Saturday, July 31, 2010 at 5:48 AM
Friday, July 30, 2010 at 5:31 AM
Ironically, no one did more to romanticize the barbaric sport of bullfighting than American writer Ernest Hemmingway did with the publication of his non-fiction book, Death in the Afternoon. After all, even though it has a longstanding tradition in Latin America, Portugal, France, and Spain, bullfighting has always been every bit as morally repugnant as dogfighting in Hemingway’s own country, the United States.
But to read this book, one would think that developing an appreciation for the death-defying “magnificence of bullfighting” is every bit as important as developing an appreciation for the life-affirming experience of good sex or good food. And if you doubt my reading, here’s how Hemingway rationalized his blood lust for this bestial ritual:
Bullfighting is the only art in which the artist is in danger of death and the degree of brilliance in the execution is left in honor of the fighter… About morals, I know only that what is moral is what you feel good after and what is immoral is what you feel bad after.
Well, it seems that Catalonia has finally decided that there’s no national pride in having its capital city of Barcelona be known as much for bullfighting as for the Sagrada Familia, the neo-gothic cathedral designed by Antoni Gaudi. For the parliament in this “autonomous community” of Spain voted this week to ban bullfighting.
The enlightened view that bullfighting is irredeemably “cruel” prevailed over the traditional view that it is an essential feature of Spain’s national heritage and enduring character. Now latter-day guardians of this animal sacrifice fear that the moral indignation inherent in the Catalan ban will inspire other places where bullfighting is still practiced to … see the light.
Hope springs eternal. Indeed, it is instructive to note that Britain banned foxhunting even though hunt-loving aristocrats insisted that it was as essential to their way of life as tea and scones. And pay no mind to all of the talk about this foxhunting ban being repealed; because the Liberals in Britain’s new Tory-Lib Dem coalition government would not stand for it. But I digress….
The ban on bullfighting in Barcelona will take effect in January 2012.
Thursday, July 29, 2010 at 5:10 AM
In a preliminary ruling yesterday, U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton declared that the core provisions of Arizona’s controversial immigration law are unconstitutional and therefore cannot take effect today as scheduled.
This means, among other things, that illegal immigrants in this state do not have to carry their papers at all times; that they cannot be arrested for seeking employment; and that the police cannot check their immigration status while enforcing any other traffic or criminal law.
Here in part is how the judge justified her ruling:
There is a substantial likelihood that officers will wrongfully arrest legal resident aliens under the new law [i.e., racial profiling]… Even though Arizona’s interests may be consistent with those of the federal government, it is not in the public interest for Arizona to enforce pre-empted laws.
(U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton, Associated Press, July 28, 2010)
But I knew it would be thus; for here, in part, is how I commented on this law after it was enacted earlier this year:
I was relatively pleased when Arizona legislators rushed on May 3 to enact several amendments to address well-founded concerns about racial profiling. But these amendments still do not address the inherent flaw in this legislation, which stems from this state’s attempt to preempt a power that the Constitution delegates to the federal government. Specifically, Arizona’s attempt to enforce immigration law, no matter how amended to mirror federal law, is unconstitutional. This, notwithstanding its admittedly persuasive argument that it was only trying enforce a national law that the federal government seems unwilling or unable to enforce.
(AG Holder’s ignorance of law is no excuse, The iPINIONS Journal, May 17, 2010)
No doubt Arizona, as well as other states, will continue to litigate this matter. But when all is said and done, I am convinced that even this conservative U.S. Supreme Court will uphold Judge Bolton’s ruling that the federal government enjoys plenary and exclusive powers to enact laws pertaining to immigration: period.
But this will only settle the legal side of this issue. Meanwhile, the political side might prove to be far more contentious. I rarely cite fellow political commentators on this weblog. But I was so impressed with the way Chris Mathews framed the politics involved in a commentary on his program Hardball last night that I think it’s worth citing her for your comprehensive edification:
Let me finish tonight with this federal injunction against the new Arizona immigration law.
First of all, it is a “killer” issue politically for the Democrats this fall and a huge windfall for the right. It will anger even those people who believe the Arizona law went too far. It will dramatize the main case raised by the Tea Party people: that the federal government in Washington has become too powerful, that the rights of the states have been terribly abridged.
I wish Americans were fair-minded about immigration. I wish the politicians were honest about it. The right panders by suggesting it would throw the millions of illegal immigrants out of the country – knowing full well that would be a catastrophe. The liberals refuse to get serious about enforcement.
The deal is there to be struck. Find a way for people who have made lives here to become full, assimilated Americans like every other immigrant over our history. Find a way to stop the illegal hiring of people who have no right to be in this country. Do both or get out of the way because only by doing both will there be a deal and without a deal this problem will grow and grow. The divide in the country will cut deeper and the only winners will be the exploiters – those interests who love this issue because the more heat it raises on illegal immigrants the more it cheapens their labor and delivers the vote – and that, too, is a fact.
I couldn’t have said it better myself. Oh wait, I have. See my 2006 commentary on the need for comprehensive immigration reform by clicking related link below.
Wednesday, July 28, 2010 at 5:37 AM
It is no exaggeration to assert that throughout much of the Cold War, France seemed almost as determined as the Soviet Union was to keep America’s military power in check.
This is why it came as such a surprise when France enlisted in President George W. Bush’s coalition of the willing to invade Afghanistan to avenge the al-Qaeda attacks of 9/11. It is also noteworthy that France followed up its participation in this coalition by rejoining the U.S.-dominated NATO just last year – after a 43-year estrangement.
These two developments signaled its intent to formally give up the Gallic notion of leading a European military organization to counter America’s unrivaled military power in the aftermath of the Cold War. Now it is arguable that this tortured Franco-American military alliance has come full circle – with France becoming the first nation to join the U.S. in formally declaring war on terrorism:
We are at war with al-Qaida.
(French Prime Minister Francois Fillon, Associated Press, July 27, 2010)
Instead, all it took was the kidnapping (in late-April) and subsequent killing of a French humanitarian worker by al-Qaeda cohorts in Northwest Africa (Mali).
And France is putting its military where its mouth is. Because less than 24 hours after President Nicolas Sarkozy vowed that the killers will “not go unpunished,” France launched the kind of retaliatory strikes at the suspected base camp of those responsible that America has been launching at al-Qaeda base camps in Pakistan for years….
