The Details in the Smoke

We are not even a month into the Trump administration and there is already the smoke of scandal hanging in the air. The proverbial ship of the White House is experiencing more leaks than most people in living memory can recall for any other president and while Trump might be blaming the intelligence agencies for illegally leaking information, there are plenty of leaks coming from his own staff. The leaks eventually culminated in Michael Flynn’s resignation over his discussion with Russian officials in December apparently discussing sanctions from the Obama era. Flynn had previously denied the claim, even telling the Vice President that he had not done so.

While the story from the White House is that Flynn was forced to resign over his dishonesty to the Pence, it’s clear that this resignation is also an attempt to stem the bleeding from the looming spectre of the Russian influence that the administration has never been able to fully overcome. But the suspicion has continued, more leaks are surfacing with claims that the Trump campaign staff were in contact with Russian officials and the fact that Trump knew of Flynn’s discussion of sanctions even though he denied it today.

In a normal world the agencies and institutions that check the president’s power would check for a fire when they see this much smoke. A thorough, open investigation would be taken place to put the full Russian spectre to bed. That would be a normal world, we don’t live there; instead the GOP is looking for the details in the smoke. There is literally more concern for the leaks than the information coming out of them and how they implicate Trump and his team.

Trump has led this call of course, wanting to distract from the multitude of problems that are plaguing his administration. He’s generalized the whole issue of leaks down to the fact that they are illegal which is not entirely true. Leaks coming from the White House about its current disheveled state are not illegal if they do not release actual classified documents, although they may be annoying.

The intel leaking from the intelligence agencies is where Trump and Congress can work together to plug the holes in it, but that’s not the issue at hand. A majority of high ranking GOP see leaks concerning possible connections between Trump and a foreign power and their concern is more about where the leaks are coming from than the actual substance.

It makes sense for the GOP to do this, they have a lot of legislation that they have been promising to constituents for most of the Obama years and Trump, for now, seems to have an aligned interest with them. But we are nearly a third of the way through the first hundred days, the apex of presidential political capital and we still have not seen solid legislative proposals, only a few dozen executive orders.

The GOP needs to realize that Congress is on a collision course with Trump. There are inherent checks and balances but Trump is different than most of his predecessors, clearly willing to employ dirty tactics to get what he wants and the dysfunction within the GOP Congress is probably not ready to deal with it.


So You Marched Today

So you marched today. You donned your pink knitted hats and drove to a nearby city or made the trek all the way to DC. You stood in the cold, maybe it was your one hundredth march or your first, but you were still there. You spent the previous night coming up with signs that you carried all day, your voice now sore from shouting.

Now your home, maybe it’s been a couple days and you just got home. You’re tired, you’re hungry, but you still have a burning inside. The inner desire to make things better, to see a country you can be proud to give to your children and their children. Where they do not have to face the same prejudice you or your parent’s faced.

But change never comes quickly, or else it would be lost just as fast. No. Change comes from the blood, sweat, and tears of patriots; those who love their country so much they recognize its flaws and work on improvements, no matter the price of time it will take.

Some may have taken that first step to patriotism today, some may have been doing it their entire life, but from today forward we all recognize this is not the end. This can be the beginning of something bigger, a movement for change, for bettering the country we all call home.

But the dream of an optimistic future rely on the ever-persistent present. A march is good but organizing is better. Talking to people in your community and getting them involved is hard, but it’s what has gotten this march in the first place, and if it can bring this many people together, it can continue to bring change.

So you marched today, you made history, but today is over. Tomorrow we organize. We grab our clipboards, comfortable shoes, and a bottle of water and hit the pavement. It is not glamorous, but in a week or a year or a decade you will look back and realize how much you were capable of and how much more work we all still have left to do.

The Legacy of Obama: or “You Don’t Know What You Got ‘Til It’s Gone”

President Obama gave his farewell address a few nights ago, January 10th 2017, in Chicago. His entrance to the stage was created with the roar of the crowd shouting a phrase that has become common in recent years, “Four more years.” Although it is constitutionally impossible, there is something else that is important about the ending of Obama’s term, it will make many of us appreciate just how good we had it the last eight years.

