The US of A’s ‘disposition matrix’

The US of A's 'disposition matrix'

What sort of monster has the US of A become? Orwell is crying in his grave. The Cold War sure was awful but this uni-polar world is starting to get really really nasty too.

Barack Obama’s weekly counter-terrorism meetings get to decide on what happens to drawn up targets from around the world. We are talking about human targets, Al-Shabaab figures or anyone else that US wants killed or silenced. The NSA no doubt plays a role in ferreting out where each person might be and the extensive network of military bases and drones play their role in carrying out the killings. The list is a secret and there is no rule for getting on it though the CIA and the military certainly contribute.

In Pakistan some 400 people have been killed in almost as many drone attacks since 9/11. A special court could be given oversight of these targeted, mostly extra-judicial killings. Others, who aren’t killed, could end up in black sites across the world, unknown prisons maintained by the US where people can be kept beyond international law or much legal oversight. No doubt some will be interrogated, tortured or otherwise pressured into confessions of some sort.

It seems the US is playing the international sheriff role and doing it in a wild west style as well: no international oversight, no democratic checks and balances, no proper procedures of justice. While I do not doubt there are some incredibly pesky terrorists around the world (small numbers, not very well armed or organised in general compared to the US) that the US deems to be against its interests. However, I cannot see why it would be of any benefit to the US or to anyone else to be acting in the above manner and creating a vast, complex, secret net of institutions that continues to carry out these killings.

However I can see a lot that the US and other supposedly fully democratic countries stand to lose: basic democratic principles such as fairness, justice and oversight. Sacrificing the most cherished basic values is a good recipe to losing the most basic meaning and values of a state. I also doubt most people want to live in a world that hurtles towards less security, less fairness and a setup in which one country and its allies are the only ones truly making the rules. What will be the checks, who will even know about these secret killings? What if they extend to others who are not exactly terrorists or are completely innocent of any crime and how will we ever know?

This is very scary. With the codename ‘disposition matrix’ it is also decidedly Orwellian. This is most definitely not the future anyone was hoping for when the Cold War ended.

Creative parents

Some parents go the extra mile when it comes to showing love to their kids in creative ways.

Love has a wonderful tendency to inspire you to wonderful small random acts. Obviously some parents catch onto a great idea and make a systematic effort that amounts to something akin to art.

Here are a few great examples.

If you are a parent, you will instantly understand the joyous motivation behind these.

Ps: I think there’s a certain level of obsessiveness displayed here, and conviction and commitment coupled with some extra time that I wish I had!!

Creative dad shares 5 years of sandwich bags

Creative mum turns drawings into plush toys

Amazing mum turns son’s lunches into works of art

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Creative artistic response

Creative artistic response
This is wonderful. A woman who often gets ridiculed turns her wit and creativity on those who scorn her.

“For about a year, I’d been taking pictures of strangers’ reactions to me in public for a series I called “Wait Watchers.” I was interested in capturing something I already knew firsthand: If the large women in historical art pieces were walking around today, they would be scorned and ridiculed.

So I found a crowded crosswalk farther down La Rambla, used my rangefinder camera to set the exposure and focus of where I would stand, and handed the camera to my assistant. I bought a cup of gelato and began eating it. I’ve learned I get more successful reactions if I am “doing” something.

In my peripheral vision, I saw a teen girl waiting for the signal to cross the street. As I stood there, eating my ice cream, I heard a repetitive “SLAP, SLAP, SLAP” of a hand on skin. I signaled to my assistant to shoot. It was only when I returned home to Memphis and got the film developed that I realized the sound was the girl hitting her belly as she watched me eat. She did this over and over. I have five frames of her with various facial expressions. I called the resulting image “Gelato.”

“I do not know what the strangers are thinking when they look at me.  But there is a Henri Cartier-Bresson moment when my action aligns with the composition, the shutter and their gaze that has a critical or questioning element.  Even though they are in front of a camera, they feel they have anonymity because they are crossing behind me.

And I don’t get hurt when I look at the images. I feel like I am reversing the gaze back on to them to reveal their gaze. I’m fine with who I am and don’t need anyone’s approval to live my life. I only get angry when I hear someone comment about my weight and the image does not reflect the criticism. That’s frustrating: when I didn’t get the shot.”

