SOCIAL VOX

My thoughts on the world around me

World Economic Forum and YouTube: Make Your Voice Heard

World leaders and thinkers, from Bill Gates to Bono, will be attending the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland on January 29, 2009. They will be meeting to address some of the key issues facing our planet: the economy, ethics, environment, and politics. The theme for the forum is “Shaping the Post-Crisis World.”

Through YouTube.com, you can submit a video weighing in on these contentious issues, and possibly win an opportunity to attend the forum in Davos:

Here are the FOUR questions you can respond to…

1. The Economy:

Want to see how others answered that question? Click HERE

2. Corporate Ethics:

Want to see how others answered that question? Click HERE

3. The Environment:

Want to see how others answered that question? Click HERE

4. Politics:

Want to see how others answered that question? Click HERE

This is our chance. Let’s make our voices heard.

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December 31, 2008 Posted by | Economics, Education, Law, Politics | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Bush Wins Rulings on Gitmo Detainees

Very quietly, an important case was passed on Tuesday.

Richard Leon, a federal district judge for the US District Court for the District of Columbia, ruled Tuesday that the government was properly holding two Guantánamo detainees as enemy combatants. This was the first clear-cut victory for the Bush administration in what are expected to be more than 200 similar cases.

Rulings such as these are significant, among other reasons, because the Obama administration may use them to justify continuing to hold certain detainees even if they’ve already closed the Cuban prison down.

This is only a district court case that is likely to be appealed, so the extent of its impact is likely yet to be determined. The lawyer of one of the detainees said several issues were appealable, including the fact that the government was allowed to rely on classified evidence which her client was not permitted to see.

December 31, 2008 Posted by | Law, Politics | , , , , | 1 Comment

Roland W. Burris? The Plot Thickens

Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich sure loves to create scandal. In his most recent move, the Ill. governor appointed Roland W. Burris to replace President-Elect Obama in the US Senate.

In a New York Times article, Don Rose, a former Democratic political consultant in Chicago, described Mr. Burris as “not a terribly exciting figure,” and that “there’s never been a breath of scandal about [Mr. Burris].”

However, another Times article suggests that the political waters surrounding Burris’ relationship with Blagojevich may be a bit murkier. Following the 2002 primary for governor, Mr. Burris encouraged Mr. Obama to endorse Mr. Blagojevich. At one point, Mr. Burris served as the vice chairman of the governor’s transition team.

Moreover, Mr. Burris and his consulting firm have made several contributions to Mr. Blagojevich’s campaign. State records show that the consulting firm has given more than $9,000 in cash and in-kind contributions, and Mr. Burris has personally handed out at least $4,500. In June of this year, Mr. Burris contributed $1,000 to Mr. Blagojevich’s campaign. The article also notes, though, that Mr. Burris is not someone believed to be mentioned in the conversations prosecutors recorded of Mr. Blagojevich’s apparent negotiations over the seat.

Can the Senate now exclude Mr. Burris from taking the seat? Not so fast. A Wall Street Journal law blog noted the effect that the US Supreme Court’s decision in Powell v. McCormick could have on this issue.

In Powell, Adam Clayton Powell, a Harlem representative facing some legal issues, won reelection in 1966. The House of Representatives voted to exclude him. The US Supreme Court’s decision was that the proceedings against Powell were intended to exclude him rather than expel him, and that the House did not constitutionally possess the power to exclude a duly elected member.

How does this affect Mr. Burris? Well, it seems that the Senate would have to wait for him to be seated as a new member of Congress, and only then could they force a vote to have him expelled. Removing Mr. Burris from the Senate would require a two-thirds vote, however. Will two-thirds of the Senate vote in favor of his removal? Only time will tell.

Regardless of how this political game plays out, Mr. Rose thinks Mr. Burris will “run again,” that this is what “[Mr. Burris has] always wanted.”