The first black president was not the panacea to race relations, although he never claimed to be. However, Barack Obama represented what makes America unique, a half white half black kid from Hawaii raised by a single mother from Kansas could make his way into the highest institutions of higher education and eventually the highest office in the land.

But once he got there it wasn’t easy. He experienced some of the greatest partisan opposition in modern history with members of Congress openly advocating for obstruction. And despite all the best efforts to prevent progress the president managed to save the economy from a second Great Depression, ensured more Americans than ever before in history, and stabilized multiple geopolitical issues.

Obama will be missed, no matter who would be entering the White House after him. One of those “this is history” moments for me was in the summer of 2015. It was the summer that a white supremacist wrent into a historically black church in Charleston South Carolina with the intent to kill African Americans to start a race war. He killed nine people.

Like many Americans, the events in Charleston were beyond disturbing. But the aftermath in Charleston did not turn violent, the people of Charleston did the exact opposite, they came together. During the eulogy for those that had their lives ended far too soon Obama spoke. At the time I was driving in my car on a long road trip and just happened to be listening to NPR. Hearing the president speak after times of tragedy was always comforting, but what happened during it was one of the most remarkable moments, he sang Amazing Grace. It just seemed so right, that the sitting president did not come to Charleston to speak of revenge or further violence, but to celebrate the lives of those that left too soon.

It is a moment I often look back on and it’s something that will have no equivalent in the next four years, let alone the next twenty years.

From January 21, 2009 to January 20, 2017 my president was black. Although he was not perfect, he brought forth a demeanor an understanding of issues that will forever be missed. Like many great presidents before him he changed the office in so many ways we won’t notice until he has already left the White House. He inspired millions to care about politics. And like many great things in life we won’t realize how great it was until it has already ended.

Thank you Mr. President.  

Narcos: Who’s Afraid of Escobar?

Pablo Escobar is easily the most infamous character of the final decades of the 20th century. His lavish gangster lifestyle coupled with his elusiveness allowed him to become an international vocal point for the international war on drugs and the mythos surrounding it. Many shows that follow similar paths such as Breaking Bad try to draw parallels with Escobar, but nobody in western media has attempted to actually tell the story in a dramatic way, until Narcos.

I had the benefit of watching Narcos two seasons uninterrupted which wraps the story of Escobar in a nice bow.

I think the show altogether is great, if you are looking for a series to binge watch it is one of Netflix’s best, but there are some problems with it.

The biggest one is a disjointed narrative that exists within the story. The show is trying to do two things at once which leads to this disjointed narrative that is being told. We are initially introduced to Agent Murphy, the DEA agent sent to Colombia to assist in finding Escobar and his story through it all. Murphy voices over a lot of the show to explain plot without ruining the drama of the story, but the story is never solely about Murphy. In fact, Murphy is not really the main character. The show gets into longer and longer sessions of events from Escobar’s point of view.

This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it creates two shows within one. You’re never sure what the show is trying to say. Should we kind of feel sorry for Escobar since he himself is human and we have humanizing moments even when he is committing heinous acts? Should we look down on agent Murphy as we see him go to a dark place as he tries and hunt down Escobar?

The show never seems to get a clear answer, in the end the final episode of season two felt like a lost cause. All this work for the past couple hours seemed to fizzle away as the payoff didn’t really seem to, you know, payoff.

Maybe I’m just over analyzing, anyways I give Narcos a 7/10

Ali Wong’s Baby Cobra Review

As Comedy Central has moved away from the typical stand up specials it had in the 2000s, Netflix has begun to take up the vacuum. It is difficult to find a stand-up comedian that hasn’t done a stand-up special with the streaming service. But instead of one of the many comedians I love, I decided to watch someone new, Ali Wong.

Prior to this special I had no idea who Ali Wong was. I was only vaguely familiar with the show Fresh Off the Boat, which she is one of the writers for, and besides that had never heard of her. But this special got me interested in her comedy and I look forward to more performances by her in the future.