It’s important to make that kind of announcement. I think it’s made of the same stuff as former U.S. President George W. Bush’s tough line on al-Qaida.
(Associated Press quoting Francois Gere, head of the French Institute of Strategic Analysis, July 27, 2010)
Welcome to the fight France. Just don’t repeat the U.S. mistake of conflating your right to launch strategic military strikes in defense of your country with some moral obligation to build al-Qaeda’s North African base camps into a thriving democracy.
Tuesday, July 27, 2010 at 5:39 AM
Much ado is being made in Washington about the 91,000-plus U.S. military documents that the whistleblower website, WikiLeaks, leaked (via the New York Times, London Guardian, and Germany’s Der Spiegel) on Sunday. These documents purportedly give an unvarnished and unprecedented, bomb-by-bomb account of how U.S. soldiers fought the Afghan War from 2004 to 2009.
But despite the hype, the leaking of these documents pales in significance to the release of the famous Pentagon Papers, which exposed the policy misgivings top-level political and military officials had about America’s involvement in the Vietnam War. Not least because, back then, the government and military exercised such control over the dissemination of information that what the Pentagon Papers revealed was truly shocking and newsworthy – given the rosy scenario those officials were painting of the progress of this war.
By contrast, what Wikileaks revealed about the folly, fog, and horrors of this war is, frankly, old news. Not least because the internet has provided the means for every foot soldier and crack reporter to “expose [the] true Afghan war” – to quote the London Guardian’s misleading headline.
For example, the highlights in WikiLeaks’s “secret files” pertain to the fact that this war has become an unwinnable mess; that soldiers complain about the lack of resources and wonder why they’re fighting to win the hearts and minds of people who are just trying to kill them; that the military routinely discount the number of civilian casualties; that Iran has been arming Taliban insurgents; and that Pakistan has not only been providing refuge to al-Qaeda terrorists but also aiding and abetting Taliban attacks on U.S. troops.
But a cursory search of this weblog, under the term “Afghanistan”, will reveal that even I have written commentaries on all of these so-called secrets over the past five years, citing them as reasons why this war is just another Vietnam. Moreover, even on the most controversial point, namely of Pakistan’s treachery, no less a person than Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has been raising very damning and undiplomatic questions about Pakistan’s loyalties over the past year:
I believe somewhere in this government are people who know where Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida and where Mullah Omar and the leadership of the Taliban are. We expect more cooperation (from Pakistan) to help us bring to justice capture or kill those who brought us 9/11.
(Clinton, Times of India, May 10, 2010)
This is why the claim by the White House that the release of these documents compromises the war strategy is so demonstrably disingenuous. After all, I doubt that any revelation could be made about the conduct of the Afghan War that could make it any more of a costly mess – in terms of lost lives and treasure – than it already is.
That said, this leak, reportedly the biggest in U.S. history, could actually serve an important purpose. Because this documentation of the utter futility of the Afghan War might finally precipitate the kind of mass anti-war protests that finally forced the U.S. government to declare victory and retreat from Vietnam. But I doubt it.
Meanwhile, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange (pictured above) has now made quite a name for himself. I just hope he realizes that he is now as much a wanted man as Osama bin Laden. And I doubt Assange has a secret intelligence agency like Pakistan’s ISI to protect him….
NOTE: Assange, an Australian computer hacker turned self-professed internet activist, operates WikiLeaks pursuant to the credo that governments and corporations should have no secrets. But this is as foolhardy as it is dangerous. Indeed, it is naïve to think that “total transparency” is the only way to combat corruption and unethical behavior – as he professes.
Frankly, it’s a reflection of Assange’s self-importance and self-righteousness that he believes the people of the United States want (in fact need) him to expose their government’s secrets. But I think he would do better to target totalitarian regimes in those parts of world where oppressed people could truly benefit from his transparency crusades.
Monday, July 26, 2010 at 5:49 AM
Jean Gregoire Sagbo gives new meaning to the term, Black Russian. Because henceforth when that term is uttered, the reference might be as much to him, the first black to be elected to political office in Russia, as to the eponymous drink.
Granted, his election is more akin to the first black being admitted to serve on a town council in the Jim Crow South than Obama being elected president of the United States. In fact, Sagbo has only been elected as one of ten councilors of Novozavidovo, a small town 100 kilometers (65 miles) north of Moscow. But his election still signifies a change in Russian politics that is worth heralding.
His skin is black but he is Russian inside. The way he cares about this place, only a Russian can care.
(Vyacheslav Arakelov, mayor of Novozavidovo, Kyiv Post, June 25, 2010)
One can be forgiven for thinking, though, that Sagbo’s election is nothing more than a quaint or token gesture. During the Cold War, a significant number of Africans became indoctrinated with communist ideology and did all they could to immigrate to Russia, the motherland. And, of course, Russia was all too happy to use them as pawns in a chess game with the West for superpower dominion over the Dark Continent.
[Putin was] the first Russian leader to visit Africa’s most influential country, South Africa. And there Putin vowed to end “the decades-long interruption in ties between South Africa and Russia”. More importantly, however, Putin used this vantage point to assure all African leaders - many of whom (including South African President Thabo Mbeki) studied communist ideology and received military training as communist revolutionaries in Russia during the Cold War - that he intends to seal their bond this time around with sustainable financial partnerships instead of mere rhetorical comradeship.
(Cold War II- from the Russian Front, The iPINIONS Journal, July 17, 2007)
At any rate, it is hardly surprising that a few of the estimated 40,000 Africans now living in Russia have become so “settled” that they consider themselves more Russian than African these days.
Nevertheless, as my reference above to Jim Crow indicates, Sagbo’s election is only one very small step for racial equality in Russia. For one thing, blacks are so few in number there that they exist, collectively, as the Wrightian “invisible man”. Yet those who live in big cities are often the targets of the kind of hate crimes that blacks who lived in the South during segregation experienced.
Nearly 60% of black and African people living in Russia’s capital Moscow have been physically assaulted in racially motivated attacks.
(BBC, Africans ‘under siege’, August 31, 2009)
So congratulations to Mr. Sagbo. But I suspect that he and all of the other Africans who went to Russia seeking a socialist utopia must now wish that they had bought into the American dream instead….
