Starbucks shuts down criticism of its holiday cup design

Well, looks like I goofed. In a previous post I called the Starbucks cup design the holiday re-design and apparently it was not. That design was more election-related, though most of what I wrote about Starbucks being in the center of controversy stands.

Grubstreet recently reported on the real Starbucks holiday cup design, and while “critic-proof” is by no means an absolute, it is interesting how they arrived at the 2016 holiday season designs.

Those who wanted to saw the gradient/ombre cups of 2015 as a “war on Christmas.” They even discarded the reality that most of the symbols people associate with Christmas were appropriated from earlier pagan festivals such as Saturnalia to arrive at this conclusion. I think I’ve said plenty about the alleged “war on Christmas” already but I think some of it bears repeating. There are many different observances between the American Thanksgiving and the beginning of the new year: Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Grav-mass/Newtonmas, Yule, Yalda, Boxing Day, Dongzhi Festival, Quaid-e-Azam’s Day, Chalica, Soyal, Pancha Ganapati, Festivus… just to name a few.

Anyway, before I go too far off on that tangent, Starbucks took 13 of the best designs drawn on the 2015 cups, and used them as designs for the 2016 cups. The 2016 cups don’t appear to have the actual ombre/gradient background from 2015, though (I happen to be at a Starbucks as I write this so I can glance over and look). Even more interesting, Starbucks has made a winter design for the clear plastic cups used for cold drinks, since those still get ordered down south in cities like Houston (and not just by the weirdo geek writing this that orders iced tea at Starbucks 10½ to 11 months out of the year).

The assertion of “critic-proof” has yet to be proven. But to those who are going to call a “war on Christmas” based on not including things like snowflakes, trees, or other symbols of wintertime: make a note of where they come from. Even Santa Claus has his origins in Yule, not Christmas.

Maybe it’s time I call a “war on Yule and Saturnalia” given that so much of what we now call “Christmas” decorations have been appropriated from those two holidays.

The reaction to the results of the 2016 election: protests and more

The Daily Kos reports on protests in response to the election results. Admittedly, protests of some sort are something we don’t see that often in the US.

Given how divisive this election was, we were virtually guaranteed a reaction of this sort regardless of the eventual winner. If there was an ever an election where I felt like I was choosing “the lesser of two evils” this was it. I voted for Hillary Clinton, but it was a more of a vote against Donald Trump. I toyed with the idea of voting third-party but that went out the window the moment some polls indicated Texas was a toss-up state (our 38 electoral votes wound up going to Trump, alas).

So, personally, it’s hard to blame all these people who (presumably) voted for Hillary Clinton (or someone else) who are out there protesting. The preliminary popular vote totals indicate that Hillary actually won the popular vote–meaningless in the grand scheme of things because it’s the Electoral College vote that really matters, but symbolic in that there were more actual people who wanted Hillary to be our next president. Given a lot of the things that Donald Trump said during the campaign, and some things that came to light including blatant misogyny in the form of the “grab ‘em by the (vaginal area)” recording with Billy Bush (which eventually cost the latter his most recent job as host of Today despite the fact the recording was from over a decade ago), the protests aren’t much of a surprise to me.

The First Amendment is a powerful thing. It protects many vital freedoms, including freedom of assembly, freedom of speech, and freedom of the press. These include the right to protest peacefully, and it is this last point that protesters must remember. Once violence is added to the mix, it’s not really a protest anymore, but a riot. I get that people are pissed off. Heck, I’m still pretty pissed off, and the election was three days ago.

That said, violence won’t solve anything. The problem is definitely not that too few people think that everyone who voted for Clinton (or Johnson, Stein, McMullin, etc), and who is upset enough to protest, has the intelligence and temper of an uncaged wild animal. In addition, there’s just no need for violence to establish that you are unhappy with the election of Donald Trump and all that he stands for. Violence also gives law enforcement a quite legitimate reason to arrest someone.

Blurring the line: ABC News crew gets busted staging a shot

In a rare opportunity, CNN got to report on an apparent gaffe by its competition:

ABC News correspondent Linsey Davis stood in a field in Woodruff, South Carolina, and relayed the gruesome details of how a 30-year-old woman had been held captive in a storage container allegedly by a registered sex offender.