Since comedy is highly subjective, my take on Baby Cobra might be very different than others. Frankly, the special was an hour of almost constant laughs and good jokes. It is clear that Wong has a persona on the stage that she sometimes goes out of in between jokes that is noticeable.

The show also seems to follow a basic storyline of how she “trapped” her Harvard husband into marriage in order for her to quit her day job in order to become a housewife. Most of the laughs come out of this basic premise.

In a world where Amy Schumer, someone who in my opinion is not that funny, I am glad that there are other female comedians getting some spotlight that are hilarious.

I am going to give Baby Cobra the rating of a hilarious time.

Full Metal Alchemist Brotherhood: Something Great to Binge Watch

Full Metal Alchemist was one of the animes and manga that I followed when I first became interested in the genre. While like most other animes and manga, it fell out of interest to me when I caught up on the manga and anime and was encountered with filler or at least what felt like filler. But I decided to give Full Metal Alchemist Brotherhood a try on Netflix to see what the difference was with the original series. (I should also note here that the American Netflix is missing like the last season of the show, leading to having to find it elsewhere.)

The show is about a world in which alchemy is a legitimate form of science with some humans able to actually change the material and composition of matter. One of the fundamental laws of alchemy, equivalent exchange, essentially says that for every transformation there must be an equal cost paid. Alphonse and Edward Elric pay the ultimate price in the idea of equivalent exchange when they try to bring their dead mother back to life, causing Edward to lose his right arm and left leg and Al losing his entire body and having his soul entwined into a suit of armor. Now they are on a journey to look for the legendary Philosopher’s Stone as a possibility of getting their bodies back.

The world that FMA takes place in continues to be flushed out as the show progresses and with it the characters as well. The characters might be the largest strength of the show with both the heroes and villains being complicated and having goals that just aren’t about being the way they are just for the sake of it. There are surprisingly human moments in a fictional world where a talking suit of armor is the norm especially tense issues like genocide and war.

My largest complaint (not even that large really) is the trope in anime where characters facial expressions alter out of the normal art style to a more cartoonish one when something offensive or funny is said. For FMA, this can happen in serious moments when a character could possibly die and it takes the tension out of it.

Regardless, if you are looking for a good time on Netflix and are looking for a show to marathon through, give FMA a chance.

I’m going to give FMA: Brotherhood a 7.5~8.0/10.

Look Who’s Back: The Satire We Need Right Now

It is not uncommon in the modern era for politicians to be compared to Adolf Hitler. In fact, the election cycle in the United States this year has seen this comparison extend out even more. But what if the infamous leader himself was thrown into modern day Berlin with no recollection of how he got there? What would be his reaction to the modern time and more importantly what would people think of him? That is the premise of the wonderfully dark satire of Look Who’s Back or Er ist wieder da.

The film follows the story of the time travelled Adolf Hitler through mostly scripted events as he rises to fame on a television network, that looks eerily similar to the YouTube logo, because people think that he is a comedian imitating him. People also happen to agree with a lot of the things that he is saying in terms of modern day politics.

The scripted scenes make up most of the movie and have some of the best parts as far as the movie goes. There is a reenactment of the infamous Downfall scene that is just great for those who are fans of the movie or the meme. This part of the film also shines because it does not go for the lowest hanging fruit of Hitler jokes that could have been so easily grabbed. In fact, most of the Holocaust jokes that are introduced are not until Hitler is put on a television show with a comedian that does black face of President Obama when the writers of the show begin to create these kinds of jokes (social commentary!).

The movie also has portions that are in the Borat-style of actual people encountering this fake Hitler without knowing (for the most part) they are part of a film. This leads to moments such as a member of the right-wing party saying that he would follow Hitler again when asked by fake Hitler if he would take orders from him. This side of the film shows that as much as Germany is welcoming and attempting to progress from its past, there are clearly those who do not mind being associated with it at all.

If you are at all interested in the current state of German politics or are looking for some good satire, Oliver Masucci’s performance along with a decent script will take you there.

I’m going to give Look Who’s Back an 8.0~8.5/10.