Cold War II- from the Russian Front
Saturday, July 24, 2010 at 6:36 AM
Friday, July 23, 2010 at 5:46 AM
It is hardly ever a good idea to allude to Nazism to make a political point. But there are rare occasions when such allusions are entirely appropriate.
Apropos of this, it is only by alluding to the Nazi propaganda strategy of the “Big Lie” that one can fully appreciate the perfidy inherent in Tea Party spinmeisters accusing black politicians of racism. The Big Lie of course was coined by none other than Adolf Hitler in his infamous Nazi manifesto, Mein Kampf. It is defined in that text as:
… a lie so colossal that no one would believe that someone could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously.
No lie qualifies in this dubious respect quite like the Tea Party’s propagandist in chief, talk show host Glen Beck, accusing President Barack Obama of being a racist:
I’m not saying he doesn’t like white people, I’m saying he has a problem. This guy is, I believe, a racist.
(Huffington Post, July 28, 2009)
The administration threw Van Jones, its special adviser for green jobs, under the bus after Beck caricatured his political affiliations to make him seem like an unrepentant, militant communist;
It presided over the disbanding of voter registration group ACORN after Tea Party activists distorted a few isolated cases of voter fraud to make this group seem like a latter-day, black version of the KKK; and
It is now in the midst of a political firestorm for firing Shirley Sherrod, a low-level black employee at the Department of Agriculture, on Tuesday after a Tea Party blogger, Andrew Breitbart, made it seem (by slicing and dicing a 2 minute, 38-second viral video out of her 43-minute speech) like she was boasting about discriminating against white farmers as payback for all the years white employees in this department discriminated against black farmers.
This latest example is particularly illustrative of the Tea Party’s Big Lie strategy because Mrs. Sherrod was doing the exact opposite of what was being propagated. Specifically, she was sharing her personal story of racial enlightenment, forgiveness, and redemption (in an address at the NAACP 20th Annual Freedom Fund Banquet) by citing the many reasons she felt inclined to discriminate against a white farmer almost 24 years ago; not least of which was the fact that a white farmer had murdered her father and was never even charged.
But here are two of the critical (clarifying and qualifying) passages Breitbart left out of his doctored video:
Well, working with him made me see that it’s really about those who have versus those who don’t, you know. And they could be black; they could be white; they could be Hispanic. And it made me realize then that I needed to work to help poor people — those who don’t have access the way others have…
I’ve come to realize that we have to work together and — you know, it’s sad that we don’t have a room full of white and blacks here tonight, ’cause we have to overcome the divisions that we have. We have to get to the point where, as Tony Morrison said, “Race exists but it doesn’t matter.”
(Shirley Sherrod, NAACP 20th Annual Freedom Fund Banquet, March 27, 2010)
In fact, Breitbart’s distortion of Mrs. Sherrod’s record in this case was so offensive that the white farmer in question felt compelled to come forward yesterday to state that Mrs. Sherrod’s treatment of him was so professional and fair that he’s convinced she saved his farm.
Yet nothing demonstrates how effective Breitbart was in propagating the Big Lie that the NAACP is just as racist as the Tea Party quite like the fact that he not only “snookered” the NAACP into condemning Mrs. Sherrod but also misled the Obama administration (in the person of the Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack) into firing her.
Never mind the irony that if people spoke at Tea Party rallies the way she spoke at this NAACP banquet – about eschewing racist tendencies and seeking common cause with people of all races, Breitbart and others would not have to resort to such pot-calling-the-kettle-black spin to defend this rogue party.
A disservice was done. An apology is owed.
(White House Spokesman Robert Gibbs, C-SPAN, July 21, 2010)
Indeed, within 24 hours – after finally reviewing the blogger’s video in the full context of her speech – the NAACP withdrew its condemnation and Vilsack fell on his sword, apologizing with an extraordinary mea culpa and offering to rehire Mrs. Sherrod (for a more high-profile job). There are even reports that Obama intends to offer a personal apology. Unfortunately, the political damage has been done; the Tea Party has won yet another one.
But as I indicated above, the real story here is not Mrs. Sherrod or even the Tea Party. Rather it is the extent to which the Obama administration has become the puppet on a string of so many Big Lies that Tea Party ditto heads can be forgiven for thinking that the first black president of the United States is the most racist president in U.S. history.
The Tea Party and its Grand Poobah Rush Limbaugh have vowed to make Obama a one-term president. And, evidently, they have decided that there’s no better way to do that than to propagate the Big Lie that all of his transformative accomplishments (e.g. on health care) are merely pursuant to a radical manifesto to turn America into a socialist dictatorship that will do unto whites what whites did unto blacks during the halcyon days of Jim Crow. Their aim is clearly to marginalize him as the first black president only of black American. And the more they can instigate such divisive political debates about race, the more likely it is that they will succeed.
So only God knows why the Obama administration, with all of its vaunted political and media savvy, is not just allowing Tea Party activists to poison so many minds with their Big Lies; it’s also reacting to these propagandists as if they were the arbiters of truth, justice, and the American way these days.
Meanwhile, President Obama signed the most sweeping financial reform legislation since the Depression yesterday – complete with the most comprehensive consumer protections in history. Yet, instead of heralding this historic achievement, which, like all of his policies, will benefit far more whites than blacks, all major news broadcasts focused last night on this spectacle, featuring the administration’s bungling efforts to extricate itself from the reverse-racism trap some Tea Party blogger laid for it using Mrs. Sherrod.
Only in America folks….
* This commentary was originally published yesterday, Thursday, at 5:18 am.
Wednesday, July 21, 2010 at 5:04 AM
You can be forgiven for having no clue that actor Wesley Snipes is facing hard time in prison for tax evasion. But I suspect he is more distressed that so few people know about his plight than he is about his pending rendezvous behind bars.
Such are the egos of celebrities that Snipes probably resents the fact that the paparazzi are spending far more time following the antics of Britney Spears than the goings-on at his trial…
To prison he will surely go. Because prosecutors allege, and Snipes does not deny, that he filed a false claim for a $7-million tax refund, moved tens of millions of untaxed dollars offshore, and gave the government three bounced checks totaling $14 million to cover some of the taxes owed…
His conviction, which I expect the jury to announce later today or tomorrow, should serve as a reminder that only big corporations can get away with paying no taxes. And I have just two words for anyone who is inclined to buy his line about being prosecuted because he’s black: Leona Hemsley!