Pictures of people who mock me

The art of asking… and receiving

The art of asking... and receiving

A wonderful TED talk by artist and musician Amanda Palmer…

Amanda Palmer on the art of asking

She talks about letting people pay for music instead of making them pay for it (which is a wonderful way of pointing out what is wrong with the music industry at the moment and why their online business model isn’t working). She looks at the relationships between the artist and the fan and how she made her living, by asking fans to support her.

There’s beauty in her ideas and some deeper human truths are revealed… but, they also point to how, perhaps, the music and entertainment industry could be turning back the tide on its fortunes. Although, it’s possible to argue that these ideas on direct support only apply for small or individual artists and only the exceptional ones who cultivate a direct and close relationship with their fans. Still, some powerful ideas…

Being a mum…

Being a mum...

Oh my, I just have to re-share this wonderful piece… so beautifully written and deeply true (thank you Abby Sandercock for the original re-post).

I keep finding myself musing over similar deeply emotional, philosophical points. One of these days I’ll write a longer piece that’ll express the depth of these feelings in my own words. In the meantime, please read and ponder the text below…

It is such a tremendous gift of life (well, parenthood!) to feel such vulnerability, such aching dilemmas and fears, such sensitivity, such an enormous love that you never thought was possible…

For all Mother’s
(including soon to be Mothers)

We are sitting at lunch one day when my daughter casually mentions that she and her husband are thinking of “starting a family.” “We’re taking a survey,” she says half-joking. “Do you think I should have a baby?”

“It will change your life,” I say, carefully keeping my tone neutral.

“I know,” she says, “no more sleeping in on weekends, no more spontaneous vacations.”

But that is not what I meant at all. I look at my daughter, trying to decide what to tell her. I want her to know what she will never learn in childbirth classes.

I want to tell her that the physical wounds of child bearing will heal, but becoming a mother will leave her with an emotional wound so raw that she will forever be vulnerable.

I consider warning her that she will never again read a newspaper without asking, “What if that had been MY child?” That every plane crash, every house fire will haunt her.

That when she sees pictures of starving children, she will wonder if anything could be worse than watching your child die.

I look at her carefully manicured nails and stylish suit and think that no matter how sophisticated she is, becoming a mother will reduce her to the primitive level of a bear protecting her cub. That an urgent call of “Mum!” will cause her to drop a soufflé or her best crystal without a moments hesitation.

I feel that I should warn her that no matter how many years she has invested in her career, she will be professionally derailed by motherhood. She might arrange for childcare, but one day she will be going into an important business meeting and she will think of her
baby’s sweet smell. She will have to use every ounce of discipline to keep from running home, just to make sure her baby is all right.

I want my daughter to know that every day decisions will no longer be routine. That a five year old boy’s desire to go to the men’s room rather than the women’s at McDonald’s will become a major dilemma. That right there, in the midst of clattering trays and screaming
children, issues of independence and gender identity will be weighed against the prospect that a child molester may be lurking in that restroom.

However decisive she may be at the office, she will second-guess herself constantly as a mother.

Looking at my attractive daughter, I want to assure her that eventually she will shed the pounds of pregnancy, but she will never feel the same about herself.

That her life, now so important, will be of less value to her once she has a child. That she would give herself up in a moment to save her offspring, but will also begin to hope for more years, not to accomplish her own dreams, but to watch her child accomplish theirs.

I want her to know that a cesarean scar or shiny stretch marks will become badges of honor.

My daughter’s relationship with her husband will change, but not in the way she thinks.

I wish she could understand how much more you can love a man who is careful to powder the baby or who never hesitates to play with his child.

I think she should know that she will fall in love with him again for reasons she would now find very unromantic.

I wish my daughter could sense the bond she will feel with women throughout history who have tried to stop war, prejudice and drunk driving.

I want to describe to my daughter the exhilaration of seeing your child learn to ride a bike.

I want to capture for her the belly laugh of a baby who is touching the soft fur of a dog or cat for the first time.

I want her to taste the joy that is so real it actually hurts.

My daughter’s quizzical look makes me realize that tears have formed in my eyes. “You’ll never regret it,” I finally say. Then I reached across the table, squeezed my daughter’s hand and offered a silent prayer for her, and for me, and for all the mere mortal women who stumble their way into this most wonderful of callings.
Please share this with a Mum that you know or all of your girlfriends who may someday be Mums. May you always have in your arms the one who is in your heart.

(Author Unknown)
— with Shaun Garrison Quintero and Molly Smith.