December 31, 2008 Posted by | Law, Politics | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Israeli Missile Attacks on Gaza

This video gives a sense of the horrors currently transpiring in Gaza (WARNING: some images may be too disturbing for some viewers):

Vodpod videos no longer available.

The most shocking image for me was the Palestinian policeman, presumably praying as he met his end. Watching him, I was reminded of two things: José Martí ‘s poem, “Cultivo una Rosa Blanca,” and the final scene in the film, “All Quiet on the Western Front (1930).”

In the poem, José Martí writes, “Cultivo una rosa blanca…para el amigo sincero que me da su mano franca. Y para el cruel que me arranca el corazón con que vivo…cultivo la rosa blanca.” Martí’s message is that one should cultivate a white rose, a symbol of purity and innocence, for both friend and foe. Martí, a prominent thinker during Cuba’s war for independence from Spain, was instructing his readers to love, not hate. The poem calls for us to embrace, rather than kill, the enemy.

The ending of “All Quiet on the Western Front” (1930) is a cinematic classic:

In the film’s final scene, the soldier is killed as he reaches to touch a butterfly. That image has stuck with me. The soldier, weary and solemn, found beauty on the battlefield. In that moment, he forgot about the hell he was living in. He was in a trance pursuing something pure. In reaching for the butterfly, the soldier’s heart beat louder than any gunshot. In that moment, just for that moment, he was human again.

I don’t have an answer for the Middle East crisis generally, or the Israel-Palestine conflict specifically. I don’t know if Israel’s response (Israeli bombs have killed 270+ Palestinians, mostly militants) was proportional to the Palestinian militant aggression (300+ rockets fired into Israel in the past week). On this matter, I am truly impotent.

I can, however, provide a few words in favor of peace. This is my message to those in Gaza, Israel, and any other war-torn territory:

God, watch over them. Watch over their families and their people. Let them know that violence inevitably leads to more pain. Teach them that love for the enemy, while difficult and seemingly unnatural, may be the only solution to keeping their skies blue and not gray with smoke. Guide the soldiers away from the war zone and back into their homes. Heal the wounded and soothe the broken-spirited. Let rain, not warplanes, fall from the sky to wash away the blood, tears, and soot. Allow words, not guns, to determine the outcome.

Shalom Aleichem (Hebrew for “peace be upon you”).

Wa Aleykum As-Salaam (Arabic for “and upon you be peace”).

December 28, 2008 Posted by | Politics | , , , , , | 4 Comments

Josh Bernstein on The Martha Stewart Show

Josh Bernstein, host of the Discovery Channel’s “Into the Unknown,” made an appearance on The Martha Stewart Show. I had never heard of him before, but my sister suggested I look into him because it seemed like he’s been leading a fascinating life. Here’s the video from the show:

I can’t underestimate the influence a successful person can have on another. There’s a certain comfort in knowing that someone came before you and was able to reach the top of the mountain. So, when I look at the video above, and I see that Mr. Bernstein has traveled 125,000 miles in the past year, I am reminded that there truly are no limits to what man can achieve. You want to write a book? Start typing. You want to travel the world? Save up money, buy a plane ticket and toothbrush, and go.

There’s an entire world to discover out there. What I’ve learned only recently, though, is that there’s also an entire world to discover within ourselves.

With every word I write, I learn something new about myself. What I like and what I dislike. What I’m afraid to say and what I’m dying to say.

Ultimately, I extracted a valuable lesson: the world is yours to take, mold, own, and, finally, to celebrate the fact that you can do it all over again tomorrow. Mr. Bernstein, I’ll see you in Papua New Guinea.

Sis, thanks for the video.

December 23, 2008 Posted by | Art, Travel, TV | , , , | 1 Comment

USC Cinema: Writing for Screen & TV

I’ve long considered going into graduate school for film/TV writing. While I took three screenwriting classes in college, I’ve always felt that I would need to attend a graduate writing program to truly hone my skills. So, I visited the website of the University of Southern California’s writing program, and I came across this video:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

I like that they’re exposing writers to different facets of the art of film making. Not only do they focus on writing, but they also look at the craft from a director’s and actor’s perspective.