(Actor Wesley Snipes takes on IRS in dumbest role of his life, The iPINIONS Journal, January 30, 2008)
Given these excerpts from my commentary on his January 2008 trial, it follows that I was not at all surprised back then when Snipes was duly convicted and sentenced to three years in prison. Nor was I surprised this past Friday when the court rejected his appeal, in which he claimed that the sentence imposed was “unreasonable”.
Snipes engaged in a decade-long ‘campaign of criminal tax conduct combining brazen defiance with insidious concealment’ that amounted to a $15 million evasion and $41 million in ‘intended harm’ to the US Treasury.
(From the prosecutors’ memo to court calling for the maximum three-year sentence to be imposed)
In fact, the arrogance Snipes displayed while refusing to pay his taxes was so egregious that instead of arousing compassion, character references from a cast of Hollywood stars, including Denzel Washington and Woody Harrelson, may have only incited indignation in the sentencing judge.
What must be particularly galling to Snipes, however, is that another celebutart, Lindsay Lohan, is now hogging media coverage. Because he knows that there will be no media vigil until he reports (in a few weeks) to serve his three years in prison the way there was for Lindsay until she reported to yesterday to serve her 90 days in jail. Not to mention that she will only have to serve about a quarter of her time (around 23 days), while he will have to serve his full three years.
Lindsay of course is going to the pokey for committing a spree of violations while on probation stemming from a 2007 drug case. These included, most notoriously, traveling to Cannes earlier this year, where she partied like a girl gone wild and then gave a dog-ate-my-homework excuse by claiming that she could not make it back in time for one of her court-mandated alcohol treatment classes because somebody stole her passport.
But Snipes shouldn’t feel too bad about being ignored. After all, nothing demonstrates the dumbing down of our celebrity-obsessed culture quite like the fact that a no-talent like Paris Hilton routinely gets more media coverage than a talent like Scarlett Johansson.
Snipes takes on IRS
Tuesday, July 20, 2010 at 5:02 AM
In our country, we cannot accept that women be prisoners behind a screen, cut off from all social life, deprived of all identity… The burqa is not a religious sign; it’s a sign of subservience, a sign of debasement – I want to say it solemnly … it will not be welcome on the territory of the French Republic.
(French President Nicolas Sarkozy, London Guardian, June 22, 2009)
I do not think they should be allowed to wear either of them. But I see nothing wrong with women wearing Hijabs or jilbabs.
On the other hand, I do not agree with President Sarkozy’s patronizing pronouncements on the gender implications of the burqa. Not least because his declaration seems premised on the demonstrably false assumption that women who wear burqas in France are no more educated or liberated than those who wear them in Afghanistan (in places where the Taliban still rule).
I appreciate the differences between Sharia laws that clearly oppress women in places like Afghanistan and those that appear to subjugate them in places like Iraq … and France.
Moreover, no matter how well-intentioned, I do not think any Western government should be dictating to mature Muslim women what constitutes appropriate religious garb; especially if there’s nothing inherently untenable (legally or socially) about that garb.
(Sarkozy proposes ban on the burqa, The iPINIONS Journal, July 1, 2009)
This, in part, was how I expressed my disagreement when Sarkozy first proposed banning burqas in France a year ago. Because I believe that concerns about law and order and national security present far more compelling reasons for governments to ban them.
For example, it would rather defeat the purpose of installing CCTV cameras in every nook and cranny of public space, like most cities around the world are doing, if people could walk around with their faces completely covered. After all, terrorists and common criminals have been known to wear burqas as effective disguises.
But citing religious, cultural and gender concerns in this context is fraught with political conflict. And nothing demonstrates this quite like those opposing this ban arguing that, instead of liberating women as Sarkozy argues, banning burqas would actually oppress them:
A complete ban on the covering of the face would violate the rights to freedom of expression and religion of those women who wear the burqa or the niqab in public as an expression of their identity or beliefs.
(John Dalhuisen, Amnesty International’s expert on discrimination in Europe, Reuters, July 13, 2010)
In any case, I understand why the lower house of the French parliament voted 335 to 1 a week ago today to ban “any veils that cover the face”. The French Senate is expected to vote in similar fashion in late-September; then the ban becomes law.
For the record, several European countries, including Germany, Belgium and Italy, seem poised to follow France’s lead in banning the burqa. And even though the U.S. Constitution purports to grant Muslim women the (religious) freedom to wear burqas, I suspect that will change as soon as someone wears one as a disguise to pull off a terrorist act. (But contrary to popular belief, a woman cannot get a driver’s license wearing a burqa even in America.)
The instructive irony in this context, however, is that, as best I can tell, only two countries in the Muslim world (Saudi Arabia and Kuwait) require women to wear the burqa. So, at least in this sense, Sarkozy is right, it’s not “a religious sign”.
Sarkozy proposes ban on the burqa
Monday, July 19, 2010 at 5:17 AM
Over the years actor Mel Gibson cultivated an almost oxymoronic reputation as a devilish ladies’ man on screen but a devoutly religious family man in his private life. Frankly, I never found him compelling in either role. And my cynicism was vindicated somewhat when he launched into an anti-Semitic rant four years ago after the police arrested him for driving under the influence. Here’s the now prescient observation I made on that occasion:
[W]hatever one thinks of his movies or erstwhile sex appeal, Gibson is clearly a man possessed of many demons. And frankly, alcoholism is the least of them.
(“Arrested development of Mel Gibson: once the sexiest man alive, now the craziest”, The iPINIONS Journal, July 31, 2006)
Well, now come secret recordings of him hurling a fusillade of utterly vile, racist, profane, and abusive insults at his girlfriend Oksana Grigorieva, the mother of his baby daughter. And this prurient peep into Mel’s private life not only makes a mockery of his reputation but should put the nail in the coffin of his fledgling career.
Mel: You’re an embarrassment to me. You look like a fucking bitch in heat, and if you get raped by a pack of niggers, it will be your fault.” RadarOnline.com had heard the tape.
Oksana: You’re gonna answer one day, boy, you’re gonna answer… I’m not the one to threaten.
