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Rob Archer's blog

WATCH: Happy holidays. NSFW.

A woman in Chicago has a 45-minute meltdown. For no apparent reason, she starts screaming she voted for Trump and the African-American store employees were discriminating against her for voting for the president-elect, something no one there had any way of knowing before she announced it. Her meltdown continues as she begins to berate everyone else in the store, accusing a woman’s husband of cheating on her and her infant of stealing.

Happy holidays.

Read more about the incident here.

UPDATE: The woman who shot the video has posted the following on her Facebook page:

It has been brought to my attention that people have identified the woman in the video I posted. I started taking that video to protect the employees of the store and I am glad that is working! But, I’m going to do something the president-elect is not going to do and ask people to stop throwing hatred at the woman in the video. Do not try to contact her or harass her. Do not post her contact info. Violence is not the answer. Also, SHE is not the point. Her actions are – and the fact that this behavior has been normalized is unacceptable. It’s happening everywhere. I posted this video so that people would see that this is real. What matters are the employees she hurled the insults at. This woman did not see anything wrong with her actions. If anything, she felt justified. She expected white people like me to agree with her and when they told her she was wrong and to stop, she spun out of control. What you don’t see in the video were other people united – different skin color, different gender, different sexuality – all united. I was not shaking in the video because of the woman shouting, I was shaking because the black employee standing next to me was so strong, unwavering and calm. This is bigger than one person and one incident. We have to stand up and say this is not okay every time. Don’t get caught up in demonizing one individual. This is bigger than that.

The seagulls strike back

Bad Lip Reading has successfully turned The Empire Strikes Back into a musical about seagulls.

On the passing of Fidel Castro

The passing of Fidel Castro marks the exit of a man who changed the history of our hemisphere. Brutality and totalitarianism marked his dictatorship.

However, when I spoke to many Cuban people — most of them young — during our visit a few weeks ago, I noted mostly ambivalence about Fidel. There was much hope for a continuing thaw in Cuba’s relationship with the United States, excitement about the possible lifting of the embargo and the normalizing of ties, and change in the air with the liberalizations brought about by Raul Castro and his promise to leave office in 2018.

They fear to lose some of the things they like about their revolution, like free healthcare, access to education, and lack of homelessness, but there is a sincere desire for changes that would give their island nation access to much-needed resources to restore crumbling infrastructure and the availability of common goods and medicines.

There is trepidation about what will come after Raul Castro steps down in 2018. They worry there may be some chaos and that the way forward may not be clear.

Some say Fidel Castro turned Cuba into an “island prison.” That was no doubt true in the past, but we did not feel that at all during our visit. Everyone seemed free and open to sharing their opinions about their home, America, and the place they wanted in the world.

They adore President Obama, and mark his visit there as the new “before and after” in their history. They love America and Americans and are joyful that more of us are visiting. They hate the embargo, and call it the “genocide.”

But most of all, Cubans are ready for the future. At the time of our visit, they were hopeful for more normalization of ties under President Hillary Clinton, but now that Donald Trump is the president-elect, I have no idea how they feel. He has tweeted a promise to roll back the small steps Obama has taken toward restoring relations.

In my opinion, we should stay on our current president’s course. We should lift the embargo. It has failed, for 52 years, to drive the Castros from power. Note that Fidel outlived JFK, LBJ, Nixon, and Reagan. Note that he even outlasted the USSR.

The brightest future for the Cuban people, in my mind, lies in close ties with the US. We can influence them by showing them who we are, and our learning who they are, beyond the stereotypes of their nation given us during the Cold (and dead) War.

Yet another Rogue One trailer

Oh my. This looks wonderful!

What if the electoral college chose Hillary Clinton?

Lawrence Lessig is a professor at Harvard Law School and the author of “Republic, Lost: Version 2.0.” He argues that when the electoral college meets to cast votes, the electors should choose Hillary Clinton.

(Clinton, by the way, is currently ahead in the popular vote by 2 million, and will likely be up by 2 and a half million when the counting is done.)

Lessig writes, “Conventional wisdom tells us that the electoral college requires that the person who lost the popular vote this year must nonetheless become our president. That view is an insult to our framers. It is compelled by nothing in our Constitution. It should be rejected by anyone with any understanding of our democratic traditions — most important, the electors themselves.”