It also serves as an inspiration to see and hear people who’ve “made it.” USC only admits roughly 30 writers per year, and being affiliated with such a prestigious program is an important, albeit not a necessary, step toward finding success as a writer in Hollywood.

At least with respect to me, this video served its purpose: I now find myself even more tempted to apply.

December 22, 2008 Posted by | Art, Education, Film, TV | , , , | 2 Comments

Lyon est le champion d’automne

Benzema célèbre son but contre Caen

Benzema célèbre son but contre Caen

Lyon (l’OL) est le champion d’automne en Ligue 1. L’OL s’impose à Caen sur un but de son goleador, Karim Benzema, le 20 décembre. Puis, le dimanche 21 décembre, Bordeaux a gagné son match contre Monaco, et Paris Saint-Germain (Paris) a fini 2-2 contre Valenciennes.

L’OL reste leader malgré Bordeaux a gagné son match. Bordeaux est 2e de la L1, à trois points de Lyon. Paris est 4e de la L1, à cinq points de Lyon.

December 21, 2008 Posted by | Français | , , , | Leave a comment

Parabéns aos brasileiros do Milan

Kaka durante o jogo contra o Udinese

Kaká durante o jogo contra o Udinese

Os brasileiros, Kaká e Alexandre Pato, foram exitosos hoje com o A.C. Milan na goleada do Udinese por 5 a 1 neste domingo. Pato marcou dois goles, aos quatro minutos e aos 18 minutos da primeira etapa. Kaká marcou dois goles também, aos 13 minutos da primeira etapa e aos sete minutos da segunda etapa. O outro gol foi de Clarence Seedorf.

O equipe está em terceiro, atrás do líder Inter por nove pontos (ganhou do Siena), e Juventus (ganhou do Atalanta), que está em segundo.
Antes do que começara o jogo, o meia inglês David Beckham foi apresentado aos torcedores no centro do gramado.

December 21, 2008 Posted by | Português | , , , | Leave a comment

Tres equipos…sólo habrá un campeón

Esta semana se determinará cual equipo será campeón del torneo apertura en el fútbol argentino. Será Boca? San Lorenzo? O Tigre?

Me perdí los juegos de ayer, pero no pienso perderme los de esta semana:

Tigre-San Lorenzo, Miércoles a las 18.30 en Velez

Boca-San Lorenzo, Sábado a las 18.30 en Racing

Boca-Tigre, Martes a las 21.30 en Racing

Para animarme, encontré este vídeo de la hinchada de Boca:

Vamos Boca! “Yo te sigo a toda parte, y cada vez te quiero más.”

December 15, 2008 Posted by | Español | , , | 2 Comments

Will Obama Abuse His Power?

In response to a New York Times article, in which a Yale Law School student said that some liberal students, disillusioned by how conservatives had run government, would be applying for jobs within the Obama-Biden transition team because they “feel like government now can be potentially a huge force for social justice,” George Mason University law professor David Bernstein made an interesting argument:

“[I]t’s a categorical mistake to think the fundamental problem with abusive government is who is in power, rather than the existence of the power itself, combined with human nature.”

Sure, political philosophers, from Machiavelli to Kant, have opined on man’s difficulty to wield political power without abusing it. Power, some have argued, inevitably corrupts.

Look no further than President George W. Bush.

The U.S. Supreme Court will be hearing a case in the spring, Al-Marri v. Pucciarelli, to address the issue of whether the Executive has the legal authority to indefinitely detain a legal resident in the United States, without charge, by declaring him an “enemy combatant.” Ali Saleh Kahlah al-Marri was arrested in 2001 as a material witness in the FBI’s investigation of 9/11. In 2002, he was charged with credit card fraud and other criminal offenses. Prior to his trial in 2003, however, President Bush declared al-Marri an “enemy combatant.” Five years have passed, and Mr. al-Marri remains in solitary confinement without charge.