Mel: I’ll put you in a fuckin rose garden you cunt! You understand that? Because I’m capable of it. You understand that? (July 12)
Oksana: What kind of a man is that? Hitting a woman when she’s holding a child in her hands? Breaking her teeth twice in the face! What kind of man is that?
Mel: Oh, you’re all angry now! You know what, you fucking deserved it! (July 13)
Enough? Well, maybe just one more:
Mel: I will fire [the domestic servant] if she’s at your house. I will make it known and fire her. I’ll report her to the fucking people that take fucking money from the wetbacks, ok?”
Oksana: You made me moneyless. I used to have hundred thousand dollars a year when you met me. You took me, you possessed me. Everything I am you own me with my liver and my kidneys and my thoughts and my soul. Everything! My career, whatever it is. Pathetic career. Whatever it is, it’s yours. You control me like marionette. I don’t belong to myself, only to you. I can’t do anything and I walk on eggshells always with you!
Mel: That’s because you’re a fucking using whore! Now, I own you… “I gave you everything. Don’t you dare fucking complain to me! I don’t fuckin’ hear you! You don’t fucking count! You’re a fucking using whore!”
Mel: Go look after my child!
Oksana: She’s my child too.
Mel: Yeah I know, unfortunately you cunt whore! I hope she doesn’t turn out like you! (July 14)
The Los Angeles police are investigating Gibson on domestic violence allegations. Seems like a slam dunk to me. The only question is what punishment, and how much of a mitigating factor his notorious alcoholism and now rumored bipolar condition will prove to be.
Meanwhile, Oksana has taken out a restraining order against him and is suing for full custody of their baby daughter. That’s a wrap … on his acting career.
NOTE: In a shocking snub last week, Swiss authorities rejected an extradition request by the United Sates for critically acclaimed director Roman Polanski to be handed over to face justice for plying a 13-year-old with drugs and booze, and then raping her 31 years ago. More to the point, though, despite this black cloud hovering over his head all of these years, Polanski was still celebrated in Hollywood. In fact, many of its A-list movers and shakers wrote character references pleading with the Swiss court to set him free.
Therefore, Mel can derive some consolation from the fact that, even if nobody wants to see his psychotic mug on screen again, he could still be celebrated as a director – despite this black cloud, which is bound to hover over his head until the day he dies.
Saturday, July 17, 2010 at 6:18 AM
Friday, July 16, 2010 at 5:24 AM
Washington is harrumphing with shock and outrage this week over reports that BP, the pariah oil giant, prevailed upon the British government to release Lockerbie bomber Abdel Baset al-Megrahi in exchange for a $900 million oil deal with Libya.
Recall that Megrahi was the only person convicted in 2001 for the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland on December 21, 1988; that 270 people, two-thirds of them Americans, died; and that Megrahi was sentenced to life in prison. Recall further that the British government released him almost a year ago on compassionate grounds, claiming that Megrahi was suffering late-stage prostate cancer and had only three months to live.
Well, I was harrumphing with shock and outrage back then, not only because I did not think Megrahi deserved any compassion but also because I suspected that the claim of compassion was just a pretext for a more sinister quid pro quo involving oil with the Libyan government:
Notwithstanding his alleged illness, Megrahi’s release is such an affront to common sense that the British could only have released him for the same reason the Americans invaded Iraq: oil…
I am sensible enough to appreciate that incurring the moral wrath of the Americans for releasing him was a small price to pay for sweetheart oil deals with Libya…
I just wish British authorities did not insult our intelligence by citing compassion as their justification for releasing this mass murderer; especially since they have refused to show similar compassion for many other convicts who are (or were) relatively more worthy…
Also, don’t be surprised if Megrahi lives well beyond the three months he purportedly has to live … all praise be to Allah!
(Release of Lockerbie bomber: compassion v. justice, The iPINIONS Journal, August 24, 2009)
Reports this week reveal that, even though signed in May 2007, ratification of the deal BP and the Libyan was, in fact, conditioned on Megrahi’s release. Here’s the cleverly worded statement BP issued effectively admitting as much:
BP told the UK Government that we were concerned about the slow progress that was being made in concluding a Prisoner Transfer Agreement with Libya. We were aware that this could have a negative impact on UK commercial interests, including the ratification by the Libyan government of BP’s exploration agreement.
(Reuters, July 15, 2010)
As for the obvious charade it took to secure his release, here’s what I wrote when the all too predictable reports began coming out of Libya about Megrahi’s miraculous recovery:
[A]s I predicted, Megrahi is evidently coping exceedingly well with his “terminal illness.” So much so in fact that an indignant U.S. Senator Charles Schumer is now demanding that he be extradited back to his prison cell in Scotland, immediately…
No matter Schumer’s moral demands (or President Obama’s political entreaties), however, the British simply cannot afford to renege on their Faustian exchange with Libya. Therefore, this is a done deal!
(Lockerbie bomber still alive, The iPINIONS Journal, November 23, 2009)
Not surprisingly, Senator Schumer is now leading the calls for a full-scale investigation into what role BP played in orchestrating Megrahi’s release, insinuating that any profits BP generates from any Libyan oil well will be “blood money“. But trust me when I assert that any congressional investigation into this matter will amount to nothing more than political grandstanding. Not to mention the practical impact of cutting off nose to spite face.
For, in the first instance, just as the U.S. had no authority to prevent the UK government from releasing Megrahi, it has no authority to sanction either the UK or BP for concocting this terrorist-for-oil deal. Then there’s the self-defeating spectacle this matter poses. Because on the one hand, the Obama administration has extracted a $20 billion pledge from BP to compensate those affected by its oil spill in the Gulf; while on the other hand, this administration is raising all kinds of moral and political objections to BP’s efforts to earn those billions at every turn.
You’d think all U.S. politicians would have been chastened in this respect after their uninformed and vengeful comments caused BP to lose nearly 50 percent of its value (or $70 billion) in the immediate aftermath of the oil spill.
At any rate, it is as futile as it is misguided to meddle in BP’s business affairs in this way. Alas, given the state of affairs in Washington these days, pursuing futile and misguided measures seems to be Congress’ mission statement.