He cites precedents:

Only twice in our past has the electoral college selected a president against the will of the people — once in the 19th century and once on the cusp of the 21st. (In 1824, it was Congress that decided the election for John Quincy Adams; likewise in 1876, it was Congress that gave disputed electoral college votes to Rutherford B. Hayes.)

In 1888, Benjamin Harrison lost the popular vote to Grover Cleveland but won in the electoral college, only because Boss Tweed’s Tammany Hall turned New York away from the reformer Cleveland (by fewer than 15,000 votes). In 2000, George W. Bush lost the popular vote by a tiny fraction — half a percent — and beat Al Gore in the electoral college by an equally small margin — less than 1 percent.

In both cases, the result violated what has become one of the most important principles governing our democracy — one person, one vote. In both cases, the votes of some weighed much more heavily than the votes of others. Today, the vote of a citizen in Wyoming is four times as powerful as the vote of a citizen in Michigan. The vote of a citizen in Vermont is three times as powerful as a vote in Missouri. This denies Americans the fundamental value of a representative democracy — equal citizenship. Yet nothing in our Constitution compels this result.

It’s a moot point because I’m sure the electors will choose Trump. Well, most of them will, anyway. But it’s an interesting intellectual exercise, because if they chose Clinton instead, constitutional law and precedent back them up.

One thing that is slightly more likely to happen is if some huge scandal surrounding Trump breaks out before the electors meet, like revelations of more dirty dealings, enough electors might withhold or change their votes that it would send the election to the House, and Republicans might choose Paul Ryan or Mitt Romney.

Are any of these things likely to happen? Probably not. But then again, a lot of smart people were telling us how unlikely it was that Donald Trump would be the Republican nominee, much less that he would win the presidency.

Hillary’s Hallelujah

The Young Intellectual

Here’s a piece of art I bought in Cuba: A small reproduction of “Intelectual o Joven Intelectual” by Marcelo Pogolotti, 1937. The original is in the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes.

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Intelectual o Joven Intelectual, 1937

Pogolotti lost his vision the year following this painting. He died in Havana in 1988.

Coming to America

We’re back from our trip to Cuba, somewhat exhausted after a few days in Havana and the eastern valleys of the island.  It is a beautiful country filled with people who are eager to welcome more visitors from the USA. The National Ballet was a transcendent experience in the most beautiful building in the capital city. I got to experience the Cuban health care system when I had the Nosebleed Apocalypse (more about that later). Oh, and one more thing: it’s time to end the embargo.

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Above & below: On Monday morning, Cubans line up at the US Embassy to apply for permits to visit the United States. Since 2013, Cuba has significantly relaxed travel restrictions for its citizens. Now, people need only a passport and a national ID card to leave, and they’re allowed to take their young children with them. However, a visa costs on average five months’ salary. (Photos by Rob Archer)

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Mars: Kicking the can down the road

We always seem to be about 20 years from going to Mars.

While President Obama recently set our sights on the red planet by the 2030s, an actual program and the money for it still aren’t there.

One of the definitive memories from my early childhood is of laying on the living room floor in front of the TV, watching Neil and Buzz set foot on the Moon. Even then, I worshiped astronauts and the space program.

As I watched successive moon landings and space missions, there was talk of what was next: space stations, moon bases, and sending people to Mars. Optimistically, we dreamed that the arc of our reach into space was going to continue on an unbroken line upward. But politics and money soon got in the way. Our national will to conquer the solar system abated once we beat the Russians to the lunar surface. Our political ego turned out to be more important than exploration.

I had always assumed I would see an astronaut walking on Mars in my lifetime. Now, I’m not so sure.

I’m not the only one who feels a little discouraged. Leroy Chiao, an astronaut, writes in an op-ed on Space.com that “an actual Mars program is missing; while it is true that NASA has received small increases in its budget and technological progress is being made, the funding and political resource commitments do not match the goal of landing humans on Mars in the 2030s.”

I want to see people walking on the next planet out. What’s more, I would like the first ones to be Americans. Our nation has proven it has the drive, the ambition, and the know-how. All we need is the will.

That will must come from the next presidential administration and Congress if it’s going to happen in my lifetime.

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NASA’s “Mars Explorers Wanted” poster series celebrates the agency’s latest effort to prepare for a journey to Mars. Credit: NASA

 

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