Behind her, yellow police tape with the words “SHERIFF’S LINE DO NOT CROSS” flapped in the wind, indicating the scene of the crime.

In fact, the police tape was tied to ABC News’ own equipment just off-camera, a photograph obtained by CNNMoney shows. Sources with knowledge of the matter say the tape was placed there by ABC News for the purpose of its inclusion in the live shot.

Of course the tape was placed there just for the shot, why else would a news crew who couldn’t actually film in front of the real crime scene put up crime scene tape in the background?

At the point where a crew is putting up props in the background to suggest that a reporter is standing in front of the actual crime scene when that is not the case, that crew isn’t doing news anymore, they are reporting fiction. And fiction has no place in news. Period. You want to work on a drama or a “reality” TV show, then you go do that, but leave news to journalists who care about the facts.

We trust the various news media to tell us the truth. Trust takes a long time to build, and can be lost in an instant. In that vein, after reading about this, I find it a lot harder to trust ABC News as a source of information. To be fair, quoting later in the story:

“This action is completely unacceptable and fails to meet the standards of ABC News,” Julie Townsend, the vice president of communications at ABC News, told CNNMoney. “As soon as it was brought to our attention, we decided to take the producer out of the field, and we’re investigating further.”

Ms. Townsend did what she had to do when her crew got caught breaking one of the most basic rules of journalism. But it should not even have come down to this; the linked story goes on to note another instance where another ABC News reporter got busted for faking part of a story. So, to put it bluntly, this isn’t their first rodeo by a long shot.

It makes me wonder, in the post-Peter Jennings era, just how big of an ethics problem there is over at ABC News. This is not only an affront to the legacy of Peter Jennings, but also that of Roone Arledge among others. I wish Ms. Townsend the best of luck cleaning up this mess; she’s going to need it.

(Sidenote: I write the posts in this blog based on actual news events. If I wanted to write fiction I’d just run off and do that. The faking of a news story shot by a news crew is a news event, even if the shot itself is fiction. In fact, this is the worst kind of news there is. Reporters should be reporting the news, not becoming the focus of it.)

Thoughts on the aftermath of the 2016 presidential election, and the path ahead

So it’s a little over half a day since the election results became final. President Barack Obama spoke about the election results earlier today (he gave an incredibly gracious and above-board speech about a president-elect committed to destroying his legacy), and Hillary Clinton also gave her concession speech (which I did finally watch in its entirety, as difficult as that was).

I didn’t even mention in the previous posts that President-elect Trump never released his tax returns. That was an important “highlight” I left out, along with some things like the “7-11” gaffe. Then again, what I did mention pretty much stands on its own. The only thing left to do now is hope that Mr. Trump is a better president than candidate. The entirety of his campaign left a lot to be desired. Mr. Trump’s campaign, from the beginning, seemed more like a joke campaign than an earnest campaign for president.

As I’ve said elsewhere (and which I’ll probably repeat), the White House is not the set of the next season of The Apprentice or some other reality TV show, this whole president thing is reality and reality is way different than a reality TV show. Reality television is more television than reality, and perhaps can be more accurately called reality-flavored television. The reality “flavoring” of reality TV can be compared to that artificial barbecue or sour cream and onion flavoring on potato chips. Those flavorings rarely, if ever, taste like actual barbecue or sour cream and onion; in much the same way, reality TV rarely if ever reflects the actual reality of what happened, especially when “creative editing” comes into play. It resembles reality just enough that some people mistake it for that.

We have a little over two months left before President Obama’s term officially ends. If Mr. Trump really intends to be a “president for all Americans” as he said in his victory speech, I certainly hope that he realizes just what Obama’s legacy means to all of us who voted for him, and to many of us who voted for Hillary Clinton in the hope that legacy would continue be honored.

I don’t know how many readers I have left from the early days, but you’ll notice I do tend to lean left on most issues. (If you’re just now finding this blog, I do keep the archives up for a reason.) The inauguration of Donald Trump as our 45th President on 2017 January 20 will also begin a new era for Rant Roulette, as it will be the first day this blog has existed in its current form under a Republican president. (There was a brief period for the first two months of this blog, before I settled into to the current format, where George W. Bush was still the sitting president prior to the inauguration of Barack Obama.)