Meanwhile, apropos of cutting nose to spite face, BP finally capped that leaking well in the Gulf yesterday – 87 days after it exploded on April 20. (Pictures juxtaposing the once-gushing and now-capped well speak volumes.) The company is now able to capture all of the seemingly inexhaustible supply of oil that is spewing from this well for sale on the open market.
Common sense clearly dictates that the Obama administration should allow BP to do so on the condition that all profits from this well are placed in a perpetual trust, not only to ensure payment of BP’s $20 billion pledge but also to fund repair of the ecological damage it caused. Instead it is demanding that BP “kill” the well – by plugging it with mud and cement – in a reactionary, myopic, and ultimately self-defeating attempt to punish BP.
Finally, the UK government has taken pains to explain that the decision to release Megrahi was made by Scottish authorities. But whatever the nature of devolution between England and Scotland, when it comes to international matters like this, it was and is always the case that foreign governments deal with England, not Scotland or Wales – no matter how much these two former kingdoms are implicated.
More to the point, my Scottish friend, a very accomplished barrister, has lamented the way Scotland duly complies with the UK government expropriating profits from oil drilling off its coast to stash in the London treasury. Therefore, it beggars belief to think that the UK government did not effectively instruct Scotland to release Megrahi for the benefit of the UK’s largest taxpayer, BP, and that Scotland duly complied.
This is why, when word got out that the Scots were thinking of releasing him on compassionate grounds, the U.S. appealed not to the Scots in Scotland but to that Scot in England who represents the UK government, Prime Minister Gordon Brown. And it is why Americans are so incredulous at the UK government’s attempt now to play the devolution card. Plausible deniability is one thing, but this just smacks of a rather puerile attempt to deflect blame.
Thursday, July 15, 2010 at 5:42 AM
It is rare in professional sports for a coach to become a bigger star than any of the players he coaches. Indeed, it is arguable that only Vince Lombardi achieved such stardom as coach of the Green Bay Packers from 1959 to 1967. But it is rarer still for an owner to become a bigger star than any of the players he owns, especially when those players include such superstars as Reggie Jackson, Catfish Hunter, Dave Winfield, Derek Jeter, Roger Clemens, and Alex Rodriguez.
He was and always will be as much of a New York Yankee as Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra, Whitey Ford and all of the other Yankee legends.
(Baseball commissioner Bud Selig, New York Daily News, July 13, 2010)
Ironically, though, Steinbrenner became a media sensation as much for acting like one of the prima donnas on his roster as for the unparalleled success the Yankees enjoyed under his ownership. Tales are legend about what an irascible, dogmatic, and unscrupulous boss he was; but two of them epitomize his character in this respect:
- His hiring and firing his equally irascible, temperamental, and dogmatic manager Billy Martin five times; and
- His hiring a two-bit gambler to dig up dirt on Dave Winfield when they got into a contract dispute. (This prompted then Commissioner Fay Vincent to ban Steinbrenner from baseball for life – a ban, alas, which lasted only three years from 1990 to 1993)
In fact, Steinbrenner’s procrustean ownership style became such tabloid fodder that it became a running gag on Seinfeld, one of the most popular sitcoms in the history of television.
Yet there’s also no denying that it was Steinbrenner who was laughing all the way to the bank. And that the team he bought in 1973 for $8.7 million is now valued at $1.6 billion is testament to this fact. In this respect, he was to professional team owners what Tiger Woods is to professional golf players: a man who infused the game with so much cash that it made them all rich beyond their wildest dreams.
But I was never a Yankees fan. And I thought even less of Steinbrenner for singlehandedly ushering in the era in professional sports, namely free agency, that reduced (or elevated depending on your perspective) players to little more than hired guns. He really acted as if the Yankees’ mission statement was, win at all costs. I can remember him saying on many occasions with unbridled bravado:
Winning is the most important thing in my life. Breathing first, winning next.
And he won a lot – with seven World Series championships, 11 American League pennants, and 16 AL East titles during his 37 years at the helm. By comparison the team with the next-best record over this period is the Oakland Athletics – with three World Series championships, five American League pennants, and 12 West titles.
But always having the best team money could buy also set him up for many spectacular failures – as I have duly noted over the years:
The serial saga of Steinbrenner hiring and firing players and coaches has become a soap opera as popular (especially among New Yorkers) as any that airs on daytime TV. And no storyline in this As-the-Yankees-Turn drama is more fascinating than watching him spend obscene amounts of money each year to lure the best players to New York only to have them play – during the critical October pennant race and World Series – as if they were bought with phony two-dollar bills.
(Yankees, the worst team money could buy, The iPINIONS Journals, October 12, 2006)
Nevertheless, for pure entertainment value, no one in baseball (or any professional sport) was a bigger star. Steinbrenner died on Tuesday from a massive heart attack. He was 80.
Wednesday, July 14, 2010 at 5:26 AM
I just hope this outpouring of support is coordinated and sustained enough to help the Haitian people build a 21st century infrastructure, as well as the political and civic institutions to manage it. For, as pledges in the wake of the Indonesian Tsunami proved, governments that rush for the cameras to make grand pledges of financial aid often hide in the shadows when it comes to honoring them.
(Haiti’s catastrophic earthquake, The iPINIONS Journal, January 14, 2010)
The above was the concern I expressed in the immediate aftermath of the earthquake that devastated Haiti six months ago, killing an estimated 250,000 people. I suspect many of you were heartened back then by the billions (5.3 according to a report by the Washington Post on April 1, 2010) that the international community pledged to help rebuild Haiti.
I am hopeful that what will distinguish this latest round of foreign aid is the vested interest all donor nations are taking in Haiti’s sustainable development. Indeed, nothing militates against billions more being squandered quite like having former U.S. President Bill Clinton, instead of local leaders, managing this nation-building project. Especially since one can be forgiven for thinking all Haitian politicians are congenitally incompetent and corrupt.
(Haitians: returning to Africa…, The iPINIONS Journal, February 12, 2010)
Well, I suppose I should have known better. Because in a July 10 interview with the Associated Press, no less a person than Clinton himself marked the six-month anniversary of this tragedy by lamenting the failure of donor nations to honor their pledges:
We need a schedule at least from the donors of when they are going to give that money.
In fact, they have reportedly given only 10 percent of the financial aid they promised. Even the United States – with Barack Obama as president – has only paid $30 million of the $1.5 billion it promised. Yet, as soon as the next tragedy hits, these same compassionate poseurs will be rushing for the cameras to pledge billions more that they know, or should know, they will never honor.
