, he only had the $5 bill on him. Officers found the marked $20 bill on Perdue (the white supplier), but did not arrest him. According to Winslow, at trial, the 10 white jurors found him guilty of marijuana distribution, while the two black jurors found him not guilty (the state of Louisiana does not require a unanimous jury to convict and instead allows convictions by 10 out of 12 jurors). He was sentenced to mandatory life without parole as a fourth strike offender. His prior convictions were for a simple burglary committed in 1984, when he was 17; simple burglary in 1994, when he was 27 (he was accused and convicted of opening an unlocked car door and rummaging inside without taking anything); and possession of cocaine in 2000, when he was 37 (an undercover officer tried to sell him cocaine, which he says he did not purchase)

“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?”
-Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

George Orwell’s Six Rules for Writing Clear and Tight Prose

George-Orwell

Orwell claims that bad writing results from corrupt thinking, and often attempts to make palatable corrupt acts: “Political speech and writing are largely the defense of the indefensible.”

Pay attention to how the next article, interview, or book you read uses language “favorable to political conformity” to soften terrible things.

Orwell’s analysis identifies several culprits that obscure meaning and lead to whole paragraphs of bombastic, and empty prose:

  1. Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.
  2. Never use a long word where a short one will do.
  3. If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.
  4. Never use the passive where you can the active.
  5. Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.
  6. Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.

But Orwell does preface his guidelines with some very sound advice: “Probably it is better to put off using words as long as possible and get one’s meaning as clear as one can through pictures and sensations. Afterward one can choose—not simply accept—the phrases that will best cover the meaning.” Not only does this practice get us closer to using clear, specific, concrete language, but it results in writing that grounds our readers in the sensory world we all share to some degree, rather than the airy word of abstract thought and belief that we don’t.

These “elementary” rules do not cover “the literary use of language,” writes Orwell, “but merely language as an instrument for expressing and not for concealing or preventing thought.”

You can find Orwell’s books here

 

On Faith and Revelations

At stake in the church’s first general council was the simplest, yet most profound, question: Who is Jesus Christ?

July 4, 325, was a memorable day. About three hundred Christian bishops and deacons from the eastern half of the Roman Empire had come to Nicea, a little town near the Bosporus Straits flowing between the Black Sea and the Mediterranean.

In the conference hall where they waited was a table. On it lay an open copy of the Gospels.

The emperor, Constantine the Great, entered the hall in his imperial, jewel-encrusted, multicolored brocades, but out of respect for the Christian leaders, without his customary train of soldiers. Constantine spoke only briefly. He told the churchmen they had to come to some agreement on the crucial questions dividing them. “Division in the church,” he said, “is worse than war.”

Nicea symbolized a new day for Christianity. The persecuted followers of the Savior dressed in linen had become the respected advisers of emperors robed in purple. The once-despised religion was on its way to becoming the state religion, the spiritual cement of a single society in which public and private life were united under the control of Christian doctrine.

If Christianity were to serve as the cement of the Empire, however, it had to hold one faith. So the emperors called for church councils like Nicea, paid the way for bishops to attend, and pressed church leaders for doctrinal unity. The age of Christian emperors was an age of creeds; and creeds were the instruments of conformity.

The Apostles Creed The Nicene Creed
I believe in God,
the Father almighty,
creator of heaven and earth.
We believe in one God,
the Father, the Almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
and of all that is, seen and unseen.
I believe in Jesus Christ,
his only Son, our Lord.
We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
the only Son of God,
eternally begotten of the Father,
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made,
one in Being with the Father.
Through him all things were made.
For us men and for our salvation,
he came down from heaven:
He was conceived by the
power of the Holy Spirit
and born of the Virgin Mary.
by the power of the Holy Spirit
he was born of the Virgin Mary,
and became man.
He suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried.
He descended into hell.
For our sake he was crucified
under Pontius Pilate;
he suffered died and was buried.
On the third day he rose again. On the third day he rose again
in fulfillment of the Scriptures;
He ascended into heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again to judge
the living and the dead
he ascended into heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory
to judge the living and the dead,
and his kingdom will have no end.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting.
Amen.
We believe in the Holy Spirit,
the Lord, the giver of life,
who proceeds from the
Father and the Son.
With the Father and the Son
he is worshipped and glorified.
He has spoken through the Prophets.
We believe in one holy
catholic and apostolic Church.
We acknowledge one
baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
We look for the resurrection of the dead,
and the life of the world to come.
Amen.

