Monthly Archives: November 2008

The Bronx Defenders

This video is about the Bronx Defenders, where my bro works as a public interest attorney. Although not featured in the video, he makes “a few really short non-speaking cameo appearances“.

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Judgment Notwithstanding the Verdict

In rare instances, a judge may overturn a jury’s verdict and issue her own judgment from the bench (a judgment notwithstanding the verdict in a civil trial or a judgment of acquittal in criminal procedure). With this in mind, I think it is appropriate that I amend my earlier verdict on Mad Men and issue a new judgment on my online TV watchlist. Continue reading


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Remembrance of Thanksgivings Past


This is my ninth Thanksgiving straight that I spend away from home and country. Over these years, I have used Thanksgiving as little more than a landmark establishing the official date (the day after) when I can finally begin listening to my beloved, yet annoying, Christmas favorites. For some reason this year (regardless of picking up a new Ella Fitzgerald Christmas album), Christmas music has barely crossed my mind. Continue reading


Filed under Digressions, Friends / Family

Sympathy for the Pirate


You have to admit that somewhere deep inside you smiled when hearing how Somali pirates had hijacked and taken for ransom a Saudi tanker with over $100 million worth of oil at sea. Completely forgotten by globalization, the pirates used what limited power they had to take a tiny share of their rich neighbor’s loot.

The pirates also remind me a little of Omar, that stick-up man of drug dealers from The Wire. As a matter of fact, if we’ve learned anything from the history of crime in America’s most impoverished urban areas it is that the disenfranchised will seek empowerment outside of the law. Continue reading

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Above It All?

Although I recently argued in favor of Obama’s transition to date, I have also had my moments of doubts. I can’t remember where I read it first, but the argument was pretty much that Obama was selecting a cabinet that would have been identical to that of Hillary were she elected. Then, I saw a CNN video podcast that replayed the highlights of the election year. Almost every other footage of Hillary (and Bill) were of their gutterball campaign tactics. As a matter of fact, when you look back at 2008, the Hillary campaign’s attacks against Obama were much nastier and divisive than those of McCain Palin (and even paved the way for the Republican duo’s later attacks, including Bill Ayers).

In Richard Cohen’s column today in the Washington Post, not only does Cohen make the first point of an Obama administration indistinguishable (at least in terms of personnel) from that of a hypothetical Hillary one, he also says the obvious about the bad blood from the primaries:

Remember when Clinton had no integrity, no character, when she lied about almost everything and could be trusted about almost nothing? Remember when she was excoriated for diabolically exonerating Obama of the charge that he was, secretly and very ominously, a Muslim by belling her cat of a remark with the portentous phrase “as far as I know”? And remember when her husband had supposedly revealed himself to be a racist? That was a calumny, a libel and a ferocious mugging of memory itself. But it was believed.

Both in watching the CNN election recap and being reminded of (what I still see as) the Clintons’ lack of integrity, I am tempted to amend my earlier stance on the transition and think of Obama as sell-out. But Cohen goes on to make a good argument that Obama, by accepting Hillary, is showing that he is above the frey.

As is sometimes the case with passionate love, one can look back after a campaign and wonder: What was that all about? Usually, the passion of the campaign is shared by the candidates themselves and, for sure, their staffs. They live in a bubble infected by rumor and suspicion, a latter-day Borgian court of intrigue. But with Obama, he seemed always to distance himself from the heat of the campaign and to look down at it, as he did with that immense crowd in Berlin, as being of short-term use.

A presidential campaign is really a government looking for a parking space. Obama’s campaign showed us a candidate of maximum cool. He has always remained ironically detached, and that has served him — and now us — very well indeed. It’s now clear that he will not govern from the left and not really from the center but, as his campaign suggested, from above it all.

No matter how you look at it, whether you’re a Republican or Democrat, a believer or not, I think that Obama has shown a degree of seriousness and urgency that we didn’t see in the Clinton or Bush transitions. It is more about governing than bringing in your Arkansas, Texas or Chicago cronies. That in itself is change that we needed.


Filed under Obama 44



With great horror I began Jim Hoagland’s article in the Washington Post where he initially compares Barack Obama to Spanish President Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero (aka, “ZP”).

Other than both politicians’ opposition to the Iraq War, the similarity stops there. Hoagland writes, “Zapatero can be brash and provocative, while Obama works at being cautious and reassuring.” The reality is that ZP is a featherweight buffoon whose all too often populist rhetoric has been counter-productive to Spain’s global interests. Continue reading


Filed under Essays, Living la vida española

Change or Institutional Reshuffling?


I think that it is worthwhile to discuss whether Obama’s transition team, in what appears to be picking mainly former Clinton 42 officials for future Obama posts, is really offering change or just recycling and reshuffling Washington insiders. As my brother puts it, “for those of you that had all sorts of hope for Obama his cabinet selections should be removing any lingering ‘change you can believe in.'” Continue reading


Filed under Obama 44

Exit Obama 08, Enter Obama 44


It’s time to close the Obama 08 section and open the new Obama 44 one. It’s been fun and historic, but it’s over.

As a caveat, let me say that it was never my intention to turn this into a political blog. I hope to continue my main focus on daily digressions, commentary on literature, Jazz (i.e., right now I’m listening to Straight Ahead by Oliver Nelson with Eric Dolphy), living abroad and other things that interest me, including politics. As mentioned, anything that has to do with the 44th President of the United States, good or bad, will now go under Obama 44.

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Leave it to Beaver for Adults


I know I have only seen three full episodes of Mad Men, but I think I got the point already — we’ve evolved since the late 50s, early 60s. Still, the non-stop smoking by everyone, everywhere and at anytime (you feel like you’re living in Europe up until 2 or 3 years ago), the wet-bars in the office, women as either subservient secretaries in tight blouses or subservient housewives with the dinner ready at the table, and a total absence of child safety standards — it all goes just a little too far. I already feel like I reek of tobacco and never want to have another drink again. (By the way, how do people on TV drink that much without hangovers?)

Mad Men is like Leave it to Beaver for adults. Both are exaggerations of reality: one is unbelievably perfect, the other is just too imperfect to be believable.

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Negative Externalities

One of the great advantages of online technologies and media is that I have been able to follow and stay abreast of the 2008 Presidential Election from abroad in a way that I was simply not able to back in 2000 and 2004. As I have mentioned, turning to podcasts kept me informed but at the cost of reading. Sometimes I even had the tendency to lose control and use online sources to watch TV shows or purchase (yes, I purchase) music. But now that the election is over, I should be back in full swing, reading up a storm. The problem is that in spending so much time searching for the latest new reel, interview or video footage, I also formed an unhealthy liking for certain American TV shows (curiously, I almost never turn on my television set). Here’s the pathetic list: Continue reading


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