Apropos of this, the U.S. media are duly marking the six-month anniversary of this tragedy today. But you’d be hard pressed to find a report on the death throes of daily life in Haiti since the media began providing 24/7 coverage of the BP oil spill in early April.
There are no prospects, no means to rebuild. The international community promised us money, but will it ever come?
(A baffled Franck Paul, a former mayor of Port-au-Prince, as reported by Agence France-Presse, July 10, 2010)
And, notwithstanding the best efforts of people like Clinton, I fear their status will be thus for many years to come.
If this isn’t their bargain with the Devil coming home to roost (as that religious crackpot Reverend Pat Robertson alleged), one wonders why God has consigned Haitians to such chronic misery….
Tuesday, July 13, 2010 at 5:34 AM
When Julius “Dr. J” Erving was in his prime, we thought he was the most entertaining player in the history of the NBA and that there would never be another one like him again. Then along came Michael Jordan, and we thought the same about him. Then, with all due respect to Kobe Bryant, along came LeBron James … and we think the same about him.
I have no doubt, however, that what mattered most to Dr. J and Michael was not the spectacular feats they performed but the championships their teams won. It is instructive in this respect that Dr. J suffered six years of playoff frustration before his team, the Philadelphia 76ers, won the first of two championships (in 1982); and, even more so, that Michael suffered seven years of similar frustration before his team, the Chicago Bulls, won the first of six (in 1991).
Gone. 7 years in Cleveland. No rings.
The above was all that was written on the front page of Cleveland’s leading newspaper, The Plain Dealer, on the morning of July 9. It made real for LeBron’s hometown fans the nightmare that must have followed his announcement the night before about leaving town in hot pursuit of that elusive championship:
In this fall, I’m going to take my talents to South Beach and join the Miami Heat.
(LeBron, ESPN “The Decision”, July 8, 2010)
But, as indicated above, it’s important to bear in mind that LeBron’s all-consuming ambition to win a championship is the same ambition that motivated (and still motivates) all great NBA players: winning really is everything to them.
And he will surely win in Miami – given that the triumvirate of Lebron, Chris Bosh, and Dwayne Wade has the same potential to dominate during the playoffs as other championship triumvirates like Dr. J, Moses Malone, and Maurice Cheeks of the 76ers and Michael, Bill Cartwright, and Scottie Pippen of the Bulls.
The only question for LeBron is: what price victory?
After all, what made winning a championship so sweet for Dr. J and Michael has to have been finally winning on a team with which they suffered so many years of playoff frustration. Not to mention the unbridled pride and joy they brought to longsuffering fans in cities that, in the case of Philadelphia, had not won an NBA championship in almost two decades, and in the case of Chicago, had never won at all.
By contrast, I fear that winning for LeBron will be bitter sweet. Not least because instead of being hailed as a basketball savior in Miami, where the Heat won a championship just years ago (in 2006), he’ll be regarded as nothing more than a hired gun who was brought in to help them win a few more.
Even worse, no matter how many championships he wins in Miami, he will be forever haunted by the fact that he abandoned not just his team but also his childhood home to do so.
Then, of course, there’s the inevitable conflict that will arise when some sports writers and commentators begin referring to the Heat as LeBron’s team while others continue referring to it as D-Wade’s. Because even though a domineering triumvirate seems an indispensable component of all championship teams, there’s always one player who must be treated like the undisputed star – as Kobe Bryant of the reigning NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers will readily attest.
My sense is that LeBron’s plumed ego will make it difficult for him to cope with being treated like a courtier instead of worshipped like a king. Yet, that he was quite happy to go to Miami, instead of using his unprecedented and unparalleled clout to bring D-Wade and Bosh to Cleveland, indicates how naïve he is about what it takes to assume the mantle of team (and league) leadership. Never mind the ignorance he betrays about the legacies of bona fide NBA legends by claiming that he will wear number 6 in Miami, instead of the 23 he wore in Cleveland, out of respect for Michael.
I just think what Michael Jordan has done for the game has to be recognized… There would be no LeBron James, no Kobe Bryant, no Dwyane Wade if there wasn’t Michael Jordan first… I feel like no NBA player should wear 23. I’m starting a petition, and I’ve got to get everyone in the NBA to sign it. Now, if I’m not going to wear No. 23, then nobody else should be able to wear it.
(LeBron, The Plain Dealer, November 13, 2009)
What about respect for Dr. J?! Is he not aware of all that Dr. J, who wore number 6, has done for the game? Hell, not knowing that Dr. J gave rise to Michael Jordan is rather like not knowing that Martin Luther King Jr. gave rise to Barack Obama.
Meanwhile, LeBron’s erstwhile fans in Cleveland could have reacted with a little more … appreciation. Their disappointment is understandable of course. But the irony seems completely lost on them that venting it by burning his jersey in “LeBronfires” reflects the same kind of childish self-indulgence they’re ascribing to him.
Not to mention the petulant absurdity of no less a person than the owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers, Dan Gilbert, publishing an open letter to fans in which he called LeBron’s decision to move to Miami a “cowardly betrayal.”
In fact, the people of Cleveland should be thanking their lucky stars that LeBron gave them seven years of the best entertainment in sports as well as ancillary economic benefits and national goodwill that most cities would die for. He did not sign a contract to be their golden goose for the rest of his career; therefore, the notion of a betrayal in this case is utterly baseless and irresponsible.
This is not to say, however, that I agree with Reverend Jesse Jackson’s race-baiting assertion that the Cavaliers’ owner is reacting as if LeBron were his “runaway slave.” For, if masters paid their slaves the millions this NBA owner paid LeBron, the very concept of a runaway slave would never have become part of the American lexicon….
That said, LeBron could clearly have chosen a more sensitive way to break the hearts (and bank accounts) of his hometown folks. Because, frankly, announcing his decision from Connecticut as part of a contrived television show only made a mockery of the disappointment he knew his leaving would cause all of Cleveland.