Opportunism : A Love of Fate

One popular belief system of the ancient Stoic philosophers known as ‘Amor fati’, or ‘love of fate’ is of great importance during these current times, especially for millennials.

The philosophy posits that every event is discerned as fated to occur. When one complains and strongly protests against circumstances, one falls out of balance with the natural state of things; one wishes things were different.

We’ve been told that one of our greatest human resource is our willpower, our decision-making => our discipline.
Most of us wouldn’t be where we are without hard work or the ability to change our circumstances.

And so, we come to expect that the world will always respond in kind. That it will do what we want. That things will more or less go our way.

To the young and ambitious, Acceptance is the hardest piece of advice to follow. A bitter pill to swallow.
It is hard because it means tolerating things we don’t like, it feels weak, it feels like one has quit, it feels like defeat.

What am I supposed to do, just let things be?—YES!

The tendency to adhere to this faulty and damaging belief that things must be the way we want them, or must be the way we expected ultimately accomplishes very little to nothing at all. Energy/life is wasted!

More importantly, it prevents the acknowledgement of a crucial paradigm shift: Working with what actually is, seeing things as they are, converting all circumstances into opportunities, making the best of every situation, being fluid in our approaches, free in our thoughts, listening to demand and creating supply, willing to take new directions without fear of failure.

Amor fati => Love of fate => The art of acquiescence => what can’t be cured must be endured.

THE MESSAGE: One doesn’t have to like it to work with it-to use it to one’s advantage. It starts by seeing it clearly and accepting it unconditionally. Amor fati – a love of what happens, because that is our only option.

The world around us is what it is. The events that happen are what they are. The people in our lives do what they do.

Accept them. Understand them. Empathize with them.

A man or woman who believes this cannot be hurt by anything or anyone.

realist

Requiem for Sleep

1.

Under the bright lights of a glass-and-chrome clock, on a black cushioned chair, Cecil is sleeping, his two pieces of black luggage in front of him. A police officer awakens him,

“Excuse me, sir,” he says.

Cecil sits up startled. He is wearing a flannel suit, a luxurious warm cashmere scarf, and an overcoat. Eyes red and puffy, his face gaunt and pale, Cecil sits before the police officer, who studies him with bemusement.

“Please keep your bags close to you,” the police officer says, picking up Cecil’s carry-on and sliding it under his chair, and says, “I have never seen anyone frown so much in their sleep.”

“I will keep that in mind officer,” Cecil retorts with an insincere smile trying to lighten the moment, and watches the law enforcer walk away. He glances at his watch, and then looks at an overhanging clock; check-in for his flight begins in a few minutes. He’s been battling sleepless nights, and this is his only chance to catch up on some much needed snooze. In the silence of the nights, Cecil fights his imaginary battles; his unrealized dreams, corruption and unjust occurrences to which he turned a blind eye, the moments of timidity he manages to conceal from other people, but not from himself – and the love which he lacked the courage to embrace. The thought inevitably occurs: if only I had said or done x instead of y, if only I could do it over. He tosses and turns from side to side on his bed, and still fails to fall asleep. He keeps recalling the day’s events; tomorrow’s planned events, and next week’s planned events. His mind keeps spinning in circles, and though he is exhausted, he simply cannot fall asleep.

He overhears the couple behind him chatting about the weather in Florida, and the possibility of rain. He recognizes the smell of fading perfume that women are wearing, Chanel, clashing with the smell of popcorn and toasted sandwiches. The mechanical, yet pleasant, voice on the public address system starts calling for someone to go to the nearest courtesy phone, then announces that flight 446 is now boarding at gate-4B. He hears snippets of conversation from other passengers passing him on their way to the next gate. Underneath Cecil’s functional surface is an undercurrent of excitement, anticipation and impatience.

If the end of the year is a time to reflect on mistakes made and relationships lost, there may not be a better way to start the New Year than with a long overdue vacation. Airports are passageways to life’s biggest moments: celebrations, weddings, and funerals. Along with overstuffed bags, laptops and treasured souvenirs, travelers carry joy and heartache.

Cecil starts moving through the security screening. It’s a beautiful choreographed ballet of a bag handle collapsing, shoes coming off, a laptop in a separate tray, wallet and watch sliding into a shoe, his boarding pass sliding into his back pocket.

2.