This is not unlike the situation faced by, say, Rush Limbaugh after the inauguration of Bill Clinton. Far from being the end of Mr. Limbaugh’s infamous radio show, it was a new beginning (he was even on TV for a while). In the same vein, some may have thought, somewhat naïvely, that this is the end of Rant Roulette. Rest assured this is most definitely not the end of Rant Roulette, in fact in all likelihood it’s going to be a new beginning. Whether President-elect Trump fulfills his campaign slogan and truly “make[s] America great again” remains to be seen. But certainly, it’s going to be my goal over the next four years to make Rant Roulette worth reading again, and I will definitely have a lot more to write about come next January. I compare the election of Donald Trump to being handed a bucketful of lemons; there’s plenty of lemonade to be made in the years ahead.

Thoughts on the Houston and Harris County elections

I’m going to take a break from talking about the presidential election and shift to the local elections here in Harris County and Houston.

First up, I may as well talk about the local election that gathered national attention: Devon Anderson, the Republican incumbent district attorney, who was challenged by Kim Ogg, running as the Democratic candidate in a rematch of the 2012 election. This time, however, it would be Kim Ogg emerging the victor in a relatively close race (54% of the vote). The controversy surrounding Anderson’s jailing of a rape victim to compel her testimony is believed to be a major reason behind her defeat; Anderson’s attacks on Ogg, including one on the latter’s sexuality, almost certainly didn’t help.

Second, we have the even closer race for sheriff of Harris County. Ron Hickman was originally elected to Precinct 4 Constable as a Republican. Hickman was appointed to sheriff when Adrian Garcia resigned to run for mayor of Houston (a race which Garcia lost to Sylvester Turner). Hickman’s challenger was Ed Gonzalez, who ran as a Democrat. Gonzalez’s strategy of highlighting Hickman’s failures as sheriff paid off and he won with 52% of the vote.

Next, there was an election I did not vote in, but I am nevertheless happy at the result. Over a century ago, Houston Heights was actually a separate city, which had elected not to allow stores to sell beer and wine. That ban remained in place even as Houston annexed the area. However, after this election it’s history, and HEB quickly announced they would move forward with plans to build a new store on the former site of Fiesta on North Shepherd at 24th Street.

There was also the resounding defeat of HISD Proposition 1. The ballot language was confusing on this one, and I have to wonder if it was on purpose. How would you vote on something like this?

Authorizing the board of trustees of Houston Independent School District to purchase attendance credits from the state with local tax revenues

What this actually meant was “authorize Houston ISD to send $162 million to the state of Texas when it can barely afford to run its own schools”. This “attendance credits” nonsense is just verbiage to confuse the voters; thankfully they didn’t fall for it. A resounding majority (60%) voted against, and I’m proud to be one of them. The logic behind voting against is that it’s the only hope to get some reform for our school finance system here in Texas. And it needs reform. It’s outrageous that Houston ISD, which has so many students in families under the poverty line and which can scarcely afford to finance its own schools, is somehow viewed as a “rich” district under the law and expected to send an obscene amount of money to other Texas counties. I’m glad this proposition did not pass and I hope some good becomes of it.

Last but certainly not least, the race for Precinct 1 Constable. Another rematch from 2012: Alan Rosen was seeking re-election as the Democratic candidate, with Joe Danna running once again as a Republican. This time, there were no other candidates, which seemed to play to the favor of Rosen, who slayed it with 65% of the vote. (Back in 2012 Rosen won with just under 59% of the vote, with just under 6% combined going to candidates affiliated with the Libertarian and Green parties, leaving just under 36% for Danna.)

Whether Joe Danna gets the hint this time remains to be seen. His candidacy never really ended after the 2012 election, with a lot of the campaign signs staying up even after the 2012 election was over. Mr. Danna had a bit of a disadvantage this time, too: the “we don’t need a volunteer” card wasn’t in play since Alan Rosen had now been working a paid position for the past four years. Whether the voters remembered that from 2012, or were just happy with the status quo, the result is the same.

(As an aside, it was a pretty good night for law enforcement positions county-wide with not only the aforementioned sheriff spot, but also five of the eight constable positions, won by Democrats. The Precinct 7 Constable position was unopposed.)