Still, just as his choosing number 6 was far more about honoring Michael than about dissing Dr J, I believe his announcing his decision on TV was far more about “promoting his brand” (which includes donating all proceeds from his TV decision special to the Boys and Girls Club of America) than about rubbing salt in the wounds of his dumped fans. Each case simply reflects the sense and sensibilities of a kid who was plucked straight from high school and hailed as a million-dollar boy wonder of the NBA. Therefore, it is hardly surprising that – after being genuflected to like a “King James” since he was 18 – he would make decisions now that betray self-indulgence, ignorance … and immaturity.
But God help him if the Heat does not win the NBA championship next year. Because failing to do so will turn his new “dream team” into a living nightmare.
Monday, July 12, 2010 at 5:25 AM
Like most matches during this year’s World Cup, yesterday’s final between Spain and the Netherlands was distinguished far too much by the referee stopping play because a player was writhing in pain on the pitch, feigning injuries to get free kicks, than by skillful play or, God forbid, scoring goals.
This is just one of the reasons why soccer will never compete with the likes of football as a spectator sport in the United States: when the referee stops play in football because a player is writhing in pain on the field, it’s not because that player is feigning injury to gain an advantage, it’s because he took a gladiatorial hit that would kill a mere mortal.
Frankly, unless one were a jingoistic Spaniard or Dutchman, there was little about this spectacle, which ended in a 0 – 0 tie after 90 minutes of regulation time, that made one interested in watching to see what might unfold during extra time.
Therefore, when Spain finally scored - with only five minutes left in an equally boring 30-minute extra time, I felt more relief than triumph … and I was actually rooting for Spain to win, well, in this final match at any rate.
As for the home team [South Africa] winning, well, that would take a fairytale ending that surpasses that which South Africa experienced in 1995 when it’s first post-apartheid team won the Rugby World Cup on home soil. This feat was chronicled just last year in the movie Invictus…
I picked Cameroon to go all the way. Unfortunately, it was practically the first team to be eliminated. Therefore, I’m now pulling for Ghana, my ancestral home – with apologies to the US, my residential home.
(ALH, “World Cup highlighted by shame and disgrace,” Caribbean Net News, June 25, 2010)
My dream of an African team, any African team, winning this year’s World Cup nearly lived on: All Asamoah Gyan, Ghana’s best striker, had to do was make a heaven-sent penalty kick with less than a minute left in extra time and the Black Stars (of Africa) would have defeated Uruguay and become the first African team to advance into the World Cup semifinals. But he blew it, striking the top bar and missing a wide open net.
This is cruel. But it is football. What can you say to him [Gyan]? We were so close and somehow it did not happen. We were so close to history.
(Ghana coach Milovan Rajevac, Yahoo Sports, July 3, 2010)
Then, in an effort to find a reason to retain some interest in this tournament, I transferred my despairing hopes towards the prospect of the semifinals featuring all South American teams. Unfortunately, these hopes too were dashed when the Europeans ended up dominating all of the other quarterfinal matches – with the Netherlands upsetting quadrennial favorite Brazil, Germany shutting-out dynamic Argentina, and Spain outplaying Paraguay.
At this point, I suppose I could have tapped into my Third World political consciousness to manufacture a North-South feud that would see Uruguay taking on and defeating the Europeans. But frankly, I really did not give a damn who won at this point, especially given the way Uruguay defeated Ghana: one of its players deliberately blocked a sure Ghanaian goal with his hands, which led to the aforementioned penalty kick that Gyan blew.
This is why the final between Spain and Netherlands held so little interest for me. All the same, I congratulate Spain on defeating the Netherlands 1 to nil to win its first World Cup trophy.
(Incidentally, I suppose there’s some redemption in the fact that Saturday’s third-place match featured five goals during regulation time, ending with Germany defeating Uruguay 3 to 2.)
Having said all that, it would be remiss of me not to note that, despite the disappointing performances of African teams, we can all take pan-African pride in the way South Africa hosted this year’s World Cup. Not least because just months before the first game was played, the foreign press was replete with abiding fears that this tournament would be plagued by the kind of incompetence, disorganization, and violence that characterize so much of daily life on the continent.
Yet when the final whistle blew yesterday, it was sweet vindication to hear commentators waxing more nostalgic about how well South Africa performed as host than about how well teams played on the pitch. Let’s just hope all of the fringe economic benefits that were touted to follow a successful hosting gig now materialize.
World Cup highlighted by shame and disgrace
Friday, July 9, 2010 at 5:52 AM
Desmond Seales was a visionary and pioneer. For he was in the vanguard not only of those who began publishing newspapers and magazines (as well as launching TV stations) in the Caribbean four decades ago, but also of those who began publishing news-oriented web sites on the Internet only a decade ago.
Clearly, he was a savvy businessman. But Mr Seales’s legacy will undoubtedly be distinguished by the heroic battles he waged as a guardian of the Fourth Estate. Most notable in this respect were the reports, commentaries, and editorials he published on the machinations of political leaders, which empowered and emboldened ordinary citizens to hold them accountable.
His influence was such, however, that there are many others with far better standing to sing his praises. Indeed, it shall redound to my eternal regret that I never met Mr Seales; notwithstanding years of email exchanges and telephone chats that were punctured with his fatherly bon mots, which invariably began “Anthony, my boy”.
Instead, I would like to take this opportunity to make public my eternal gratitude to him for publishing my commentaries on the epidemic of political corruption in the Turks and Caicos Islands at a time when local leaders there were censoring all dissent.
Those commentaries gave voice to a silent majority of my fellow citizens who were living under the kind of oppression (and kleptocracy) we in the Caribbean usually associate with African dictatorships. And it’s no exaggeration to say that, but for his publications (Caribbean Net News and Turks and Caicos Net News), TCIslanders would still be living under that oppression.
In addition to this, we will be forever grateful to him for providing our only source of news and information during Hurricane Ike in September 2008. He did this by publishing a special print edition of the Turks and Caicos Net News and distributing copies throughout our country at his own expense.
Mr Seales died quite unexpectedly in Miami on Saturday, following what we were led to believe was successful heart surgery ten days earlier. He was only 71.
Nobody can fill his shoes. He will be sorely missed. But our loss pales in comparison to the sudden loss his family and close friends are now suffering. Accordingly, my prayers and thoughts go out to them.
Farewell, Mr Seales.
NOTE: This and other tributes as well as details for his funeral, which will be held tomorrow, are published today at Caribbean Net News.