Once up in the celestial clouds, strapped into his tight seat, in the climate-controlled can-like cabin, the seat-belt sign goes off. With the hope that in the end, the destination will be worth the discomfort, the inconvenience, and the anxiety, Cecil decides to watch an epic movie.

The film depicts a fallen hero in a medieval epoch. This hero’s village is destroyed by a rival neighboring clan, his wife and child raped and killed, his friends beheaded, and his puppy roasted on an open spit. Throughout the movie the hero justifies his actions, cloaked in religious rhetoric, claiming that it is justice he is after, not vengeance. One cannot be in a moral position not to root for this hero. All the same, as the movie develops, Cecil notices how the more the hero hunts the cause of his woes; the more he takes on the villain’s personality and mannerisms. Justice is probably a mere feeling.

Cecil is fascinated by this kind of heroism because it evinces a kind of strength he wants to emulate. In reality when a man looks in his heart he doesn’t discover something valiant and dangerous, but instead finds anger, lust, and fear. The heroism Cecil finds in the movie has a melancholic sense to it since the hero is all alone, but keeps fighting because without friendship and love, even the strongest man cannot live long. The human soul needs a kindred, familiar heart, a place to rest and lie down. What a precious flower friendship is; we can never value our friend highly enough if he is a true friend, and can never run away fast enough if he betrays our trust.

“Damn you, Iago!” Cecil mutters under his breath, shaking his head in disappointment.

Man will always be man because there is no new man. Civilization, a culture that promotes democratic values of being fair to one and all, the importance of fitting into a group, and knowing how to cooperate with other people. We strive so hard to create a society that is equal where there is nothing to envy your fellow man. But there is always something to covet: a smile, a friendship, something you don’t have and want to claim as your own. There will always be rich and poor, those fortunate in gifts, and others wretched in affliction. There will always be those blessed in love, and others poor in love. A kiss was to be a sign of love and friendship, Judas came up to Jesus with an act of affection but all the while in his heart he was going to betray Jesus. Cicero once said that a nation can survive its fools, and even the ambitious, but it cannot survive treason within. Cecil died a million times when he heard that she was happy with Iago, and spent sleepless nights wondering why someone so close would turn around, ruin the best part of him, and leave him empty. More troubling and complex, however, are the battles we face with those who are supposedly on our side – “Et tu Brute, then fall Caesar,” as Shakespeare would say. We laugh extra hard at each other’s jokes, since honesty rarely strengthens friendships, one may never know how a friend truly feels.

Cecil resorts to contemplating, over-thinking, and wishing that they suffer the consequences for what they did to his heart, allowing them to hurt him a second time, this time in his mind. Cecil can’t quite remember who he is anymore, and nothing makes any sense. His significant other is no longer significant, and his closest and oldest friend, the very paragon of benevolence, stabbed him in the back with a velvet glove on his hand, and the sweetest of smiles.

3.

The passenger sitting beside Cecil, an old man, presumably a priest by the clerical clothing he is wearing looks at Cecil with confident loving eyes, and asks,

“What’s the issue young man? You seem troubled, unfinished business?”

“No,” Cecil replies. “Everything is tied up just fine, knock on wood,” Cecil says. He smiles positively; mirroring the confidence exuded from the old man, and then says,

“However, I find myself wondering what the chances are for this particular plane we’re sitting in to sending us into a spinning, rotating, and nose-diving spiral of certain death?”

“I presume you are not fond of flying,” the priest says cracking a sardonic smile.

“No, flying is not really my cup of tea,” Cecil replies.

In reality, the priest’s presence made Cecil ponder about heaven and hell. If the plane actually crashed, killing everyone on board, hell! The thought of anyone suffering at all, let alone for eternity makes Cecil’s stomach twist. He then decides to ask the priest a question,

“May I ask you a question about your faith?”

“Yes, you may,” the priest answers.

“Is God really so vengeful?” Cecil asks.

The priest takes a moment of silence to respond, looking at Cecil pensively, and says,

“The Lord hears the prayers of those who ask to put aside hatred, but he is deaf to those who would flee from love.”

Cecil remains quiet, nods at the priest slightly embarrassed, and mutters under his breath a platonic reply, “Interesting!” his voice trailing away weakly. He looks out the oval window to the earth’s landscape covered in clouds and water. He keeps thinking over what the priest said about the conundrum of love.

For some reason Cecil finally manages to fall asleep.

 

END