Our “lame duck” president also continues to push highly contentious regulations into the midnight hour. One such regulation, if enacted, would provide stronger protections for doctors and other medical staff to refuse to perform abortions if the medical procedures would violate their moral or religious beliefs. While Roe v. Wade remains good law, this regulation would gravely impact indigent women, whose access to medical resources is already limited.

Will President-Elect Obama follow in his soon-to-be predecessor’s footsteps? Will he, too, abuse of his power?

There is little way of knowing what may transpire over the next four years. However, if the formation of Obama’s cabinet is an indication of anything, it’s that Obama is aware of checks and balances. By many considered a “team of rivals,” this group consists of political heavyweights whose views span the entire ideological spectrum.

During the Democratic primaries, Senator Hillary Clinton, the Secretary of State designee, differed from Obama on troop withdrawal from Iraq. Secretary of Defense Bob Gates is a Bush appointee. General Jim Jones appeared with John McCain during the campaign. The fact that these public officials are forming part of Obama’s “CHANGE” team has many liberals outraged.

And that’s the point.

One marked difference between the Bush administration and Obama’s cabinet picks is cronyism. The American public expected Obama to select his friends. On MSNBC’s “Hardball,” Chris Matthews, referring to Obama selecting former Clinton officials and even Republicans, said that “elections ought to matter.”

But this election has mattered.

Obama has purposely surrounded himself with people who will challenge him and question his views. By debating him, his advisers hold him accountable. If he is answerable for his actions, then Obama may be less inclined to abuse of his constitutionally granted powers.

So, Professor Bernstein, while the marriage between man and power is necessarily volatile, there still remains hope that the future commander-in-chief can be a man of principle, a leader who navigates perilous waters with integrity.

December 12, 2008 Posted by | Politics | , , , , | 3 Comments

The Boy in the Photo

As I began creating this blog, I thought to myself, “it would be great to upload a picture on here.” As I scavenged through the hundreds of pictures that I’ve taken, I settled on the one now found on the homepage — a young boy, standing in a creek, looking out. It was a picture I took three years ago in Big Sur, CA.

The fact is, when I snapped the picture the boy was looking at his dog playing in the water about ten feet away.

In my imagination, however, the picture illustrates much more.

The boy is young and thin, some of his bones visible to the naked eye. The water to his right seems to come alive, swirling and growing stronger. The small boy looks to his left, and to his dismay there is only darkness.

Alone, he looks out into the great abyss. He shivers a little.

He looks around, but cannot find a single adult within shouting distance. The water swells even higher. The darkness creeps a little closer, consuming the birds’ songs and the very air the boy breathes. The cold, firm grip of despair tightens around his spine. The boy asks himself, “What can I do?”

When faced with adversity, what can you do?

I was in law school for over a year, but I wasn’t having a good time. The classes satisfied my intellectual curiosity, and I’d made some wonderful friends, but something was missing. I didn’t feel passionate about the work. I began to sense that the fire in me, which once burned and knew no master, was dying slowly.

I realized that I had to leave law school and pursue my dream of writing. That was when I stepped into the creek. To my right awaited a crumbling economy and family members who considered my departure from the law a fatal mistake. To my left, my future career in writing was a great abyss — full of uncertainty and perhaps too dark to see the dangers ahead.

What should the boy do? I started a blog.

It’s not much so far, but it’s certainly a start. In the face of fear, I’ll have to rely on my words to guide me through the rising tide, and act as a flashlight for the darkness that looms.

December 7, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | 6 Comments

My first blog: An Intro

Welcome…Bienvenido…Bemvindo…Bienvenue!

This is my first blog, and I’m very excited to get started.

December 5, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | 2 Comments